Social and Business Networking in Spain – Costa Women

October 13, 2022 | Blog, Home & Relocation, My Story

Learning from her experience overseas living in Asia, the Middle East and Spain, in 2010 Ali Meehan decided to build a space for women to provide a connection point to make new friends as well as get real life, essential tips and advice about life in sunny Spain. Twelve years later Costa Women has over 12,500 members from 137 different nationalities. Ali talks to MumAbroad life about being an in-pat, why community is so important to her and how Costa Women has grown over the years.


Interview with Ali Meehan, Founder of Costa Women

 

You describe yourself as an in-pat. What does that mean?

 

For me it very much highlights the importance of being an integrated-expat (in-pat)  Having lived in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and now Europe I feel its really important to celebrate, connect and join in the cultural lifestyle of my new home.  Rather than creating my own space of home in my new country, join in theirs – its probably one of the (many) reasons I moved overseas!

What made you want to create a community of women on Spain?

 

Loneliness!  Working from home for a company in the Middle East in 2000 was very unusual.  Apart from my husband, it was hard to make local connections.  Social Media was in its infancy (6 degrees was created in 1997 with FriendsReunited in 2000). So when we moved back to Spain in 2010 I decided to create my own.  Whilst Facebook and Twitter had already launched, I wanted to build something which met my needs.

 

Social and Business Networking in Spain

Ali Meehan, founder Costa Women

 

Up until now over 12,500 women have joined your community – how has Costa Women changed in that time?

 

Initially I thought it would be just an online platform and just for the Costa del Sol, but quite quickly the members asked for local meet ups.  Whilst the website is in English language we have welcomed 137 different nationalities into the community, including many Spanish women.  The community had been planned just for social activities, but in 2006 that all changed with our first International Women’s Day Conference.  Local networking events followed on a regular basis and we now host monthly online as well as local business networking.  Jackie Groundsell from the UK’s 1230 The Women’s Company co-hosted the IWD conference with me for several years.  And in 2018, I met Tara Gilver at a joint networking event we cohosted in Malaga.  She was on a retreat from the USA.  We had the same vision and ideas for our communities so started to co-hosted monthly online networking events with her community Believe, Inspire, Grow.

The name is slightly deceptive as you have members form all over Spain. Which parts of Spain are Costa Women most active in?

 

It is as initially I thought the community would just join me from the Costa del Sol.  However we had members joining from Barcelona and Madrid and now we cover the whole of Spain and some of the islands.  Mallorca has grown very quickly and things are generally picking up again in most areas post 2020.  Costa Women is a space for new arrivals into Spain as well as women who have made it home for the longer term, or come and go. If we don’t have a community in your area, I am always open to creating one and finding a local host!

What kinds of social events do you offer members?

 

The first members were friends from a local book club and that’s still running today now under the Costa Women banner. I have wonderful volunteer hosts who organise local coffee mornings and fun events involving everything from creative workshops, fashion shows, flamenco, Japanese tea ceremonies, swishing (where we swop clothes), to the bigger events like our annual summer and Christmas parties where we aim to raise money for Charity.

 

Costa Women business breakfast networking

Costa Women business breakfast networking

You have a business networking group too. Can you tell us more about that?

 

In 2018 I created VIP and Business Memberships.  The premise was really to help businesses promote themselves better within the community and their local areas.  We have advertising on the costawomen.com website and they are invited to speak at our local as well as the bigger Conference and Believe Inspire Grow events.  Having said that, you don’t have to be a paid member to enjoy our local and online events so we offer something for everyone.

 

In 2019 I finished my Avenue for Growth Business Coaching Certification and now offer that as an additional support for women who want to grow and take their business to the next level

What do you consider your biggest achievement with Costa Women?

 

Still being here LOL!  I have seen many other communities over the last 12 years start and then close.  Particularly post 2020.  During 2020 we hosted over 220 online events to help the community feel supported.  I think my mission to connect, inspire, enable and support women is still as important today as it was in September 2010 when the community started.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of relocating to Spain?

 

Take proper, professional and legal advice.  Things have changed so much (especially for UK nationals) and I am still surprised at the amount of people who make a move and then realise it wasn’t what they thought, or they don’t have the resources to stay.  In 2018 Spainexpo.org was launched to help people find those experts, research the move and get support.

 

And of course learn Spanish.  Even if you start with a few words, they will be appreciated and as we get older learning the language will become more crucial.

What do you love about living in Spain?

 

What’s not to love!  It’s such a diverse and varied country from the north to the south with changing scenery and ways of living.  There is so much history and many traditions. I live in Andalucia and its a very friendly part of the world, with amazing transport links to the rest of the world.

If anyone wants to join Costa Women how do they go about it?

 

They can register for free at costawomen.com and we’d love to welcome them!  I host a monthly ‘meet the community’ online event too which means they can find out more before they join.

Read our Family Guide to Moving to Spain – essential information on all aspects of moving to Spain

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