Meet Mick. Mick did what many people dream of, and left England to start a new life in Valencia, Spain. Being old friends from Valencia, we went to visit Mick and his family in their lovely country-side villa to the north of the city.
Mick completed a one year Erasmus course in Salamanca in 2006, which is when his love affair with Spain began. After a stint working in London, he chose to move to Valencia to set up again. He started working as an English teacher (where he met Rob), before venturing out to set up his own venture in wine exports. He is now in the enviable position of working for himself (Messum Exports) in a fun industry where his passion lies, all the while soaking up the warm Mediterranean sun of Valencia with his Spanish wife Sandra and 2 year old son Arthur.
He has also created and recently launched an interesting new product called “Pompita” – incorporating local inspiration and regional twists to bring a new, high quality sangria to the world. You can find out more about Pompita below, or on the Pompita website.
After our visit we took the chance to catch up with him over Skype (advanced Spanish audio, see podcast – coming soon – for a transcription!), where he tells us of his experience in starting again in Spain, as well as his recent business ventures.
We also asked Mick a few questions about how he has learned Spanish, as well as any advice he has for aspiring expats and entrepreneurs!
What made you decide to move Spain, and why Valencia?
I always had a love affair with Spain since my Erasmus year in Salamanca back in my university days. I love the food, culture, and lifestyle – nothing says Spain to me like a lazy “almuerzo” in the sun with some great local jamón, bread, and olive oil. This time I felt like trying a bigger city. A friend of mine recommended Valencia. It seemed like a good fit, as it wasn’t too big or small, has a fantastic climate [300 days of sun in the year!], and is right on the Mediterranean. I knew it couldn’t be bad!
How was your Spanish when you first moved over, and what did you do to improve it?
I was very rusty. I had a decent base level from studying abroad but I probably learnt more in 6 months is Spain than 6 years in the classroom. I’m afraid I don’t have any specific language learning tricks – I was deeply enamoured with Spain and its culture that learning the language was a pleasure.
Isn’t it a bad time to move to Spain, what with “la crisis”?
Is there ever a bad time to move to Spain? It’s true that there are fewer jobs, higher unemployment, and you may face worse working conditions than you might otherwise find. However, that was all secondary for me, and in Spain you can always fall back on work as an English teacher!
What is it you most enjoy about the Spanish/Valencian lifestyle?
Almuerzo… mid-morning break for a bacadillo, drink (quite often a beer!) and a coffee. It’s a ritual that must always be preserved! Everything is so much more laid back here than my hectic life in London. It was great to find time for myself again, and feel the relaxed lifestyle take hold and de-stress!
Is there anything you miss about England?
The three F’s. Food (believe it not!), Family, and Friends. Probably in that order!!
How, and why, did you set up your own venture?
I have never enjoyed working for someone. It was never any good at it so the only other option was to do it myself. It took some time to build up, but with the support of friends and family we’ve managed to create a great little business for ourselves. It’s true that there were some tough times, but at heart I’m an optimist (and I occasionally did the odd English lesson to keep the wolf from the door!).
What was the most difficult thing about moving?
Moments when you think “what the hell am i doing here!”. All of the difficulties were ironed out over time, but there were certainly a few moments in my first few months when I wondered whether I’d done the right thing!
What’s the toughest part of working for yourself in Spain?
Paying costly “automonos” every month. This is a social security payment that every sole-trader has to pay (roughly 300€ per month) just to be in business. Sadly Spain’s economy is not especially start-up friendly.
If you could do it again, what would you do differently?
I don’t believe in regrets!
Any advice for aspiring expats and entrepreneurs?
Follow your heart not your head. You can spend months, if not years, weighing up the pros and cons. Ultimately, do what your heart says and you won’t go far wrong!
Tell us about Pompita, your latest venture!
Pompita is Messum Export’s latest creation. It is a fun range of low-alcohol fruit wines inspired by the great cities of Spain. There are currently four flavors which you can check out on our website
If you are in the UK you can buy it online and also in various restaurant chains such as All Bar One.
If you are in the US I’m afraid you will have to wait a little longer! We are talking to various importers stateside and I’m confident we will start very soon.
If you can’t wait that long you are of course invited to Spain where where there is plenty of sun and Pompita!!
Many thanks to Mick, and we wish him good luck and many happy years in the Valencian sunshine!
Have you ever thought of dropping it all to start again? If so, where? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!