Meet the in­trepid ex­pats liv­ing the dream

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

Roo and Pete Lu­cas and their teenage chil­dren Jago and Chloe are, by their own ad­mis­sion, liv­ing the ex­pat dream. From a pretty green-shut­tered fish­er­man’s town­house in the old town of Port de Sóller, on the west coast of Ma­jorca, they run a boat char­ter busi­ness. That means no com­mut­ing, just days spent on their con­verted clas­sic wooden fishing boat, cruis­ing the crys­tal-clear waters of the se­cluded bays and moor­ing up near restau­rants perched on the cliffs.

Roo, now 42, was never go­ing to set­tle down into a desk job af­ter a peri­patetic life spent on boats. She was nearly born on one, as her par­ents both lived on boats in Brix­ham, Devon, and the fam­ily spent a year sail­ing around the Caribbean when she was 10.

Now she and Pete, 39, have dropped an­chor and set­tled down in Sóller to grow their busi­ness, Bon­nie Lass Char­ters. Three years on, and with tourism boom­ing on Ma­jorca, the cou­ple are ac­quir­ing a sec­ond boat.

“It’s in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing, mak­ing sure peo­ple en­joy them­selves on hol­i­day, whether they’re a Saudi princess or a Grimsby plumber,” says Roo. “Peo­ple come out on the boat and get a taste of our life and say, ‘If you ever want to sell up, let us know’. Maybe we might in 10 years if it be­comes an as­set, but the early stages of build­ing a busi­ness are hard and you need to sub­sidise your­selves for the first two years.”

It is a far cry from of­fice life in rainy Eng­land. “Pete and I are en­joy­ing it more than we imag­ined. It’s great be­ing able to com­bine work with some­thing you love do­ing.”

Many of the 1.3mil­lion Bri­tish ci­ti­zens liv­ing in other EU coun­tries run small busi­nesses, of­ten in grow­ing tourism sec­tors such as ex­treme sports.

An­other of these in­trepid en­trepreneurs is John Tay­lor, a keen climber from Som­er­set. He turned his pas­sion into a busi­ness when he swapped pro­gram­ming in the City to be­come a full­time moun­tain guide on Mont Blanc in the French Alps. “It took me 10 years to get my moun­tain guide qual­i­fi­ca­tion and then I be­gan to spend more time in Cha­monix,” says Tay­lor, 51.

He bought a chalet in Les Houches and started his com­pany, Mont Blanc Guides, in 2004.

“I do about 250300 climbs each sea­son, tak­ing groups of peo­ple – mainly Bri­tons, South Africans and Aus­tralians – up the moun­tain. I love the psy­chol­ogy as­pect as well as do­ing some­thing I love in stun­ning scenery.

“Each time I meet a new group of peo­ple, whether they are brain sur­geons, rugby play­ers or street clean­ers, I need to get them safely up and down the moun­tain.”

He also works as a ski guide in the win­ter. “It’s def­i­nitely a lifestyle busi­ness, but I love the free­dom of it... I still do a bit of pro­gram­ming for ex­tra in­come, but the busi­ness is go­ing well so I don’t have to work all the time.” This means that he can spend more time with his fam­ily – his wife Claire and their two chil­dren – and they have moved down to An­necy, in the val­ley, so there is more sep­a­ra­tion be­tween work and play.

As Tay­lor found out by tap­ping into the mar­ket for mid­dle-aged “fit oldies”, who are test­ing their en­durance, the key to run­ning a lu­cra­tive busi­ness is iden­ti­fy­ing an open­ing. That may be open­ing an In­dian restau­rant in ru­ral France or a yoga re­treat in Tus­cany – what­ever it is that you can add your ex­per­tise to in a mar­ket that needs serv­ing.

Donna Saun­ders found a rather dif­fer­ent niche that needed to be filled. “I could see that Spain was 10 years be­hind the UK in the treat­ment of pets and there was a real need for a goodqual­ity ken­nels,” she says.

A dog lover from Hert­ford­shire, she quit her of­fice job to move to An­dalu­sia and opened In The Dog House, a train­ing cen­tre/dog ho­tel set around a twobed­room finca among the stun­ning peaks of the campo be­hind Málaga where pro­fes­sional cy­clists train (inthe­do­g­house­dtc.com).

“I built up the school and am now rushed off my feet with the de­mand for trou­bleshoot­ing be­havioural is­sues or dog-sit­ting ser­vices,” adds Saun­ders. “I pick up the dogs ar­riv­ing on flights from Dubai and Aus­tralia for their own­ers and care for them, train the lo­cals’ dogs, and I have one lady who trav­els from Madrid be­cause I am the only one she will trust with her dog.”

With 300 clients, it is a pretty full-on job that leaves her precious lit­tle time to sit by her swim­ming pool to ad­mire the spec­tac­u­lar views, so af­ter eight years Saun­ders is now sell­ing her busi­ness for €495,000 (£433,000) through busi­ness­es­for­sale.com. “It’s got all the li­cences in place, a great rep­u­ta­tion and it brings in a net profit of €50,000 to €100,000 per year. But I would ad­vise any­one to get them­selves a good ac­coun­tant to ad­vise them if they are buy­ing a busi­ness in Spain,” she says.

An­other grow­ing trend is that of cowork­ing spa­ces serv­ing an in­creas­ingly mo­bile re­mote work­ing pop­u­la­tion that is hun­gry to travel. The num­ber of peo­ple em­bark­ing on this lifestyle in­creased by 41 per cent dur­ing 2017, ac­cord­ing to Deskmag, a co-work­ing mag­a­zine. Ru­ral ex­am­ples of shared work spa­ces for rent are also ap­pear­ing, draw­ing on the ap­petite of global no­mads to de-stress at a slower pace of life.

Bri­tish cou­ple Pa­tri­cia Malaga and Brett Thomas were fed up with “earn­ing de­cent money” as con­trac­tors in Lon­don, yet not hav­ing much left to en­joy life there. So last year they set up a co-work­ing space, Verdi­gris, in the pic­turesque town of Olvera, a tra­di­tional pueblo blanco in the Cádiz moun­tains.

“The lo­ca­tion was im­por­tant as it is only 80 min­utes from Málaga, and Brett still trav­els across Europe with his work for an Amer­i­can pub­lish­ing house,” says Malaga, 51, who was born in Peru. “Olvera is an au­then­tic Span­ish town, with a year-round vi­brancy that is very dif­fer­ent to the Costa del Sol.” They spot­ted a de­mand for co-work­ing in this area and set to work. “We saw ex­am­ples of peo­ple run­ning co-work­ing spa­ces else­where in Spain, but there wasn’t one in An­dalu­sia. Here peo­ple can cy­cle, paraglide and hike,” she says. “We have so far had users from the UK and Holland.”

They charge €12 per day for a work­sta­tion with of­fice fa­cil­i­ties and chill-out areas, and have plans to run events based around the lo­cal tra­di­tions, such as ja­mon-cut­ting work­shops, sherry tast­ings and olive har­vest­ing.

“The An­dalu­sian govern­ment is sup­port­ive of peo­ple set­ting up such busi­nesses and we got a low-in­ter­est loan to ren­o­vate the of­fice space,” Malaga adds. “Here, our mort­gage pay­ments are the same as our coun­cil tax was in Lon­don, but I also work as a vir­tual as­sis­tant to clients in Lon­don while we be­come es­tab­lished.”

If you are in­ter­ested in buy­ing a busi­ness abroad, you can find dozens to pur­chase that are al­ready up and run­ning. The av­er­age pur­chase is a “lifestyle” busi­ness such as a b&b or bou­tique ho­tel worth around €250,000, says Ru­fus Ba­z­ley of busi­ness­es­for­sale.com.

“Bri­tish peo­ple still dominate the site, both buy­ing and sell­ing,” he says. If you are plan­ning to start a busi­ness be­yond Bri­tish shores, carry out re­search. “Make sure you do your due dili­gence on a busi­ness, us­ing a lo­cal le­gal ex­pert,” adds Ba­z­ley. “Lexoo.com is a good place to find one.”

It is a chal­lenge nav­i­gat­ing other coun­tries’ bu­reau­cra­cies, says Roo Lu­cas. “One of the hard­est things is know­ing what to ask for – no one will nec­es­sar­ily vol­un­teer the in­for­ma­tion. But set­ting up a busi­ness in Spain is it­self not too com­pli­cated.”

John Tay­lor’s tour on Mont Blanc, main and be­low; Donna Saun­ders, left

Pa­tri­cia Malaga and Brett Thomas, above; Roo and Pete Lu­cas, left

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