Hi, my name is Sarah Jackson and this is my Spanish story …..”so far!”

8 years ago I escaped from the NHS to start a new life in Southern Spain with my two children, Ben and Becky. We, and about 40 boxes of books, moved to the little village of Iznájar in the Province of Córdoba in March 2004 to start our Andalucian adventure.

Adventure it has been and continues to be!

With minimal Spanish and maximum enthusiasm I set about creating my business. Having left the rigours of a busy Accident and Emergency department behind I set about advertising my services, as a masseuses and beauty therapist. Something I have passionately pursued during my time off from nursing and being mum. The first six months was a hard slog, despite there being a large English speaking community in the area, no networking systems were in place. I advertised by putting up posters in all the local bars and estate agents windows, slightly apprehensive about how a single, middle-aged mother of two, masseuse would be accepted into this very Catholic community.

It took about a day for the first octogenarian Spanish (and very hopeful) widower to arrive at my door. I soon learned not to say ‘yes’ to anything I didn’t fully understand! My therapeutic touch seemed to agree with the village millionaire! Having declined the proposal of marriage, in spite of having his bank book waved at me incessantly throughout the treatment, I encouraged the gentleman back into his rather grey long johns, vowing next time to ensure he kept them on, knee massage or no knee massage!

The clients gradually started to appear, word of mouth did its work, aided by the fact that I was ‘the only masseuse in the village’, and by the end of my first year I had a healthy list of regular clients.

In order to expand my catchment area I decided to become a market trader, with a difference! I sold on the spot waxing (no rude bits!) and became quite popular. However at 5 euros a time I wasn’t exactly raking in the cash so decided to turn my hand to selling ethnic clothing in between ripping out facial hair! I discovered I liked it! It also meant I got to go shopping a lot, another passion! The drawback was the new passion I discovered…. a deep loathing of coat hangers! Anyone who is in the clothes retail business will know exactly what I mean! They have a life of their own, and it is not in harmony with yours! Working from home and selling and advertising at local farmers markets continued until just over a year ago.

Two years ago I met my boyfriend, Steve. He had been living on the Costa del Sol an hour away and had just moved to Iznájar with his work. He’s a builder. His mum, at that time, sold houses in Iznájar so Steve moved closer to her to enable him to carry out any building work her clients needed. It turned out he lived about an hour away from me in the UK! Ever read the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? If you have you’ll get the comparisons! If you haven’t, do; it’s a wonderful book about following our dreams and listening to our hearts.

Jennie, Steve’s’ mum, is an amazing woman with the energy and drive of a hundred mere mortals! She decided to give me a helping shove and invite me into partnership with her, expanding the retail side of the business. She had sold the estate business by this time and had her eye on opening a shop, I had the suppliers and my therapy business and she had a wealth of retail experience that she had brought with her from the UK.

Two weeks before Christmas in December 2006 our shop; Atrium Iznájar SL, opened. Having ploughed through the mountain of red tape and paperwork required in Spain to open any business, and tentatively putting our projections down on paper, we had done it. Relocation for my therapy room and a mini “El Corte Inglés” for Iznájar! The shop sells a wide range of clothing for all the family, textiles and household goods, ceramics and ‘English’ food. We also have internet access, photocopying and fax facilities and an interior design service, not to mention the therapies. We have even attracted a wonderful reflexologist, Amanda, and a gifted chiropractor; Gonzalo who work from my therapy room when I’m off. The new venture has been a phenomenal success. I have around 30% more clients and the shops takings are up 20% on last year! We now employ 4 members of staff in the shop allowing us more time to pursue our next venture!

The next venture is based around another of my passions, personal development. I am in the process of writing a course based around creating abundance in your life and living the life of your dreams. Any tips, advice or help gratefully received! The idea to take my interest a step farther and expand this knowledge into something I can share with other people has been due to the success of the group I facilitate. With the help of 2 colleagues I run a group called 11 People, Iznájar and The Universe. We meet monthly and discuss all sorts of ‘spiritual stuff’. I set up the group because I realized that many of my clients talk to me about matters concerning the meaning of life and spirituality but had no one but me to talk to. I am running the pilot for the course for 6-8 people in June this year, my victims will be volunteers from my client list! The course will be residential and will be held at Los Arcos, Iznájar; a beautiful Andalucian cortijo 3 kilometres from Iznájar. I’ll keep you posted!

My other big project is addressing the lack of networking facilities in the area. I am in the process of creating a website called Iznajar-area-info.com. It is in its embryonic stages at the moment but is growing fast. I hope that it will provide the English speaking community with information about the area including where to buy things, where to find facilities and what’s on, to name but a few. The really great thing about the website is that a client of mine has offered to design it for me in exchange for massages! Again, any advice or help gratefully received.