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Teresa Jacobson with some of her staff outside her latest business venture in Arroyo de la Miel. SUR.
Costa del Sol businesswoman Teresa Jacobson González: 'Let the country adopt you'
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Costa del Sol businesswoman Teresa Jacobson González: 'Let the country adopt you'

Arriving in Spain in 2002, the British entrepreneur soon began creating "favourable working environments"

Tony Bryant

Friday, 31 May 2024, 15:33

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Female entrepreneurs starting a business in a foreign country often struggle to get their projects off the ground due to numerous hurdles and obstacles, while others use their determination and drive to overcome these problems, seemingly possessing the 'golden touch' to make their ventures a success. One of these is Teresa Jacobson González, an English businesswoman based on the Costa del Sol, where she has created a "favourable and successful working environment" over her career for her employees and clients in the fields of international travel and event organisation, corporate training, coaching, interpreting and teaching business English.

Originally from Hampstead, north London, where she worked as a conference and event organiser for a publishing company, the business entrepreneur embarked on a new life in Torremolinos in 2002 after becoming "sick of the rat race". She arrived with her first husband and two young daughters and settled in the El Pinillo district. Teresa, 54, who has since remarried, describes herself as "a culture vulture" because she loves going to concerts and the theatre, along with visiting art galleries, exhibitions and festivals.

Teresa had a special connection to Spain, seeing as her mother is Spanish. Her father, a Londoner who worked for the Planeta publishing company, met Teresa's mother in Barcelona, where she worked as a university lecturer. Her father also worked for the BBC World Service, during which time he secured an interview with Gerald Brenan at his home in Alhaurín el Grande, someone he got to know quite well.

"There was always a desire to live near the sea, and in a warm climate. I lived in Barcelona for a year in my early 20s, but returned to London to study at the University of King's College. I decided to come back to Spain when I finished my Hispanics degree, and so my first year out was spent in Torremolinos. I returned to England, but after my daughters were born, we decided to return to Torremolinos, where we have been ever since," Teresa explains to SUR in English.

On arriving on the coast, Teresa began working at a travel agency, where she was employed for eight years, after which, she set up a business organising events and conferences for British and American groups coming to the coast.

"The girls were still young at the time, so I decided to work for myself, rather than be tied to a nine-to-five job. I went freelance and began working with high-profile companies, from beauty to technology, travel and banking. After around six or seven years, I stopped freelancing and decided to start teaching English as I found this would be something I could do locally," she says.

Inheriting genes

Having inherited the "business and academic genes" from her parents, Teresa, who has been a Cambridge examiner for many years, began teaching business English at an academy in Malaga, offering courses to the staff of the congress centre. She also taught English to staff from other companies, which gave her the opportunity to "connect very well with all sorts of businesses".

She was next offered a position as an area manager for a company that promoted English in schools, which, in turn, led to another job offer.

"It is just unbelievable how much the need for English has grown in the province over the last 15 years. I was offered a job to run an academy at a school in Malaga, which has gone from just a few students to over 200. I have been running this now for eight years. Also, for the last four years, I have also been running an academy in Úbeda in Jaén," she says.

"We have great teachers and I really believe in the team. I really believe in motivating our teachers and making everybody enjoy their job. I want it to be a happy place for everyone," she adds.

During the pandemic the schools began offering online courses, something which Teresa continues today, because, as she points out, "Covid changed the way we all work."

"We have students, predominantly Spanish, from three years of age who are learning English, and this is just wonderful. Online we have all age groups up to 70-year-olds, so you are never too old to learn," she says, laughing.

Help from SUR in English

Teresa, who claims to have "a lot of energy, and will power", which she likes to "spread about", also used this newspaper to help her students learn English.

"Many times, I would walk into a classroom with a pile of SUR in English under my arm and pass them out to the class. They would have five minutes to pick an article, then stand up and read it to the class. We would then discuss the piece they had read. I used this method many times and it worked well; which led to the students turning up with their own copies of the newspaper," she says.

Her latest venture has been to take over the Nails Factory in Benalmádena last month, a manicure and pedicure salon that is part of a franchise with 175 salons in Spain.

"This is a completely new venture that came out of the blue. What caught my attention is that the products are cruelty free. When I was young I had the opportunity to interview Anita Roddick (Body Shop). She has this very open mind and she wanted to create something that no one else had done, which was cruelty free products. This sounded very ethical and I have had this type of ideal with most things I have done throughout my life.

"I did not take over the salon for the money. Money is like breathing, it comes in and then it goes out again," she says, bursting into laughter.

Teresa is a follower of the Japanese philosophy, Ikigai, a concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose and a reason for living. Although she acknowledges that she is a foreigner, even though she has lived in Torremolinos for over 20 years now, she has not let this deter her from becoming a success in her chosen place of residence. She believes that Spain has "just too much to offer". She has integrated into Spanish society and has embraced local customs and traditions. She feels that anyone who wants to be successful in Spain has everything they need, although they must supply their own drive and determination.

"You need guts and determination, and you need to be a driving force. If you are foreign and you are living here, let the country adopt you. I think many people arrive with a very closed mentality. You really need to keep an open mind, to venture and never give up. I have reinvented myself many times. As my father used to say, 'there is nothing permanent other than change'," she concludes.

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