Originally from England, Ali is a long-term expat, serial entrepreneur, social media guru, founder and head imagineer of Costa Women, a business group where women can connect – inspire – enable – support.
Name: Ali Meehan
Title: Founder of Costa Women
Business/Company: Costa Women
Country/countries of origin: England
Expat country/countries: Australia, Spain, United Arab Emirates and Thailand
Current country: Spain (based in Andalusia in the South)
Ali’s story in a nutshell:
Originally from Herne Bay in Kent, I moved to Spain in 2002 to live with my (now) husband in Fuengirola. Since the 1990s I had been travelling for businesses as well as spent some time living in Australia so I was not a stranger to travel. In 2004 we moved to Dubai and then in 2009 to Thailand and then back to Spain in 2010.
Biggest start up / expat challenge:
If you really want to integrate I think it’s crucial to learn the language! Personally, this has been the hardest part for me.
Who are your cheerleaders?:
My husband Patrick who is very supportive of what I am trying to achieve and Costa Women!
What are your words of Wisdom?:
“ ‘Someday’ is not a day of the week” – moving to a new country may be something you have wished for over many years. Start planning your escape and do lots of research. With social media you can begin before you arrive by connecting with local groups and don’t be afraid to ask the veterans of expat life for help.
Dubai, Thailand and (to some degree) Spain have brought very unique challenges. To understand someone totally you need to be them! To appreciate their belief systems and cultural thinking is very hard. Start by reading the history of the country you are moving to. Thailand is the only place I have worked where they sell a book Working with the Thais by Henry Holmes and Suchada Tangtongtavy. It lists the different smiles and what they mean!
In reality much of what we fear never happens. We spend so much time worrying about what might happen we forget to live in the moment.
Staying focussed. Must admit to being a lover of bright shiny new things and working with social media can be a bit of an itch that’s easy to scratch! I call myself the Costa Women Imagineer so really I am living my label!
Working practices and benefits in your adopted country:
Spain is notorious for its bureaucracy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wtbQUaC9mE My advice is to thoroughly research setting up a business before you arrive here, speak to a recommended Accountant for what is required and don’t compare here to where you have come from.
My career has spanned 30+ years from a law firm, to an export manager, to a director of two companies with sales and marketing thrown into the mix. Since moving back to Spain at the end of 2010, I have created costawomen.com as a free social and business networking group for Women living in Spain, or Women wanting to relocate here. We now have nearly 4000 Women connecting, inspiring, enabling and supporting each other in their journey to Spain and their lives here. Costa Women won Best of British Social Club by The Telegraph and Expat Stars award from MyCurrencyTransfer. We were included in Top 101 Feisty, Fun And Fabulous Women Bloggers To Follow in 2014 by Birds on the Blog. My @costawomen Twitter account was also highlighted as a top Twitter account for expat advice by The Telegraph.
Where you find inspiration from:
Hearing the stories from Costa Women, many of whom have lived in Spain since the 1960s. To hear about the Spain when they arrived, the adventures they used to get up to, their plans for the future and what differences costawomen.com has made to them, keeps me inspired.
How you stay motivated:
Reinventing and constant change of what I am doing. If it doesn’t work create, tweak and start again with new ideas.
Useful tools for expats in business:
Personally, I think social media has changed the life of the expat. It’s so much easier to connect and make friends, find out about your new home and culture through Facebook groups and Twitter chats. Linkedin has meant your career skills can be picked up globally and Pinterest is wonderful for creating the to-do list for exploring your new home!
I’m passionate about networking and sharing my network with others. For me, its important to share my contacts and connections. Especially when you move to a new to an area, it’s hard to make the right connections. Some days I feel like a “matchmaker”, creating links between the Costa Women members and helping them find collaborations for their businesses, or finding out about local schools, share employment opportunities, or tips for living in Spain.
Plans for the future:
To continue to grow Costa Women and take the platform to other parts of the Iberian Peninsular and then across the Mediterranean.
Found this quote a few years ago and love it …
“Live where you are planted, or plant yourself where you are living. Such is the life of the long-term expat. We need to learn to live with uncertainty. We must use the ability to adapt and be flexible, required characteristics of all successful expats, to be at home and make a home wherever we are.”
If Spain is where you are living, or you plan to become a Woman expat, come and join us! Its free.
LinkedIn: Costa Women Entrepreneurs
Website: Register to join Costa Women at http://costawomen.com (it’s free!)