The Expat Woman Entrepreneur is a special series to inspire and motivate our audience. The journey might not have been easy for these women; but each story is a testament of courage and perseverance. I know how hard it is to find your place in a country like Switzerland (I have experienced this first hand) but following your passion and going after it is a challenge on another level.
The Expat Woman Entrepreneur Series Part 2
If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, please click here. Below, we present 2 more stories today – each so different from each other but still similar in many ways!
“No matter where you are, you need a network – and a think tank – to bounce off ideas.”
My name is Nadia Mills, and I would consider myself a citizen of the world. Born in Cork, Ireland to a Swiss mother and Irish Father, my younger brother and I were raised in Palo Alto, California – where we watched many entrepreneurs blaze trails – our father included. After finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Washington and Jefferson College outside Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, I moved to Zurich for a teaching job at the Inter-Community School. Since arriving here, I have settled into life here, close to my mother’s family, with my partner, our two daughters and a puppy. Two years ago, I finally took the big step of turning my dream into reality. September 2017 the door to Luus Muus Café and Family Centre were opened. The café and rentable studio spaces have offered many the room and space to connect and share their passions.
My business is the Luus Muus Family Center, a space for all seeking connection, community or both. A blend of expats and locals – Luus Muus is a multi-generation hub of the area. We value play and children, and welcome senior citizens and business folk. It is here you find the mothers meeting for a cup of coffee with their kids, neighbours gather to enjoy tea and cake, or local businesses stop in for a bite of lunch with colleagues. It’s a buzzing hub with something from everyone. Adjoining the cafe is a playroom used as a preschool in the mornings and another beautiful studio where fellow dreamers turned entrepreneurs share their passions by offering courses for children, adults and seniors. The latest addition is a new project called TheOffice_ZH, which will act as think-tank coworking space in the area. Here, small businesses can have an office, entrepreneurs can offer workshops, and many brilliant heads can come together to create another growing community.
My eldest daughter was born in 2011 – and in a moment, my world turned upside down. It was the single most amazing and simultaneously lonely moment. Suddenly my life was no longer just mine, and I yearned for a place to find a new community. And this is when the dream was born. A space – a community space – where social connections were at the forefront. A space to find friends, regardless of your age, entrepreneurs, students or teachers. So, I started with a small plan – which grew into the place it is now. One thing that I learned – no matter where you are, you need a network – and a think tank – to bounce off ideas. And I had this group, a few friends like me – small kids in tow, needing something more than living rooms with piles of laundry and a playroom that needed cleaning. And we planned, guessed, questioned and drove this dream into a real business plan.
With this business plan I chased venues and spaces. And was turned down time and again. The common theme would often be – “you don’t have a viable business / you’ve never had a business before”. I cannot lie, it was disappointing, discouraging and upsetting all at the same time. I almost gave up, decided to keep my “day job” which no longer had my heart in it. After some time, I started looking for business allies.
Some established business owners who loved the idea –believed in me and my ambition, I call them my “business angels”. They got me seats at the right tables, they were my ticket into some very important conversations. They helped me take my living room planning sessions to a new level. I love what I do. But you can’t do it alone.
A Typical Day in my Life
My day! Well, the mornings are always a bit of chaos meets order. Once the girls are off to school, I look into things at the cafe/family center. I love how my family and business often become ONE during the day. My partner and I share equal burden of running the household and I love how I can keep a healthy balance between my passion and my family!
Advise for Expat Entrepreneurs
- Just do it. Make your plan. Do your research. Explore the financial needs, costs, pitfalls and success.
- Have a listening board or a think tank. Get advice. Listen to their You will make mistakes. A good sounding board will help you figure stuff out.
- Take the risk – but understand the implications.
- Love the adventure – A business is like a new-born. Tiny and delicate – full of Holds your heart and head hostage, and just like motherhood it’s a rewarding experience. Enjoy the new freedom and the worry and stress that comes with it!
- As for being a woman. Find your voice. Be strong and professional. If it comes to it, take the help of a man to get a seat at the table. There are lots of amazing men who recognize your value!
“It’s all about helping others find their confidence, their inner beauty, their self-esteem, to feel like they can conquer the world, one day at a time.”
My name is Lili, of Sicilian Italian heritage who was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. I’m the 3rd of 4 siblings, a 1 st generation Aussie who only spoke Italian at home, until leaning English at school. From primary, high school, I went on to University where I completed my Bachelor of Business (Accounting) degree. My varying roles ranged from Credit Risk, Customer Account Management, E-Commerce, Finance and Performance Analysis. I love travelling, architecture and historical sites, being open to new adventures and meeting people from these locations. It’s part of expanding knowledge, enriching what we know, tasting new foods and making wonderful memories together with lifelong friendships.
My business is called ‘Essentially Lili’. The name came from combining my own name with Essential Oils. I make all-natural skincare products, using only butters, beeswax, essential oils and other natural ingredients. The range includes over 38 products that I make from scratch, these include blends of concentrated oils for headaches, congestion, menopause or concentration. My products are for babies, teens, ladies and gents for hands, body, feet and face. My products consist of cleansers, eye balm, and skin-care for conditions like Eczema, Rosacea, Acne and Psoriasis, Chicken Pox and Molloscum (flying warts). I love the feedback I receive from happy customers, telling me how their skin feels after using the products.
My story is heart-breaking, especially from the point of view of my parents and me, the sufferer. From the age of 9, I suddenly started to itch and bleed on my arms, hands and behind my neck with a skin condition, Eczema. 40 years ago, it was something quite rare, and my Dad took me every month to the children’s hospital in Melbourne to figure out what was wrong with me. Taking matters into my own hands, I secretly went to another dermatologist who prescribed me Roaccutane which was so strong, it messed up my internal system. Whilst attending my 2nd year of University, my body reacted to the medication and it was covered from head to thighs in weeping, bleeding, itching Eczema. My face was swollen, and my skin was so horrendous that I refused to leave the house for 2 months. It took years to find solutions that worked for me – I tried herbalists, diets, acupuncture until I went to a Naturopath who helped me with my detoxing. Years later, I was introduced to Aromatherapy and haven’t looked back since, making the products for myself.
This has become the foundation of Essentially Lili – using the natural ingredients which repair, restore, rejuvenate, calm, soothe and hydrate the skin, making you feel so much better with the small amount applied. In 2012 I left my full -time finance role in the UK and with our 2 young kids, I followed my husband who was already working in Zurich, Switzerland. Whilst in this new full-time mum role, I was translating school books from German to English for our daughter and raising our son aged 2. I did this for a few years but was eager to get back into employment. Finding work with limited German, child care costs and working around the kids was a difficult thing for me.
I was toying with the idea of becoming a skincare brand ambassador for another company but found the conflict of interest bugging me. How can I promote and sell products when I refused to put them on my own sensitive skin? Wanting inspiration, I attended the Women’s Expo in Zurich in 2015, where I felt encouraged yet scared to set up my own business. There was so much to take in and consider, thinking about the risks of failure vs success, the financial strain and what the market would think of my products. Yet a week later, let’s jump in and see what happens.
Essentially Lili is my first business and my passion, as it’s not just about making skincare products, it’s about helping others find their confidence, their inner beauty, their self-esteem, to feel like they can conquer the world, one day at a time.
The best part is really when someone writes to say how the products, they have received have changed their life, given them back their confidence, prevented them from becoming depressed and allowed them out in public without having to hide behind bucket loads of make-up. Please, don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against those who wear it to feel glamourous, but when your skin is sensitive, itchy, covered in other ailments or conditions, the worst thing to do to it is cover it up.
A Typical Day in my Life
My typical day involves working on social media, checking emails, attending events and workshops and also tracking/sending packages. Ofcourse, my production days are long and require 100% of my focus! The finance and admin side of things takes the most time though.
Advise for Expat Entrepreneurs
For women entrepreneurs who are looking at starting their own business – I suggest doing your homework. Be informed, ask questions, research, study, make the necessary calls to find out what you need to get started. Be prepared to put in the long hours. Remember there can be frustrating times combined with celebratory ones too. Advantages of being a business owner is that you can work your own hours and be flexible around the needs of your family. The disadvantages is that you have to work harder to make the same kind of salary that you would have made working for an international employer, with the benefits provided.
Most of all, you must enjoy what you do.
I really hope you liked our Part 2(of 3) of our swiss expat special.
We’d love it if you would share it and do leave us a comment below. A big thanks to the wonderful ladies who participated in this initiative, I loved reading and sharing their stories.
Stay tuned for Part 3!
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