Archive for Expat Biz

Food Glorious Food


Sasha Conlan, CEO The Barbie Girls

I am Sasha Conlan, Founder and CEO of The Barbie Girls based in Singapore, but first and foremost, I’m a mum who has a huge passion for good quality food and what I feed my family. I founded The Barbie Girls in October 2011 after I was disappointed with the quality of meat and seafood in Singapore. If I managed to find meat/seafood that tasted good, I had no idea what was in it and where it was from. I began a journey of sourcing and importing premium quality, ethically sourced and fully traceable meat and seafood, and delivering it directly to customers in Singapore.

I was a lawyer…

Originally from the North East of England, I practiced as a lawyer for 12 years before taking time off to look after my young family. I moved to Singapore, along with my husband and children, in 2008.

Understanding where the produce comes from and how it has been farmed is essential for me. Even though I don’t like spending time away from my children, my passion and drive to find good quality food is what spurs me to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Europe in search of new suppliers. I visit new farms and organisations as often as possible, experiencing their sustainable techniques first-hand, and sampling produce. I only commit to the farm or organisation as a supplier for The Barbie Girls when I am completely satisfied that they care about their animals/fish, their environment, the purity of the produce and the food supply chain across the globe.

From BBQ to Barbie

The Barbie Girls” name was the idea of my children who quickly saw a link between me being a girl and some of my products, such as sausages and burgers, being for BBQs!

Initially I sourced, packed and delivered the products once a week in my car, now deliveries are made Monday to Saturday throughout Singapore in our custom-fitted cool trucks.

Sasha Conlan driving the truck

The business has rapidly evolved over the last four years and The Barbie Girls has matured into a purveyor of fine foods providing an extensive, and growing range, of top quality fresh and frozen meat and seafood. Our best sellers include our free-range pork from a family-run farm in Essex, UK, and our grass-fed beef from the East Coast of Australia. I recently introduced a line of delicious oak-smoked fish products, direct from a family-run smokehouse on the shores of Loch Etive in Scotland, which is selling very well, especially as these products are hard to get hold of in Singapore.

Setting up a business in Singapore

Setting up and managing a business in Singapore is relatively painless. The Singapore Government is fully supportive of entrepreneurial activity even from expatriates. There are challenges to importing meat and seafood into the country, one being that our pork from the UK has to be brought in frozen, the authorities will not allow it to be imported fresh. However, this is easily worked around to ensure we are still able to offer our customers the best quality products available.

The biggest advantage of running my own business is that I am able to choose the hours I work so I can still spend quality time with my children. It is essential to me that I am able to pick them up from school after their sporting activities and sit with them whilst they have their dinner to talk about their days. Work is of great importance to me, but my family will always come first.

My family and I love living in Singapore

We love the Asian culture and cuisine, so life here is easy. I am also lucky that I have the flexibility with my job so I can spend quality time with my children. This is a big advantage of being an entrepreneurial expat. If I could do it all again, I don’t think I would do anything differently. Setting up my business has been a big learning curve but I think the mistakes and challenges I have made have actually made me stronger.

My top tips

If I could give advice to others thinking of setting up a business in a foreign country I would say go with your passion. If it is something you believe in then go for it. My passion for finding top quality food is still my driver in my business. Also, networking. This is essential to a successful business. I have found many of my suppliers via people I know and have met along my food journey in establishing The Barbie Girls.

I am so grateful to have this opportunity to be able to spread the word about eating top quality meat and seafood.

Logo The Barbie Girls

Shy and Successful

Adele de Caso

I am Adele de Caso and I am currently living in Spain with my family: my husband Jaime and my children Sofia 15, Phoebe 12 and Javier 7.

We have lived here on and off for the past 10 years, but are currently enjoying one of our longer stints. 

Adele de Caso's family

Why Spain?

Jaime is half Spanish, and the reason we decided we wanted to spend time in Spain was that we wanted our children to grow up bilingual. Jaime never had the opportunity to learn when he was a child.

As we first spent time in Spain when our girls were very small, they both are now fluent in Spanish (I wish I could say the same for us…) and our little boy is part way there.

Why my own business?

Becoming fed up with my job in a hospital laboratory following graduation from university, led me to becoming involved in a network marketing company.  Both me and my husband ran this business part time alongside our jobs until our income from the business was sufficient for us both to leave work.  This was fantastic as it meant more quality time with our children.  As well as the income and the flexibility of the business, one of the major benefits to me was the self development that I gained. The business introduced me to books, audios and also trainings that helped me to grow as a person and gain confidence, as growing up I had always been very shy.

The flexibility of the business has made it possible for us to move between Spain and the UK.

Shy people can be successful too

When we first moved to Spain I decided to pursue something that I had always dreamed of, which was to write a book.  Our children were at school from 9 until 5 every day so I used some of this time to get started on my first book: Shy People Can Be Successful Too!  which was published in 2009.  It is a compilation of everything I learnt that helped me to deal with my shyness.  I learnt to embrace it instead of seeing it as a flaw.

Shyness is a strength to build on

I have now written my second book 52 Tips For A Fantastic Year! – Simple Ideas Big Impact.

I really enjoy helping people to achieve success in their lives, especially people who don’t feel that they have the confidence to do it. If I can do it, anyone can.

I love the fact that I can run both of my businesses from Spain. I talk to people on the phone about the network marketing business and help them get started, and I help people through my website, blog, books and newsletters on the personal development side of becoming successful.  I sell my books through my online shop which also stocks framed quotes and plaques, another one of my passions.

Adele de Caso quotes

Business hours around the children’s schedules

Running a business here also means that I have to be really organised because the children finish school at 2pm so nothing can really get done after this time at least not until the evening.

I do use the time when they are doing their activities to sit and get things done: I will either read personal development books, part write blog posts or call some people in these small pockets of time. It is something I have always done, used the ‘nooks and crannies’ of the day.

I feel more inspired to write when I am in Spain

Almost every morning after dropping off at school, Jaime and I go for a brisk walk along the promenade with our dog and then stop somewhere for breakfast.  Starting the day in this way is fantastic and gets the creative juices flowing.  There are also so many beautiful places to sit and work. Something I love to do is to take photographs of the beautiful scenery.  I then use them in my blog posts and social media.

Breakfast with a view

Whilst living in Spain I have invested in online courses and seminars, as I feel that it is important to be continually learning. Dealing with different time zones and internet hiccups have helped me to learn to look for ways around things rather than seeing them as reasons why we can’t do something.

Something that has helped me a lot is being a part of Facebook groups where other like minded people hang out.  You can share ideas and receive advice – it’s a win-win situation. And you can do this from anywhere in the world.

I have also trained myself to focus on the present moment. I am actually taking the time to enjoy where I am and appreciate it. Even if it is just 10 minutes per day to start with, just sit on a bench somewhere and watch the world go by around you. Really allow yourself to switch off and immerse yourself in the moment. I have found this exercise to be extremely productive, rather like a form of meditation.

My vision for the future is to help more and more people to be successful by creating a course for shy people to study in the comfort of their own homes.  I am currently working on this,  so watch this space!

For more information and to purchase my books, visit my website at

My books are also available on Kindle;

Shy People Can Be Successful Too!

52 Tips For A Fantastic Year!

You can also like my Facebook page at

Adele de Caso

When in Rome…

Dominika Miernik

I am Dominika Miernik from Poland and I am currently living in Rome, Italy. I think of myself as a seasoned expat and a mix of career, love and entrepreneurial expat.

My international experience started over 10 years ago when I moved from a small Polish town to study Psychology at the University of Rome.

After my graduation I relocated to Milan, where my partner (he is Italian) was working, and I entered the traditional job world.

In 2009 my partner and I moved to Manchester, UK for a job opportunity. I continued with my career path where I covered various roles in HR, sales, customer service and marketing.

Discovering my entrepreneurial soul

I had never thought about becoming an entrepreneur and running my own business. My intention was to develop my career as an Occupational Psychologist or in the Human Resuorces sector. However while working in Manchester I realised that I wanted something more from my job than a means to pay my bills and go on holidays. I wanted to find a way to combine my personal experience as an expat, my background in recruitment, psychology and career counselling.

I wanted to reorganise my life to make work fit into my life instead of the other way around. So when the company I worked for was sold to a large corporation I resigned to start my own coaching business.

Today I am a Career Coach and Business Idea Generator for both individuals and organizations. I specialise in helping clients seeking to make an international career change to navigate the challenges and opportunities associated with discovering their dream career and then adapting to a new country.

For self-employment-minded clients, I expertly guide them to connect the dots between what they love to do and how they can design a business that matches their desired lifestyle.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset and moving with your business

I started my business with great enthusiasm and curiosity. I finished my diploma in Personal Performance Coaching and Career Coaching. attended business development courses and worked with a mentor to learn more about marketing. Everything was going smoothly and setting up a business in the UK was quite easy. At the beginning I had some challenges with transitioning from employee to  entrepreneurial mindset, but I think it was a part of the journey.

In 2014 we decided to move back to Rome. I was exited and looking forward to working in sunny Italy.

But suddenly I realised that some aspects of my business would need a makeover. I developed a great network  in the UK, attended networking events, ran workshops and worked with some amazing clients, so starting from scratch in Italy seemed hard to me at the beginning.

Slowing down and taking a step back

What I did to make things easier was to be gentle with myself and slow down for the first months. This helped me have a deeper look at my business and what I wanted my life to look like.

I focused more on developing an online network, but still keeping the offline network in mind. I decided to work with international clients and to use my language skills to work with local Italian clients.

Another roadblock is that the coaching industry in Italy is quite new, and often people do not know what coaching is or what the benefits of working with a coach are. The key here is to be very specific about what are you doing and how you can help someone. After I advertised my services on an online forum I received a funny message where a person was asking me when am I going to organise the next football match? I am not a football coach! So as you can see, clarity is the key to success.

Snapshots from Dominika Miernik

The next steps

I am constantly evolving, changing and improving my business. I am happy because I know that I can take my business with me to another country. I love travelling and both me and my partner are open for new national and international opportunities. It is not easy to run your own business, there are many challenges to overcome and so many things to learn, especially when you are living or moving abroad.

My tips for running a business in Italy

The economy in Italy is still recovering from the crisis. However there are opportunities to start a business for example in hospitality, food or fashion industry.

My recommendations for you are:

  • Learn the local language, it will help you to understand the practicalities of setting up a business in Italy. For me it was quite easy. After studying and working in Rome and Milan I became fluent in Italian. Italians are great communicators: they will try to understand you and help you even if they don’t speak fluent English; they will appreciate your knowledge of Italian, even if you are a beginner.
  • Italians like personal contact, they like to talk, so if you decided to run a local business focus on developing your local network, by attending face to face meetings, for example.
  • Get a mentor, a coach or develop your own support network. It will help you to overcome initial challenges, know the local culture better and boost your confidence. It is normal to miss your home country, but there are many expats living here so you will not feel alone or isolated.
  • Believe in yourself and what you can achieve. If you love what you do and you put a passion in your business I am sure you will succeed whenever you decide to live.

I love being an expat and running my own business. I am grateful for all I have learnt and all the people I met on my international journey. It enriched me not only from the professional perspective but from the personal side, too.

I experienced all aspects and challenges of being a student, an employee and now I am an entrepreneurial expat in Italy. It was all worth it and I want to share my experience with and help my clients to have the best of their international journey.

Contact Dominika:



The Expat Career And Lifestyle Podcast on iTunes:




 Dominika Miernik Coaching

It’s all about me

For those of you who know me, I really prefer not to be centre stage, but the day after we got back from holiday I was interviewed by the lovely Dominika Miernik.

We talked about the transitions I have been through in the past few years and how I got to where I am today, doing what I do.

Brazil - China - Paris - Tot

Brazil – China – Paris – Tot

If you would like to listen to it and get to know all about me and my story, here is the link:

I hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your feedback below.

Catarina x

How to stop struggling

Imagine you are at a crossroad, and you can choose one of two roads:

  • the road to struggle
  • the road to joy

I am assuming if you knew these were the choices, then you would not deliberately choose the first one – who wants to struggle?

Yet everyday, in all the actions we take and the reactions we have we are choosing one of these. It’s not deliberate and it isn’t usually at a conscious level, but it’s done.

And the strange thing is that a lot of times we actually do take the first road.


Yes really.

Think of a typical day:

  • Your alarm clock rings, you turn it off and you sleep an extra five minutes. These turn into 15 minutes. Which means you are late. And you hate being late. You get into a tizz. And that’s how you start your day off on the wrong foot. Typically everything will go into a downward spiral from there. The world is against you. Everything goes wrong and you feel annoyed and irritated at everyone and everything, including yourself – you say negative things to yourself ‘Why do I always do this? Why is this kind of thing always happening to me?’ etc etc. A black cloud seems to be hovering above you all day.


  • Your alarm clock rings, you turn it off and you sleep an extra five minutes. These turn into 15 minutes. You are a bit late, but that did feel good. You needed that. You deserved that. And you will just speed up things a bit and get going.

In this second scenario, you didn’t beat yourself up, you didn’t let the negative thoughts creep into your mind, the guilt for sleeping an extra 15 minutes and being late. And the fact that you didn’t focus on that, that you didn’t hold on to the negativity means that you didn’t attract more of it into your day.

You chose to not let ‘being late’ spoil the good that sleeping a little bit longer did to you.

Choose your reaction

Can you see the difference?

You see, what we focus on is what we attract more of.

So by being cranky and annoyed, we attract more crankiness and annoying things into our lives.

Even though I know this and teach my clients this, doesn’t mean I manage to do it all the time myself.

I experienced this last weekend…

We went to a friend’s wedding in Tuscany. It was lovely – stunning landscapes, gorgeous weather, magical moments. But we had to fly back the next morning as Nicolas had an important meeting the following day in Sao Paulo.

We had 3 flights. A late night, an early start, driving back to Florence, returning the rental car, then catching a flight to Paris, catching a taxi from Charles de Gaulle to Orly airport, where we had another flight: Paris – Lisbon, then Lisbon – Sao Paulo.

Tuscany roads

3 hours sleep, no GPS in the car, windy Tuscan roads without very clear sign posts and not a lot of time to spare to get lost. Which we did. And Nicolas isn’t the kind of person to stop and ask. Not that there were a lot of people to ask on an early Sunday morning… Eventually we did get on the right route, but there was tension in the air. I kept saying ‘we need to get out of this negativity’ but still it was a bit nerve-racking and by the time we got to the airport our flight was delayed by 1-hour. This flight wasn’t connected to our flight from Paris, so if this one was late and we missed our next one, we would have to get another ticket and would probably not make it back to Sao Paulo for Nicolas’s meeting.

Stress! I continued to say ‘we need to get into a positive state of mind’, but we were still upset and therefore when we dropped our suitcases at check in before returning the car, we had problems, got lost returning the car, had a few more hiccups but it all ended up well, we made the flights and got back home in time.

What I’m trying to say is that even though I know that negativity attracts negativity, it was really difficult to get out of that spiral.

So imagine when you don’t know it…

My challenge to you is to take notice of what negative thoughts and patterns you have in your day.

Start noticing them and make a conscious effort to let go of them and choose more positive thoughts. Choose the ‘joyful’ road instead of the ‘struggle’ one. Do your best to stay on this path and this state of mind. And notice what happens.

Because what you focus on is what you will attract more of.

Let me know how it goes.

It’s Ok Not To Know

You probably started your own business ‘by accident’. Things happened, buttons got pushed, you got the nudge (or push) you needed to take that leap and do it.

But nobody taught you how to do it.

You are learning along the way.

Last week I was staying at a hotel in Chile, when one morning I was at the front desk and noticed two young women in training.

And it dawned on me that as small business owners we don’t get this help. We have to do it on our own.

Chances are you can do ‘what you do’ almost with your eyes shut. But being a small business owner, a solopreneur in most cases, means you can’t just do ‘what you do’. You have to do all the other stuff involved in running a business. And that doesn’t come naturally.

I went to Business school and then entered the corporate world where I stayed for 14 years. This has actually been a great help now as a business owner. Although I didn’t love my job, I don’t regret having all those years of experience. It gave me structure and has helped me enormously. Spread sheets don’t phase me in the slightest. Goal setting, tracking budgets, setting up processes and realising how important these things are without agonising about them.

Later, I did my coaching certification and learnt how to be a coach. It was a very rewarding experience: I learnt heaps, got tons of practice and had to do a lot of things out of my comfort zone, BUT what they don’t teach you is how to set up your business, how to run it, how to get clients. Fair enough, it isn’t their job. Their job is to make sure we know how to coach. But once I had my diploma in my hand, I was out there in the big wide world and thought ‘now what?’

Too many questions

I was lucky enough to have my own coach.

I was lucky enough to search and find online programmes that did just that and which suited ‘me’. And I met some wonderful people.

I also worked with a fabulous business & marketing coach for that one-to-one I value.

That’s how I did it.

You don’t have to have all the answers.

You aren’t expected to. It’s ok to make mistakes and have doubts, but don’t struggle with them alone. It is so much easier and rewarding to have a support group to share your challenges (and celebrate your wins) with. People who understand what you are going through, because they are going through the same thing.

That’s the bottom line. It is so easy nowadays to search and get that support online (search for groups of people who are going through the same thing) and locally (network groups) – why not create your own if you can’t find one that interests you?

Running your own business is an amazing roller coaster adventure, with ups and downs. But as a small business owner it is also a lonely one. And that can make it even scarier and mind-boggling. You might not understand the how’s and what’s of all of it. You might feel stuck and not see how to get unstuck. There is no boss or colleague to throw ideas around with.

So why on earth would you go through this journey alone?

My challenge to you is to find a group that resonates with you, that ‘gets you’ and get involved.

And if you are already part of one, take it one step further and connect more deeply with two or three people – you will know who – and make them your accountability partners.

It really helps. I promise!


Don’t Pull Your Hair Out In China

My name is Byronie Richards. I am from Jamaica but have been living in China for over five years. I am a black, young female entrepreneur who is actively figuring out what it is to be a business woman in the fast paced, constantly evolving and uncharted economy of China.

Bryonie Richards profile

As part of my MBA studies we were required to do a short study abroad programme. I found an internship programme in a Chinese-American partnership in China, which was a rewarding and very eye-opening experience. At the end of it, I decided to stay and actively work in China.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

At the end of my three years of working in the corporate world, I reflected on what I had accomplished during this tenure in China and said to myself, well, I had originally set out for China with the intention of starting my own business and after three years, if I wasn’t going to move towards that original goal, it made sense to simply return to the US or Jamaica.

It was a scary, palms sweating and heart pounding decision, to take the plunge and open a business.  I stumbled upon the idea, why not start simple; solve an existing personal problem – a place where  I can get my hair done, just as what I had gown accustomed to back home in the west.

Finding a Solution for a problem

This business idea was far from being an altruistic one, but I soon found out it wasn’t a bad one after all; it could be capitalized. After starting part time operating for two days only, I realised that a salon providing services for all hair types (Afro, Asian, Caucasian and mixed) was an unfulfilled need and one that continued to grow.

Studio Ebony Salon

It was an untapped market with no players or barriers to entry. I was fully aware of this and had the experience handling them in my previous corporate jobs and importantly, the capital requirement was not very high nor intensive.

Even though I had absolutely no experience in haircare business (other that being a client in a salon),  I decided to open Studio Ebony, a hair salon in Shanghai. The rest is history.

I must say it has been a roller coaster ride thus far. A wild and tremulous roller coaster ride would best exemplify what it has been doing business in China.

One of the biggest kink in the expat entrepreneurial roller coaster is securing funding for your business. In China, local loans are not provided to foreigners looking to do small service business and it is also pretty much impossible to get loans or funding from the US or Jamaica to start a small business in China. Other major challenges included customs and immigrations – importing products for the hair salon and getting visas and residence permit for staff.

A communication gap helped me out of a sticky situation

The craziest story, which still makes me laugh after almost two years of it occurring is, during the salon renovation project the contractors brought in the mafia to try and extort more money from the young, black woman who was doing it all by herself, with no local support or protection. The situation would have ended badly, but it didn’t for the most oddest reason – lack of communication. The mafia was brought in to threaten me, but how can you threaten someone who doesn’t understand you? They kept shouting and carrying on and I pretended I didn’t understand his actions and what he was saying because I didn’t speak Chinese. In the end they gave up and left, as I kept laughing and saying “I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me”! It was actually quite a hilarious situation where the mafia left confused and frustrated. Though not being able to understand Chinese helped in this situation, I must say it was probably the only time it did.


My Top Tips for establishing an Expat Business in China

  • One of my biggest regrets is not learning Chinese. If I could do it over again, the first thing I would do is to learn Chinese.
  • Don’t do it alone, if you don’t have to. Get a trustworthy partner to share the agonizing and rewarding journey.
  • Finally, if you are not prepared for the long haul, which requires constant effort and determination to keep the business going, don’t even bother starting.

Although there have been many challenges there are just as many good memories. There are lots of things I love about being an expat entrepreneur. The support from other expats is usually very genuine and positive: they are very willing to come out and support your business.

In China other entrepreneurs are very willing to support each other. This provides very positive energy that helps in so many ways. I also love the appreciation from clients who are so grateful for the service you are providing them.

Your clients just make it all worth it!

Studio Ebony Studio Ebony studio Ebony Studio EbonyStudio Ebony Studio Ebony

Ebony Studio Logo

Connect with Byronie:

Sink or Swim

When you start out in your own business you are probably wearing lots of different hats at the same time. Perfectly normal. You are getting a grasp of what it is all about, the amount of work that is involved, the challenges, the obstacles and what it takes to get things running.

It is all part of the process, a real learning curve and an eye-opener which will help shape your business.

But at one point, if you want your business to grow you need to take a step back from all the day-to-day activities and focus on what actually needs YOU.

Work on your business, not just in it

Work on your business

You need to start working ON your business and not just IN it.

Which means you will need to… delegate (cringe), which probably feels like you are letting go of ‘your baby’.

I know you probably think that you can do everything better and that only you know how things should be done, but quite frankly you just cannot be involved in every single aspect of running your business. It’s just not possible.

A few months ago, actually six months ago, I hired a Virtual Assistant – VA, a.k.a Executive Secretary and although at first I ummed and arred before making that decision, it has been a brilliant one and I am so glad that I did.

There are three key aspects to make this work:

  1. Trust
  2. Communication
  3. Feedback

Like in any relationship, you have to build trust and you need to feel comfortable in delegating the tasks, but with good, honest and open communication you will see it will make a world of difference.

For your VA to be able to do their job properly, they need to know what their priorities are, what you like and how you prefer things done to make the most of the time they dedicate to your business and make it more efficient. So make sure you are being clear, otherwise they cannot guess what is in your head.

Feedback is essential: let them know if you would like things done differently and when they are spot on.

How will I know if I need one?

If you find yourself gasping for breath, completely overwhelmed and worrying about not being where you would like to be in your business, then that is clearly a sign that something needs to change.



Your business will thank you for it and you will free up time to focus on doing the things that only you can do.