Women looking for help to launch their careers and start small businesses in Florence now have an invaluable source of support. InformaDonna launched by the Comune earlier this year is giving women of all nationalities the vital tools necessary to make their dreams a reality. Offering free advice and help for women navigating the (sometimes treacherous) job market and wanting to build their own empires, InformaDonna’s mere existence is flying the flag of hope for ambitious women looking to make their own opportunities in life.
Establishing a life in Italy is a courageous feat but to come here and build a successful business is somewhat remarkable. Deciphering the laws and taxes, communicating your company’s vision with the added obstacle of a language barrier and pioneering new ideas takes relentless determination.
Having recently established a babysitting agency in Florence myself, I know only too well how the “simple” tasks can quickly evolve into cataclysmic hurdles. Obtaining a partita IVA number with only very basic understanding of the Italian language proved to be a lesson in persistence I will never forget. Many women have fought these battles before and are shining examples of self-belief whose businesses are thriving here today. These are women who inspire with their bravery and their messages and who are giving much more back to the community of Florence than just a contribution to its economy.
Meet four successful female and foreign entrepreneurs in Florence who are living proof that it can be done.
Sophie Charlotte – Life Coach Sophie
Sophie has always been a teacher. She started off by teaching teens in Denmark and when she decided to follow her heart and move to Florence in 2010, she quickly became an in-demand English teacher. Her life coach business has evolved from her love of helping people to grow and attain their goals, and now she focuses specifically on helping women to become the most powerful versions of themselves. Founder of the Power Babe Tribe, which holds monthly meet ups in Florence, her passion for helping likeminded women to join forces has resulted in a creative “movement” giving entrepreneurial women the opportunity to share ideas, empower themselves and gain momentum towards their goals.
Her own personal story is evidence that anyone can change their lives. Sophie is a strong and independent woman who has built a flourishing career for herself. When she first moved to Florence seven years ago she was struggling with anxiety and inner conflict after living what she describes as being a stagnant and unfulfilling life.
“It’s very important to do what lights you up inside,” she says before taking a sip of her espresso. “You have to rock your own world.”
Jennifer Schwartz – The Tuscan Turtle
Jennifer’s recipe for success is so powerful that she has never had to advertise in all the years she has been operating her business in Florence. All of her customers are referred to her directly from word-of-mouth recommendations, such is the high level of service she delivers. Jennifer’s love and appreciation of food brought her to Italy in 1995 from New York City and after many years of working in kitchens in Florence and as an assistant for a famous food writer, she took the leap and established the Tuscan Turtle catering company with the now successful author and restaurateur, Susan Jenkins.
Jennifer now specialises in creating bespoke food itineraries for travellers from all over the world who come to Tuscany with the desire to eat, sleep and breathe the magnificent cuisine, and dive straight into the heart of Italian culture by understanding its most important element: the food. As well as running her business, she is also a mother to four-month-old Amelie Lola Sylvia.
When asked what her proudest moment in business has been, she answered, “The satisfaction of positive feedback. When people write to thank me for the experience I created for them, it makes me feel very happy.”
Rachele Beagley – New Kid
A pioneering shoe designer and businesswoman originally from Australia, Rachele’s ambition to make it big on the shoe scene has been a burning desire ever since she first walked down London’s Oxford Street in 2004. Since then, she has built a successful wholesale business in Italy, as well as a made-to-order design service using locally bought leathers and components put together by Italian family-run firms. Her designs give key European pieces a contemporary street vibe that are as wearable as they are original.
“The most exciting memory since starting my business here was during my second season when I got an order for over 1,000 pairs of a laser-cut patent slippers from Urban Outfitters. The feeling I had when I received that call is indescribable.”
Rachele is now even more unstoppable than ever especially with the added input of her business partner, Letizia Ciappi. They are currently working on a new retail space that will be opening very soon in Florence.
When asked what advice she would give to other women considering opening a business in Florence, she replied, “You have to be a real pain; constantly bugging and calling and emailing people isn’t enough if you want things made.” Then she added, “Get a great accountant!”
Jane Harman – Jane H. Restoration / Wood & Cut
Originally from the South of England, Jane moved to Florence in 1985 as part of an art scholarship, but when her funds began to wither, Jane used her talents to make a living: sketching outside the Uffizi and teaching English to enable her to stay in the city she had grown to love. It wasn’t until she knocked on the door of her maestro’s furniture restoration workshop and asked him for an internship that she was given the opportunity that has led to a flourishing career.
For many years she learnt her craft under the guidance of Enrico, lovingly restoring antique furniture. “I love wood, fine craftsmanship and the story behind each piece.”
Her passion for restoration has seen her business evolve from designing unique pieces using reclaimed wood, restoring wooden ceilings and balustrades, to making geometrical ebony rings. She often collaborates with other designers and artisans in a bid to combat the IKEA culture, which is dominating the furniture business.
When asked what advice she would give to other budding entrepreneurs in Italy, she replied, “Nothing is that simple or easy in Italy. It also depends very much on what type of business. Determination, hard work, and some tips from someone who has a bit of local experience is vital. Having the right contacts is a great help.”
Get help and advice for your own career and business and book an appointment at InformaDonna today by calling 055.218310 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org