I studied in Belfast around 7 years ago. I moved there when I was 18 years old and I stayed nearly 1 and a half years. It was funny beacuse the school was brand new and I was one of the first students there.
When I first arrived at school one of the teachers, called Helen asked me where was I from, and my answer was “18 years old”. Haha. After hearing my answer she told me that there was no need for me to do the level test, and that I could start at the 1st level! Haha. My English was so bad I never passed the exams when I was back at school in Spain, and for that reason, me and my family decided that I had to move to Belfast to learn English.
My mother and my father studied English abroad at a young age and for them it was very important that I followed in their steps. My father manages an international business, and for him English is a priority, a must have. As I also wanted to work internationally I knew that I needed English as it’s the main language to communicate with everyone around the world, even in you travel for fun. Even if you stay in your country you will need to speak English. Back then, at my parents age, speaking English was not so common and for those who were able to speak English, work was much easier to find. Nowadays if you don’t speak proper English its very difficult to find a job because most of the companies around the world are globalized and the common language is English. Therefore all companies must have a good team that is fluent in English to sell around the world.
I really had a good time in IH Belfast, it felt like a family and they treated me so well! I was a very young kid, only 18 years old, so for me it was really important to have that homely feeling. The teachers were fantastic young people with lots of experience teaching English and they knew how to focus on each student depending on their needs. We did many activities, they showed us the city, we played many games, but always working to improve our English level.
In just a few months my English improved a lot and I could not believe it! People think that to learn English you must lock yourself in a room and study, study and study. What made it so fantastic for me is that as a young guy who didn’t like to study, they knew how to motivate me to learn English quickly. Of course we still had to study, but we were learning with games that motivated us. In general I would never have expected that my English would improve so quickly and I really appreciate everything the teachers and all the IH team did for me.
I still keep in touch with many of the people I met while in Belfast – a friend of mind from Saudi Arabia, another one from France, and two more Catalan guys. Of course it’s easier to be in touch with the Catalan guys as we are closer, but as I have to travel to many countries for my business I always have people from Belfast in mind, that I try to meet up with for coffee and to catch up.
I was a very bad student, and Belfast was a great experience for me to grow up. I came to realize that if you don’t study you cannot achieve your dreams, so when I came back from Belfast I studied 2 years of international business in Barcelona. What I really enjoyed was that my English level was so good that I didn’t have to study for the English exams. hahaha!
After I finished my studies I started working in a company that was producing accessories for big companies like intitex, pepe jeans and desigual. I became the owner’s right hand, and I started to travel around the world to control productions in China, India, Guatemala etc. I learned a lot from this experience as well as realizing how important it is to speak good English in building business relationships around the world.
After one year the company I was working in started going backwards, as the competition in the markets got tougher, and I decied to find something different to offer to the market. I found out about a new product – wood sunglasses made in Austria or Switzerland, but at a very high price, from 600€ to 3000€. I loved the product and with the company we decided to start a collection. In the meantime I was doing my favourite sport (wake-boarding) and I realized, when floating on the wake-board, that my glasses could float if they were made out of wake-boards! We decided to make the sunglasses out of recycled wake-boards. They became more resistant, more colourful and could float on water. Once the product was finalized we showed it to all the big companies, and they were all crazy about it but they were not willing to pay the price I was asking for. They were buying sunglasses at 1$ to sell them at 16$, although our glasses were hand made. After many setbacks and many trials with different companies we were still not able to find a buyer, even though they all loved the product.
The company that I was working for ended up closing down and, after a long chat with my brother, we decided to start a new wood-eyewear business with the help of my friends. We created the brand Woodys and we produced a photoshoot and a catalogue. After that I started going shop-to-shop to show them the product. First the answers were a no, but after a while one optician placed a very good order and introduced me to a sales rep. We also went to Paris and had huge success at a major optical fair.
In 3.8 years we have grown to include 14 employees in the office and 25 sales reps around the world. We sell in 34 different countries and we hope to sell very soon in Belfast.
Since I was a child I knew that I wanted to run my own company. I did many jobs. I worked as a painter, builder, waiter, cook, as a labourer in a leather factory etc… But I knew that I wanted to be my own boss, and have my own project. It is something I always knew.
I feel sad that I don’t speak more languages, but if I hadn’t learnt English I couldn’t have opened this business for sure. On a daily basis I talk to many people around the world; French, German, Greek, Turkish, Chinese. And with all of them we communicate in English. If I hadn’t learnt English I don’t think I could be where I am today. The main advantage if you speak English is that you can have the world under your feet and you can go wherever you want.
If I could give one piece of advice to someone thinking of establishing an international company, it would be that it’s very important to listen to people who know more than you do in the business you want to be. It is also important to build a good working team. One of my work mates is a lady that studied at Queens Belfast many years ago and she also shares my love of Belfast.
My advice would be to work very hard, to think big and to believe that you can achieve whatever you want. When I started this business no one thought that I could make it, and now they can see it for themselves …. If you have a good idea and you believe in it I think you should fight for it.
Thanks to all the IH Belfast team for everything!!! I can truly say that was one of the best years of my life!
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