Meet Ameena, Expat Entrepreneur, in France
I have been following Ameena’s marketing blog for a little while and we really spoke for the first time earlier this month during the Foreignator virtual summit.
Ameena Gorton is a serial entrepreneur who has started businesses in the Middle East and France. She’s worked with multinational companies, government agencies, small business and solopreneurs. Lets meet Ameena and find out why she ditched her corporate suit six years ago to share her straight up business and marketing style with the world!
Tell us a little bit about you and your life before your move to France?
I’m a half English, half Egyptian TCK (Third Culture Child) who was born in Dubai which sort of defines me as an eternal expat. I lived in the UAE, Qatar, UK and Oman before I went to university in Manchester, UK. Wherever I lived I never “belonged” I was always a foreigner. (Never ask me where home is!)
After I graduated with my Msc in Marketing I found myself back in Dubai looking to climb the corporate ladder. At first I worked in a marketing department for a Saudi company that had large regional and international brands, the work was fun, the company politics NOT. I decided I needed a new job and found myself working as part of the founding team for the world’s largest fitness company, Fitness First, in Dubai. It was great at first, I broke company records, set industry standards for marketing but personally I was fighting the structures – sure I loved the attention, the prestige, all those amazing freebies to concerts, spas, restaurants etc but I needed MORE.
I thought a new job was the answer until I met an expat entrepreneur who helped me realise that the issue was not the companies I was working for, it was me (ME??!)
A few months later I stepped out alone and created my own marketing agency in Dubai working with multinationals like Deloitte and smaller businesses. Life was peachy!
We set up an Industrial Rescue Training business which we ran along side our own businesses at the start things were challenging but soon things fell into place, work was pouring in – things were amazing, we travelled, we needed nothing, we had 5 star beach club memberships and would get bored chilling on the beach on a Tuesday afternoon when we waited for cheques to be signed.
But we wanted a family and we knew the UAE wasn’t the place to do that. So we moved to France. We had a choice between Canada, UK and France and I chose France as Canada was too cold and I didn’t want to go back to the UK.
Within 6 weeks of making the decision to move to France we’d packed our lives into a rather large container, had our 2 rescue cats and rescue dog microchipped and vaccinated and it was “bye bye UAE!” (we didn’t close our businesses down though!)
What were your first impressions of France? Was it much of a culture shock?
When I arrived in this tiny village, the population has just peaked to an all time high of 5,000 people, I was enamoured. I was sure everyone would be welcoming and I’d be fluent in French within 3 months. Umm … not the case.
Even when I did pluck up the confidence to speak French I’d make such hideous mistakes that people would look at me like I was really stupid.
The best example was talking about how great fresh food was because it didn’t have preservatives in it except I used the word “préservatif” which means condom in French! (I actually have loads of examples but that’s the best PG13 one I can come up with!)
I guess I was surprised people weren’t as welcoming as I had hoped. And the language was SO much harder than I ever imagined – even after 4 years I am nowhere near the level of fluency I’d hoped to be.
Other than that it wasn’t a “shock” per-se – learning that you don’t smear pâté on toast was a learning curve, as was saying “Bonjour” whenever you walked into a shop, cafe or doctors waiting room!
Tell us 3 things you love about your new country.
1.) I love the food and wine! Being able to get organic produce that’s grown on the doorstep is amazing!
2.) I love the way the French (in the South at least) are so straight up and just tell it like it is. It’s super refreshing!
3.) The work ethic! 35 hrs is good! It’s lifestyle over money here – it used to drive me NUTS but then it made me realise that everyone deserves to enjoy themselves!
You’ve created your own marketing business. Tell us a little bit about it and how it came about?
My marketing business was actually started in 2007, it was completely offline at the time, when I moved to France I was busy refurbishing a 200 year old country village home to start a holiday rental business and a few months into launching the business I got pregnant.
I marketed the business online as my French was terrible, after my daughter was born I started my mummy blog “Mummy in Provence” and I loved the power of social media and blogging. I was amazed how random people all over the world connected with what I was writing.
It was in August 2011 when my daughter was just over 1 year old, and I was still running the holiday apartments, that I realised I needed to get back to marketing, but my French still wasn’t good enough to hit the French market and I wanted to work with English speakers so I created my site AmeenaFalchetto.com.
At first I just wrote about marketing in the way I talked about it to my clients and to my surprise (I’m being honest) it really resonated with people and in a few short months I was working with entrepreneurs everywhere (as long as they could fit around nap times!) And the rest is history!
What is the best part about running your own online business?
The best part of running an online business was that I was able to be at home with my daughter from birth – I never missed any of her milestones which I know is a HUGE privilege for working mothers.
My whole business is designed around my daughter’s schedule and whilst I might miss out on some opportunities to travel I know the universe can wait for that.
Being there for my daughter AND be able to be rock my business is the best part!
On your blog, you often talk about pricing. It is something that scares many new online entrepreneurs. Could you share with us a couple of tips on setting the right price for a product or a service.
Pricing is what makes or breaks a business in my opinion (and experience) – and most entrepreneurs charge WAY too little. Cheap is NEVER irresistible!
To set the right price you need to look at how much money you need to make, then compare that to the realistic sales goal for your product/service at the price point you’ve set. All too often entrepreneurs say they have 40hrs in a week and they can have 40 clients which is not possible, admin, emails, life etc has to fit in there too.
What advice would you give to anyone willing to set up his or her own online-based business?
Go for it. But before you start make sure you know exactly 110% what you are hoping to achieve and stick to your goal. Being clear on WHY you are starting an online business is crucial. And, don’t deny yourself customised advice from those who’ve done it and can save you time getting your business where it needs to be in the quickest time possible!
Thank you very much Ameena for sharing your story and giving us some great tips.
Want to read more Expat Entrepreneur Stories? Make sure to check out my other Interviews here.