Spotlight V: Laura
You can’t help but like Laura. She has this air of friendliness and openness that isn’t always so easy to come by in Catalunya. She always has a smile on her face, and when she speaks, her words string together in an enthusiastic run-on. It’s like she can’t contain her excitement.
Earlier this year Laura started a company called La Casita. She represents a new variety in Barcelona: the young, eager entrepreneur. Spain has historically not welcomed entrepreneurs, both legally and culturally. Here it was rare to move from place to place, jumping around specialization and salaries and cities, what has now become commonplace in the United States. The government doesn’t encourage new business owners either, mandating a high tax rate and fees from the date of incorporation rather than letting them grow over time proportional to income. And in the face of one of the worst economic crises in the country’s history with 24% unemployment, to make a long story short, Spain is not the best place to start a business.
But Spaniards have picaresca, and are always finding clever ways to circumvent directives they don’t like and invent ones they like better. Laura got a hunch from a single post on Facebook and decided to start something that she subsidized with her day job. In Barcelona one way or another, ideas are percolating, risks are being taken, and beyond all odds, businesses are being formed. There is a palpable hum of progress despite old rules and the new crisis. New businesses are not just responding to trends but predicting and innovating them. This is the new generation of entrepreneurs rising from the ashes of the city.
Where are you from?
I’m from Barcelona; I’m Catalan. Now I live outside the city in Fogars de la Selva, which is a little less than an hour by car from Barcelona.
How long have you been working?
I started the project 2 ½ years ago, while I still had my day job in administration. At the start it was only nights and weekends, but since December I’ve been full-time with La Casita.
How and why did you start with this kind of work? I’ve always been a restless person who’s thought about business and other ways to live. It all started so silly: I went with my dad to the farm, made a pretty basket, posted it on Facebook, then everyone from Barcelona started to ask me for orders. I realized this could be my business, because I’m so accustomed to really good vegetables but it’s not as easy to find such quality in Barcelona.
My friends are graphic designers and helped me create a logo. Then all of a sudden — I don’t know how — I’m stuck here. It was all very spontaneous, without thinking about reality [laughter].
What do you like most about your job? And the least?
What I like most are the people that I’ve been able to meet thanks to La Casita. The relationships are really personal, and you meet really interesting people, most of whom end up becoming your friends.
Like for example I met the girls from Les Tres a la Cuina, and now we’re all friends, and we’ve created synergies with other entrepreneurs… like you right now! I like that all these relationships are close. I’m quite social, so I like to meet people and that part of the job has been exponential.
What’s been the hardest has been converting La Casita into a company. Punching numbers (I’ve made a lot of mistakes), determining prices, schedules, and learning how to say no. I used to work in administration, but for me, it’s still hard. Now I dedicate a lot of time as a community manager spreading the word.
What’s the tradition or party in Spain or Catalunya that you like the most? A tradition that I think is incredible in Catalunya are Els Castellers. When I see them in real life they give me goosebumps. It’s just incredible. Also in the Costa Brava I like to go see Las Habaneras live on the beach. And generally in Spain I like the pride that comes in the kitchen: for example the food from the north and the long Sobremesas on a Sunday. It’s all so Spanish.
What is your favorite place in the city?
On a late afternoon I like to go to the factory of Anís del Mono. Across from there in Badalona is a bridge into the sea, El Pont del Petroli, that they used to access for oil. I lived for a season in Badalona and commuted to and from the city on my bike. The journey was just so beautiful.
Another place I love is up at the top of la Avenida Tibidabo, el Mirabé. I like to go on a weekday when there isn’t anyone there to have a café in the middle of the day.
Bitter and brown yet sweetly herbaceous, served with a spear of orange wedges and briny olives stuffed with anchovy,
this is the business of vermut.
Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine flavored with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, spices). While vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, its true claim to fame is as an apéritif. However, in the late 1800s it became popular with bartenders worldwide as a key ingredient in many classic cocktails that have survived to date, such as the Martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni. — Wikipedia
Okay, now forget what you know about vermouth from anywhere outside of Spain. The best vermut from Catalunya is made locally from scratch and is a ritual shared between friends and family before lunch on weekends. It’s an acquired taste that pairs best with rich conversation, snacks, and the feeling that you still have the whole day ahead of you, so why not one more?
Normally sifon, or sparkling water, is available at the bar if you want to lighten up your vermut, although it’s polite to always taste the vermut before doing so. Accompanying snacks run the gamut: olives, potato chips with vinegar sauce, roasted almonds, and basically anything edible in a can (see part IV).
Until recently, vermut in Catalunya was considered a drink for the older generation. These days, though, vermut is all the rage, introducing odd visions of hipsters rubbing elbows with grey-haired locals at the bar.
Thread of a tangent:
Laura’s favorite place is a bridge to the sea in Badalona, a sleepy industrial city just up the coast from Barcelona. If you rent a bike during the warmer months and visit Laura’s bridge in Badalona, keep hugging the coast northward and you’ll end up in Vilassar. Here lives the home of Espinaler, a beloved Catalunya brand specializing in sauces and canned fish. Find their beachside bar called Espinaler Nave Vilassar de Mar and order some vermuts to pair with their canned delicacies.
Katie Barcelona is a graphic designer and wanna-be writer living in Barcelona. And yes, Barcelona is her real last name and yes, it’s just a weird coincidence that she’s living in Barcelona.