Starting A Business From Scratch: Xiaos Story


I interviewed a woman from China who lives in the same area as me here in Madrid. She has a beautiful house and has invited my family many times to have dinner with them. However, during the interview she was very careful with what personal information she talked about nor wanted to give names (only her own, Xiao), including the name of the company she owns. 

Nevertheless, it was a very interesting convestation/interview about her story which i am thrilled to be able to share.. 

To sum up, the main points throughout this interview are:

  • importance of knowing what is important.  Keep your eyes on the target.
  • The economical crisis is tough but not permanent.
  • There will always be people supporting immigration, and people against immigration. 
  • adaption should be made easy by oneself and learn to tackle difficulties as they come.

Her background is of woman who came to Europe with barely any money, one bagpack and an address written down on a piece of paper to where she would only be staying for a few days and had no clear plans of what would happen in the future. “I came here to work and save money, if things didn’t go well id return to China, i wanted to see what would happen”.

Coming from a small village near Shanghai, and now after living 15 years in Madrid Xiao now has an important importing business here in Madrid. I asked her why she decided to come to Europe in the first place and what was her aim or objectives in the time she would spend here.  She answered that her main goal was to save money, “i started working at any job that i could find to save money, i didn’t spend any money, just the necessities food and a bed”.

She described to me the main reasons why she decided to leave home, to a complete different language, different culture and so far away from home, she described the conditions of China at the time of her departure.. “economy in china was very bad, much better life in europe”, and why spain? “the weather, the people healthy food, in china there is too much contamination. But chinese people are everywhere nowadays.”

After ‘saving money’ and working very hard, she managed to start a small business, importing small chinese  items, the price difference was relatively high “there very cheap, here more expensive” so it was a fast way of earning money fast.  In china, hand made items aren’t as valued as in the west.  Little by little, more items where imported from china to Madrid, Spain.

In addition, she explained that chinese people are like a big family when out of their home country, and all understand the difficulties and are willing to help each other. For example, “anyone will lend you money, one day you can ask a friend and the next day another, and so on.. and little by little with the money saved its very easy to build your on company”  However, this nowadays has changed since 15 years ago. Nowadays, there is much more competition, prices are higher, hand made objects price has gone up. There is sometime problems in the customs at the airport, price is very high. She told me about ‘antidumping’ penalty, intended to equal the difference between the importing countries price of the goods and the market value in the exporting country.

The biggest difficulty, according to Xiao, is language. In general she desribes the period of adaptation as easy process, except for the language. Even though this is now becoming less and less of an issue as the importance of language is being indented in minds of young students.  In addition, language can become a problem, in terms of law, they cannot understand well the law in spain and this requires the need for a chinese lawer and chinese assessor.

Moving on, i asked her to describe or compare differences between China and Spain when starting a business. Starting a business from scratch is now as difficult in China as it is in Spain, there is no longer the problem of low economy in China as much as it was before “it depends where in China you come from, the west tends to be poorer, whereas places on the coast are richer.”  This means that people with less money and less opportunities in there home country will be more willing to move to countries in the west, whilst people living in the coast who live more comfortable, with a reasonable salary, will be happier to stay in their current situation and allocation.

Nevertherless, again as times have changed and competition is higher, the smaller business that try to grow, like Xiaos managed to do, nowadays they usually close, give up or simply have no chance whatsoever to improve and grow. Xiao has noticed this change in the economy and described it as a hard time having to make many trimming in the staff and products. “its funny because when the economical crisis started in 2008-09 and spaniards said that the chinese where the only ones who didn’t notice the crisis… this was true but since last year (2011) the economical crisis is very noticeable! What i am sure of, the economical crisis isn’t permanent.”

What xiao was certain about is that she will never return to live in China but she will always return to visit her family and friends.  I think most people would agree with her when she says that her children who are practically 100% spanish, in the way they talk, the way they think and most of their culture litres in the liquid of their persona.

 Xiao wanted to end by saying that she definitely encourages people to start business in China. With patience, hard work, and saving money, starting a business in a foreign country without speaking the language, is definitely possible. A life lesson that with hard work, belief and patience we can do anything we set our mind to. No matter how many times this is said or heard it is never less inspiring for anyone who has a goal to achieve.
By Violeta Hernandez
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