How to start a sustainable business abroad

How to start a sustainable business abroad
Uproot your life — As a young mum trying to stay afloat in London’s creative industries, Shiraz Ksaiba became an expert hustler. Then she packed up and left to chase her wanderlust dream: building a sustainable surf community.

After becoming a single mum in her late teens, Shiraz Ksaiba was determined to keep her dream career on track. She moved from Bournemouth to London, with three-year-old son Dylan in tow, to study Fine Art at Middlesex University.

The next decade would require endless graft: learning every skill necessary to survive as a photographer, arts producer and filmmaker. But, gradually, the satisfaction began to fade.

“I’m a restless soul and I’ve always had aspirations of something greater than my day-to-day,” says Shiraz. “At some point, there was a mental block there that I needed to overcome.”

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

In 2009, Shiraz took up surfing and visited Taghazout, a sleepy fishing village in Morocco. Something about the place stirred her imagination.

On her second visit, she hit it off with a surf teacher named M’hand Naciri – and the pair soon began sketching out a life together.

“In London, I daydreamed a lot about a great escape,” she says, relaxing on a roof terrace as the evening sun illuminates her brightly patterned blouse.

“I’ve had to start from scratch quite a few times in my life, so beginning all over again in Morocco didn’t faze me.”

Photo by Ossi Piispanen.

Photo by Ossi Piispanen.

With two kids, however, she couldn’t just uproot immediately. It was only when Dylan neared his A-levels and her daughter Matilda turned six that it felt like now or never.

Finally, in October 2015, Shiraz founded Amayour Surf – a boutique hostel, surf school and yoga retreat that would transform her life.

“The first year was really hard – for both me and Matilda,” she says. “Sometimes I feel like this was a selfish decision, but it’s important for her to see her mum doing something challenging, something she’s passionate about.”

Amayour (which means ‘full moon’ in Berber) stands out from the area’s other surf camps because it has supported the community from day one.

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Shiraz Ksaiba.

Every booking contributes to English lessons for staff as well as the internationally recognised ISA surf coaching certification, the cost of which is out of reach for most locals.

“The local surfers have more knowledge [than foreign instructors]: they’ve been here all their lives, they know the breaks inside-out,” she says.

“Helping them get the proper qualifications benefits everybody: local teachers can make a future for themselves and provide a much better experience for our guests as well.”

In conversation, Shiraz is warm and down-to-earth but also fiercely determined. The 40-year-old is passionate about personal growth – whether it’s for herself or others – and knows just how much of a fight that can take.

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Maddison Araceli Willmott.

Her daily routine involves two school runs, preparing meals for guests, cleaning the hostel and taking care of its admin, before squeezing in some yoga and surf sessions for good measure. The rave reviews gathered along the way help to make it all worthwhile.

“We came here with just four huge suitcases,” says Shiraz. “We’re still living in a building site, so it rarely feels like we’ve achieved much. But we have built an amazing home for ourselves and created memories with the guests that I hope will last a lifetime.

“When you come from a creative background, you want to be outstanding, so the exhaustion is all worth it. Why be mediocre when you can create something awesome?”

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Shiraz Ksaiba.

How to uproot your life and create a sustainable business abroad

Don’t fear change

“With two kids, I was always afraid of shaking their stability or taking on financial risks. But being made redundant in 2009 was a blessing in disguise. The company gave me a life coach and she helped me see it was okay to follow your goals, even if it meant changing your life.”

Don’t take failure personally

“When it’s just you, you’re taking all the risks and everything can feel really personal. Over time, positive feedback will instil more confidence in you. I don’t like to see failure as an option. There’s always another way to make something work.”

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Say yes!

“My background in film, TV and arts production gave me a good grounding. Instead of saying, ‘We can’t do that,’ a good producer will say, ‘How can we do it safely?’ Being constantly flexible and adaptive to others’ needs can be challenging, but it also gives you a buzz.”

Embrace being a fish out of water

“As a foreign woman in a traditional culture, sometimes you need to have a very thick skin. The mentality of a small village can be frustrating at times. You’ve got to be confident that you’re doing things for the right reasons and just keep going.”

Photo by Ossi Piispanen.

Photo by Ossi Piispanen.

Never stop learning

“A steep learning curve can be intimidating. But when you stop learning, you’ll get bored and things will deteriorate. I’m dyslexic and have a low boredom threshold, so languages are a massive challenge for me. But forcing myself to learn Arabic has been really fulfilling.”

Keep the peace

“Working with a partner isn’t always easy, but if you hold grudges you’ll just become a bitter fuck. You’ve got to compromise, forgive and forget. Culturally and personally, M’hand and I are miles apart, but that’s also what brought us together.”

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Photo by Kaasam Ali Aziz.

Find out more about Amayour Surf.

This article appears in Huck 61 – The No Regrets Issue. Buy it in the Huck Shop or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.

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