“#BeDifferent BeYourself”

Andrew Funk

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 & son

Andrew and his son Alan

What would your best advice be for an entrepreneur to succeed in social media with his or her project?

To treat their followers like real customers and they’ll see how they become stakeholders.

What would you be doing now if you hadn’t become an entrepreneur?

I would be doing everything exactly the same. From a young age, I have always sought ways to make a living by doing what I enjoy. For me, working is a lifestyle where I don’t feel I have to work as such, but to learn and share.

How do you achieve a balance between work and leisure time?

I don’t. The closest to what you’re referring to would be that I do yoga every week and meditate whilst walking, but the truth is I never switch off, mainly because I have no need to do so. I prefer to connect with life and live it whilst having the privilege of enjoying the process.

What would be your idea of perfect happiness?

For me, happiness is the decision to be yourself. When you can accept who you are, regardless of whether others understand it or not. This will make you happy on the inside and this does not depend on the outside world.

In 2012, you launched the social media campaign #teachRajoy (to teach the Spanish prime minister how to speak English), which received a lot of media coverage. Was there any response from the PM or his government?

I received an official “no” from La Moncloa because he was busy and had no time. Basically a friendly “no thanks”. I believe all politicians dealing with international issues should be able to communicate in English. I don’t expect everyone to speak perfectly but to communicate to understand each other.

Then came #teachBotella (following her speech in English at the Madrid Olympic bid). In the current political scene, who do you think would need a new #teach if you were to launch this campaign again?

If I had to choose one person, it would be the future prime minister of Spain after the upcoming general election. I’m sure I’ll be able to help if needed.

Could you tell us two moments of total fear and total satisfaction that you have experienced in your ventures?

Fear: Realising that I had taken out a loan just before the crisis started. Knowing that I could not pay employees due to cash flow problems. The only feeling worse than firing someone is not being able to pay them.
Satisfaction: When a customer says, “I don’t need your services because you taught me how to be independent.” When the mother of a client of mine told me that her son had changed his life and how he approached it after working with me.

What do you do to keep up morale and persevere in the toughest of moments?

Focus on my goals and not let myself be overcome by frustrations, troubles or negativity, because people who know how to sacrifice things and endure pain are those who reach the end. Life is a marathon, not a 100-metre sprint.

What are your future projects?

The latest project up my sleeves is a series of fifty tips about Twitter to help professionals improve their use of this platform and add more value to their work. Following these videos, I will offer a study of Twitter for companies and individuals, training and consulting.

And finally:  A message to our readers

Stop reading interviews about others and get yourselves in interviews so that others can read about you. Stop consuming & start creating value! #BeDifferentBeYourself

CEO English Metas
Digital Marketing Consultant

Jose Mujica100
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