BRITISH businesswoman Jenninfer Cunningham is proud of the fact that she leads a team of twenty women in what has become one of the most successful expat businesses in Spain.

“It isn’t a policy to only employ women, it just turns out that they are the ones that have thrived,” she explains.

“Applications are open to everyone and we have employed men and I try to keep a balance in the teams, but it’s the women that seem to be most successful in this business and the ones that stay on for years and years, while the men just don’t seem to keep up.”

She is talking about her business empire comprising seven offices across the Costa Blanca and one in Lanzarote offering private insurance designed especially for members of the expat community.

Jennifer Cunningham
Jennifer Cunningham has built up a thriving business in Spain.

Cunningham, a long-term resident of Javea, learnt early on that to get ahead as a woman in a male-dominated business sphere in Spain, she had to be fearlessly determined, a quality she has in spades thanks to her time in the Royal Air Force.

“Being in the RAF was one of the happiest times in my life and where I had discipline instilled in me,” she recalls. “As a result I don’t stand for any nonsense but that also means people know where they stand with me, which is very important in business.”

But she recalls the hardships of starting up three decades ago when it was hard for a woman to be taken seriously.

“I was a widow, surviving on a meagre widow’s pension and so the only way I could start up was to re-mortgage my home, borrow money and make it work,” she recalls.

“I had problems finding a bank who would support me and I remember the first time I presented my business plan to get a loan, the bank manager wouldn’t address me directly but kept looking towards the male friend I had brought with me.

“I had to point out that it was me who was borrowing the money, that I was the business owner and when they didn’t take me seriously, I walked out and went somewhere else.”

She eventually found a sympathetic bank manager, a man who has supported her ever since her first venture, and who she has stayed with as he moved across different banks.

She then began working with Liberty Insurance and ASSSA Seguros designing special packages for the expat market and has built up a reputation as a hugely successful expat businesswoman.

“At the beginning they didn’t want to take me on and they felt sure that I would fail,” she reveals. “My style of selling was completely new to them, the culture here in Spain was so different.”

“As an entrepreneur I had to take risks and convince those who had the financial backing of huge institutions behind them to take a risk on me, but I proved myself and in the end, those very same people looked to me to lead strategy and even asked me to teach them how to do it.”

Outside of work she is committed to building up a hospice charity that offers invaluable support to the terminally ill and their families among the expat community on the Costa Blanca.

Over the last year alone, the charity and its team of 20 volunteers has helped more than 100 people by providing care at the end of life.

The charity is very close to her heart as she set it up following the death of her son Paul from cancer when he was only 33-years-old after witnessing the care he was given during his last days in a Sue Ryder hospice in Bedfordshire.

A treasured photograph of Paul Cunningham whose tragic death led to his mother setting up a charity in his name.

“They had taken such exceptional care of my son but on my return to Spain I looked around to see what would happen if someone was in the same circumstance here in Spain and discovered that there really wasn’t anything similar. People were simply being sent home to die to be cared for by their family, but what if that wasn’t possible?”

The realisation led her to set up the Paul Cunningham Nurses Charity, which is run thanks to volunteers and donations with three charity shops on the Costa Blanca – although fundraising has taken a hit with the pandemic.

“We are always looking for volunteers and it would be great to have some fundraising events now Covid is less of a threat,” she says.

“The business and the charity have been my reason to get out of bed and do justice to my life and to his,” she admits.

Visit www.jennifercunningham.net or www.paulcunninghamnurses.com for more info. Visit Jennifer Cunningham Insurances S.L and Paul Cunningham Nurses Charity by clicking on the links.  

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