Stephanie, A Successful American Expat in Argentina
I met Stephanie in 2011 as we have some expat friends in common in Rosario. I invited Stephanie to share her story on my website because I wanted to show you that sometimes all it takes to set up your own business overseas is to be attentive to the needs of your local market. Stephanie came here without any specific professional plan but did a very smart move in noticing a gap in the market and decided to do something about it. She is now running a couple of very successful businesses in Rosario!
Meet Stephanie, an American expat in Rosario
Tell us a little bit about you and what made you move to Argentina?
I was working as a bartender in San Francisco and studying Sociology at San Francisco State when I made the decision to backpack through Peru for 5 weeks with a girlfriend of mine. While we were on the Incan trail to Machu Picchu, I literally fell in love at first sight with a beautiful man that turned out to be from Argentina. To make a long story short, I didn’t return to the US but rather bought a one-way ticket to “see about a guy” and that guy asked me to marry him 3 months later. I have been here ever since.
What were your first impressions – was it much of a culture shock?
Hmm, it has been a long time, but I remember my first impressions to be positive ones. I was in love, everything looked beautiful around me. Haha. I did suffer quite a bit of culture shock, though. Coming from California, it was normal to say hello to people you passed on the street daily, or chat with the servers, I had to learn the hard way that chatting with my waiter, apparently, meant I was trying to pick him up.
The problem is that I really stuck out in the beginning, as my style was loud and I was fearless in every way. (If you have ever been to the Bay Area, you know exactly what I am talking about) This drew a lot of attention, and not always the positive kind.
Tell us 3 things you love about Argentina or Rosario?
I love love love mate*. I love it in every way; the way it is a ritual that brings family and friends together, the way it jump-starts me in the morning and keeps me going during the long days… (*Mate is a traditional South American infused drink, particularly in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern states of Brazil)
Secondly, I see a great deal of opportunity in Argentina, and especially in Rosario. It is a city that is thirsty for new and interesting ideas. People are hungry for change and open to so many possibilities. I love that.
And I guess thirdly, I love that the society is so active. On a sunny day, it seems like everyone, young and old, take to the public spaces. Everyone is skating, biking, kayaking, taking a stroll, and yes, drinking mate… I have never been anywhere in the world where the people have such a large sense of public space.
You are from the States. What do you miss about the US?
Haha, well, I miss several things, but nothing that is too important.
What I really miss is maple syrup. It is the one thing I can’t find here and have yet to figure out how to make a tasty substitute.
I miss ethnic food variety, but in their place, I have learned to cook most all of the recipes I miss the most. So what I am trying to say is, I miss loads of things, but I have found nice replacements for most of them. Family, friends and maple syrup are the only things I can’t seem to replace.
You have opened your own language school – how did that come about?
Well, I arrived in Rosario before it was essentially on the map as far as tourism goes, so, Spanish schools were hard to come by.
I went on the hunt for schools where I could learn Spanish and make friends and came up empty handed. I saw a niche there. If I was in need, I was sure others were too and at that time, the only investment that was necessary was the website.
Spanish in Rosario has taken on many forms since then. I initially started as a sort of “broker” but quickly learned that I was far too much of a perfectionist to leave the quality of teaching and materials in the hands of someone that wasn’t, so I hired a few teachers and began investigating innovative and creative ways of teaching languages. From there it sort of took off and continues to grow with each day.
Although your business is a traditional business that deals with students face to face, how important is it to be online? How much of your marketing activities are online?
I would say that 90% of all our students contact us via the internet, so internet marketing is ESSENTIAL! But I am not talking about Google ads. I mean, social media, chat, online communication, immediate response to emails and inquiries, etc. I live online these days.
What advice would you give to anyone willing to set up his or her own business overseas?
Hmm, this is a tough one. I think that, in Argentina, specifically, I would say:
“Listen,” not only to yourself but to the society. Listen to what do they need, what are they looking for, and then, get creative in finding ways to give them something new and don’t get frustrated if at first you do not succeed. All good things take time.
Thank you very much, Stephanie for this great interview and I am sure that a lot of readers will identify themselves with your story.
Want to read more Expat Entrepreneur Stories? Make sure to check out my other Interviews here.
Want to find out more about living and Working in Argentina, see this section – Expat in Argentina.
Tired Of Waiting For The Right Job Opportunity Abroad? I’ll show you how to make the most of your time overseas and create your own dream job anywhere in the world using an easy to follow routine that requires your own blog, the willingness to turn your passion into a business and a location independent attitude!