Expat Focus: Andrea, can you tell us a bit about your background and what prompted you to start ExpatWomen.com?
Andrea Martins: I started working on ExpatWomen.com with my American friend Jill Lengré when we were both living in Mexico City three years ago. Jill and I had a combined 20 years of experience abroad and saw a real need for an online community that aimed to connect and inspire expat women on a global scale. One year later, we launched ExpatWomen.com – a motivational community that shares expat women success stories, entrepreneurial ideas, expat confessions, blogs, real-life stories, interviews, articles and much more.
Prior to ExpatWomen.com, I was on the trailing spouse circuit. I scored some work with multinationals and the Australian Embassy in Indonesia and then played mum for four years in Mexico. Before going abroad, I worked in strategic human resources, workplace diversity and project coordination – nothing to do with the internet.Expat Focus: What were the main challenges you faced when you first started ExpatWomen.com? How did you overcome them?
Andrea Martins: Time was our main challenge, as our initial vision of sharing expat women stories online expanded into a much bigger, Ben-Hur of a website containing more than 1,000 pages. With both of us juggling work and family priorities, there were only so many hours in the day to research and create a new product, then oversee every aspect of its development to our satisfaction.
Legal issues were another challenge for us, as we tried to set up business entities that were fair to both Jill (American) and myself (Australian), wherever we would go on to live in the world. We overcame this by paying highly experienced lawyers. However, this cost us ten times what we would have paid if we had found a simpler solution and was probably not the best option.
Expat Focus: At one stage it might have been thought that the terms "expat woman" and "trailing spouse" were synonymous – is that still the case or have things changed as far as women abroad are concerned?
Andrea Martins: An ‘expat woman’ these days, is definitely not always a trailing spouse, as women go abroad for many reasons – love, work, adventure, business, to start a new life and so on. Company-sponsored expat assignments are still dominated by men (80/20), but almost every day I receive an email from an expat woman somewhere in the world who is making her living as a freelancer of some sort and did not end up abroad due to any official company posting.
Expat Focus: What is a typical day in your life like?
Andrea Martins: I am woken up by my children at 6am sharp. I usually work from 9am-2pm when they are at school, then again from 8pm-11pm. I spend my work day answering emails, interviewing women for our monthly newsletter, liaising with advertisers and keeping up with expat and mobility news.
Expat Focus: Where do you consider "home" these days?
Andrea Martins: I consider ‘home’ to be the beach in Australia. However, I am a repatriate in denial and my soul is always wondering when it is time to move on again.
Expat Focus: If you had to give some advice to female readers here at Expat Focus, what would it be?
Andrea Martins: My best piece of advice would be to stay positive and keep motivated. Do whatever it takes to keep a smile on your face when times get tough abroad – exercise, socialise with new people, travel and explore, attend motivational conferences and if you are not working, find a way to keep your brain active.
In terms of work, if you do not have a job abroad but want one, think creatively about what you can do. I had some wild business ideas (like creating a board game, starting an eBay store, developing kids bath toys and even sourcing products to sell on home shopping network channels) before we started ExpatWomen.com Those business ideas never came to fruition, but they kept my brain moving and I am sure they made me ready to run with ExpatWomen.com when the time came. Too many expats seem to limit their ideas by what they knew before. If you cannot work locally in your field of choice, work virtually (see sites like www.elance.com), volunteer, study, learn a new area of work or start a business locally doing something fun. You never know how the pieces of the puzzle will work out later – so give new ideas a go, get inspired by expat women before you and enjoy yourself!
Expat Focus: Andrea, many thanks for your time!
Any readers who are interested in finding out more about Andrea's web site can find it at www.ExpatWomen.com