Creative, versatile, entrepreneuring and provocative. These are some of the characteristics that define Andrew Funk, an American businessman, settled in Barcelona, leading an English Academy for business professionals, who promotes his initiatives and projects in social media, where he has built an innovative and original personal brand. Andrew welcomed us kindly, explained his company experience thoroughly and gave us insight into his particular view of the sector. We discovered a person with drive, who is extremely enthusiastic about his job and family.
What prompted you to create your own company? Why did you choose Barcelona?
The desire to live in Spain. Creating a company allowed me to get papers to create something more important: A life. I chose Barcelona because I had visited Spain when I was 18 and the weather is better. It’s not as cold or as hot as Madrid and the beach and mountains are closer.
You own an English school, and one of your projects, which has evolved over the last 5 years, is a series of lunches for entrepreneurs, employees and business owners that provides a great environment to speak English and build their network. How did this idea come about? Have you got business partners?
The idea came about in a Fresc Co restaurant in January 2010. I was eating there and I noticed that they were promoting Borges vinegar and chewing gum for free and I thought “why not do the some thing with English?” The project has evolved since the outset, from daily lunches to 40-euro dinners, and I have had several partners to promote this initiative.
Are you aware of any partnerships or interesting projects that have occurred amongst the entrepreneurs who attend these lunches?
One participant told me he would have paid €300 for the dinner he attended because he found a new customer whose first invoice was for €3,000. You can find friendship, projects and business.
Approximately how many people attend these lunches each year?
Around 2,400 people. Between 4 and 60 people can attend. The gatherings are currently being held at different restaurants every Wednesday within a 500m radius of Paseo de Gracia and Av. Diagonal in Barcelona. When we invite a guest speaker, such as the composer and pianist Albert Guinovart, we make a special announcement and obviously more people attend.
Have you thought about extending this initiative to the rest of the mainland?
I’ve thought about expanding the initiative to other cities such as Madrid, Bilbao and Valencia, but I’m not in a rush to do so. Rome wasn’t built in a day and this initiative is no exception. I’m building a structure that can secure a good business model to create more benefits for everybody.
You’re from Minnesota. What do you think we should learn from American business culture?
Spain should learn how to build a personal brand and how to lose the fear of selling something. A company can die and you’ll find something else, but if you die, everything dies, so I firmly believe in the importance of personal branding in relation to corporate branding. Selling appears to be a dirty word but it is not. It is the bread and butter that feeds your family. Meanwhile, I think we should learn how to convert a sale into a purchase.
What do you think are the 5 most important steps that politicians should take to improve entrepreneurship in Spain?
1) Educate people about entrepreneurship from birth, at home and in schools.
2) Improve the structure and conditions for entrepreneurs asking for funding.
3) Learn English
4) Show that something should be launched. You cannot expect a civil servant to show others how to be an entrepreneur.
5) Create a clear roadmap and support entrepreneurs from an external point of view as consultants
Andrew and his son Alan