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'I wanted to give homeless people a voice so they won't be invisible'

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Photo: Andrew Funk
11:06 CET+01:00
In this week's instalment of My Spanish Career, we talk to Barcelona-based Andrew Funk, an entrepreneur empowering the homeless to get off the streets and add value to society.

How do you define yourself?

I'm a 34-year-old American who is half entrepreneur, half investor. I normally get lost on purpose to find myself and share that knowledge with friends and strangers to help them get closer to their goals.

I have never let school get in the way of my education nor facts about the past define my future, and I prefer a blank bio so people make an effort to get to know me by interacting with me instead of judging me by what I or others say.

What brought you to Spain?

I was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, raised in Texas and spent high school and college time in Arizona. I believe men travel for one of two reasons: Money or women, and the economic initiatives in Spain aren't what they are in the States, so...

Why Barcelona? What do you love about it?

I chose Barcelona because of its location. It's closer to the sea and to the Pyrenees. It's hard to say why I love Barcelona exactly, but I do know that it's the best city I've ever lived in and I've travelled a little bit: 43 countries so far.

Tell us about Andrew's Lunches?

I've been organizing lunches since 2010. It started in 2010 at Fresc Co when I saw products being promoted and asked myself, why not English?!? Then I did monthly dinners with special guests and weekly lunches with AN Grup as well as TwitterLunch, where we taught people how to use Twitter better too.

I realized that restaurants didn't really value the online and offline promotion and sales I did, so I created Andrew's Lunches, which is a weekly lunch every Wednesday from 14h15-15h45 within 1km of Paseo de Gracia and Diagonal.

It's valuable because we bring people together to speed up business and friendship in a friendly environment while providing the opportunity to do this in English.

Is there still a place in this online world for meeting face to face?

The face to face meeting is the human factor needed to really leverage online relationships. Online networking creates scalibility and offline strengthens these relationships. Yin (Online) needs Yang (Offline) and vice versa.

What makes for a successful expat life?

I would say by not defining yourself as an expat. I don't go around calling myself an expat or an entrepreneur. I just live my life to its fullest.

What is your #HomelessEnrepreneurs project?

I'm giving homeless people who want to share their story and get off the streets an opportunity to do so by providing them with the tools, network and support they need. After 6 months, they become #EstablishedEntrepreneurs and will tutor two new #HomelessEntrepreneurs.

The initiative is funded by companies and citizens who provide their products and/or services for free.

We use crowdfunding to raise money for the #HomelessEntrepreneur so s/he can have free housing for the first six to eight months. A Homeless Entrepreneur is a homeless person who wants to tell his or her story while getting off the street by using an entreprenuerial mindset.

The community provides him/her with the right tools and resources so s/he can bootstrap his/her way to success. Homelessness is all around us and society ignores them for the most part. I wanted to give them a voice so they would no longer be invisible and so they could start adding value to society. When I see a problem, I prefer to find a solution, and I think homelessness has one, which is why I'm working on this initiative.

If society cares, homelessness won't exist unless people choose to live there for their own reasons. 

Is there room for entrepreneurship in Spain?

There's always room for what you want to make room for. Every country has its own framework and real entrepreneurs will find ways to succeed. 

Story continues below…

What is the single disadvantage about being an expat?

The biggest disadvantage is being away from your origins i.e. friends, family and the environment that made you who you were before you decided to broaden your horizons.

What inspires you?

My ignorance inspires me to learn more. I always hated being in a conversation without being able to add any value to it. Learning and sharing what I learn to grow with others is my true inspiration.

What plans do you have for 2016? 

To understand myself, those around me and the world better so I can add more value to society. My father always said, "If you don't add value to society don't expect anything from it." 

My main goal is to be a better person tomorrow than I am today.

To find out more about Andrew's Lunches or #HomelessEntrepreneur follow him on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or check out the EnglishMetas Youtube channel.

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