Building up a successful English-language business in a Spanish-speaking world

Joanna Styles.
Joanna Styles. / F. STYLES
  • Since starting Guide to Malaga in 2015 Joanna Styles has appeared on the BBC and won a journalism award

When you combine passion, knowledge and business acumen, success comes naturally, if not easily. Joanna Styles, the brain and braun behind Guide to Malaga knows exactly what that feels like.

In under five years Joanna, 54, has built up a successful business by marketing her adopted home city to local businesses and English-speaking residents and visitors alike.

The entrepreneur has lived in the province for over 30 years and in Malaga city for five.

Since the early beginnings in September 2015, Joanna has built up a hugely successful website which attracts upwards of 25,000 visitors per month. She explains that 30 per cent of these are Costa del Sol residents, another 30 per cent are from the UK and a further 30 per cent are from northern European countries and the USA. "It is a very niche market as obviously it is only about Malaga city and only in English," Joanna explains.

The website also provides advice to businesses and self-employed people who work or are thinking of working in Malaga.

She was awarded the Costa Press Club Communicator award in 2016 and the website was featured on a BBC evening news programme in summer 2018.

Joanna has a background in journalism and copywriting and says that she has never felt that she has been treated differently or experienced sexism. "Journalism nowadays isn't really seen as men's or women's work. I don't feel that as a woman I have ever been at a disadvantage," she reflects.

While Joanna says there may have been times in meetings when she felt she was "not talking on the same level" with a client, she is also keen to point out that as a Brit working in Spain on a website that is not written in Spanish, this could have been down to cultural differences with regard to doing business.

She says that most of her client base for marketing Guide to Malaga is Spanish and demonstrating that an English-only platform will work for Malaga-based companies can be challenging, rather than her gender being an issue.

Joanna also makes the point that much of her work is done online, which she says means working with a generally younger demographic and therefore with people with a different work ethic from older generations. "The online business world is in a sense gender neutral and I don't feel that my gender is important," she says.

"I think people are interested in the quality of my work, not whether it is being done by a man or a woman," she adds.

Joanna says that she thinks in general attitudes are changing and that there is more gender equality in business.