Lauren of Spanish Sabores and Devour Spain is an expat that we truly admire. Since her move to Spain, she's started a successful company and also runs a noteworthy blog on Spanish cuisine. Her desire to support local business and create a life surrounding what she truly loves is inspiring beyond measure. We had the honor to chat with Lauren about how to successfully start a company in Spain, her favorite part of the food culture and why you shouldn't settle for a job you don't like.
We’re so excited to be able to chat with you as we’re huge fans of what you’ve been doing. You’ve founded both Spanish Sabores and Devour Spain. For those who don’t know, can you tell us a bit about both initiatives?
Thank you for the encouragement! I started the website Spanish Sabores in 2011 as a food and travel blog. I write about food-focused travel in Spain and also share (mostly) traditional Spanish recipes. It combines my two great loves, travel and food, in one place. I'm currently working with a few select contributors to build it into Spain’s leading food and travel site!
I started Devour Spain in 2012, though at the time it was called Madrid Food Tour. Basically, I missed being around people, so decided to develop tours based around what I was already writing about on the blog — the best places to eat and drink to experience the true, local Spain!
I began offering tours in Madrid and soon partnered up with an equally food-obsessed partner, and together we launched Devour Barcelona Food Tours and Devour Seville Food Tours. Being able to show people the depth of Spanish cuisine and the amazing people behind the food is so much fun. We work exclusively with small, family run shops and restaurants (which has its challenges!) but ultimately supports small businesses like our own during these difficult times.
What made you decide to take the shift from just food blogging to creating an entire business dedicated to the local Spanish food culture?
My background is in hospitality and tourism and I'd always worked with people. Writing can be lonely, and I knew that giving tours would be a great balance between working alone and with other people. I also wanted to better the gastro tourism scene in Madrid at the time. Madrid is often overshadowed by other Spanish cities, but has an incredible food culture. As the melting pot of Spanish cuisine you can try authentic Andalusian food and traditional Galician food in the same day — there aren't many places like that in Spain!
Can you tell us a bit about your journey moving to Spain and what life has been like since you’ve gotten here?
I studied abroad in Granada in college and always wanted to come back. So when a former professor emailed our Spanish class about the language assistant program, I decided to put any other plans on hold and escape to Spain for the year. Andalusia was my first choice and I was placed in Seville. My tentative plan was to teach English by day and to intern in a kitchen by night — I wanted to go to culinary school when I got back to the US. Things didn't quite go as planned, and instead I ended up teaching for two years and marrying a Spaniard from Cadiz. I didn't go to culinary school but my mother-in-law taught me the ins and outs of the traditional Andalusian kitchen!
In 2011 we moved to Madrid (by bus from Cadiz!), both with plans of starting businesses. Looking back I truly think we were crazy — but I'm glad we did it!
As an expat and entrepreneur, you do a lot! How do you handle time management on a daily basis? What is a day in the life like?
Time management can be difficult. For a long time I worked from home, which I thought I loved, but now that I work in an office I feel so much healthier. Getting out of the house really separates work and home life. I used to work from 9am to 9pm without much of a break, now I work much more "normal" hours. That said, I still work a lot. Hard work is part of being an entrepreneur, and I really enjoy it. I always have way too many projects going on though — that is defintely my weakness!
For those out there who are looking to take on the entrepreneur path in Spain? What advice do you have for them?
If you want to be an entrepreneur in Spain, be as organized as possible and do your research. Hire a great gestor and accountant from the start. Don't become obsessed with "being an entreprenuer", just get stuff done!
Let’s talk food. Share with us three of your favorite Spanish staples.
Only three is so hard! I could name fifty things I love eating in Spain... but....
Tortilla — not too runny but not cooked through. Casa Dani in the Mercado de la Paz (Madrid) makes one of the best.
Spanish shellfish from Andalusia or Galicia
Extra virgin olive oil
What has your journey been like founding Devour Spain? What was the process like going from a small initiative to a thriving company in three major cities?
We developed very organically and are still growing that way. It never seems like much progress until I look back on what we were doing a year ago, or two years ago. But we just show up every day and work really hard at something we love! That's all there is to it!
Okay, spill. What are your three favorite cities in Spain?
Too hard. I've never been anywhere I didn't like in Spain — seriously. I love Madrid, Seville, Barcelona, Malaga, Granada, Cadiz, Gijón, Valencia, San Sebastián, Bilbao... I really can't choose! I've only ever lived long-term in Madrid and Seville and adore them both as places with a great quality of life.
Three places that are on your bucket list?
Galicia! We are going on a road trip there this summer and I can't wait! Also Cantabria and Lanzarote — I want to visit the volcanic vineyards!
When you’re not working, what do you do to relax?
I love to cook (surprise!), read and exercise — tap, zumba, barre and running are what I'm doing at the moment.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to live in Spain long term?
Don't settle for a job you don't like. There's a lot of opportunity for creativity and quality in this country.
Did you ever envision the life that you have now? How do you feel you’ve grown since first moving to Spain?
I am definitely not someone who imagines what their life will be like in X years, so while I didn't imagine this, it's not surprising either! I've definitely grown in many ways since first moving here, almost my entire 20s were spent living in Spain, so in a sense I grew up here.
What can we expect from you next? What plans do you have for the upcoming year?
We are looking forward to adding new tours in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville and also to launching our tours in Malaga. I am also doing some professional development this year and will continue with my WSET wine education as well as becoming a certified olive oil specialist. It all sounds really dorky, but I'm so excited!
This interview was conducted by Sienna Brown. Sienna Brown is the founder of Las Morenas de España. From New York to Murcia, Spain, she is constantly on a journey to inspire and be inspired while engaging in different methods of creation. Her passion for learning about others leads her towards constant exploration and practicing the art of listening as much as she can. See more of her work here and follow her adventures on instagram.