How did you start out?
As you know I’m Danish and I started out without having planned anything other than a 3 month stay in Malaga, Spain, in order to study and improve my Spanish speaking abilities. I could read, write and understand Spanish but I was not able to express myself, not even to order a cup of coffee. However, I fell in love with Malaga and a Spaniard and just knew that I had to come back. After working hard in three different jobs for five months in Copenhagen I arrived in Malaga with some money, which was used to start a small language school. Very small, indeed: we started with four foreign students...
This was not really planned, it just happened - there was an opportunity and we took it – and once started, we just had to carry on and didn’t want to give up. This is, however, not the best way to start a business and became very, very difficult. There were many moments when everything seemed totally impossible; I do not recommend to start a business this way to anyone. This is now more than 45 years ago in a dictatorship when Franco ruled in Spain.
What helped you get as far as you have?
I think it helped not knowing all the difficulties that were to come. Probably ignoring makes you strong. When you are so young you just jump into all the difficulties, and once you are into deep water up to your nose, you just have to keep swimming, or you will drown. And I don’t give up easily. When everything seemed to fall apart I gave it another try, again and again. At the far end there is usually a solution. I also seem to be born under a lucky star.
What piece of advice would you give to your 21-year-old self?
Probably not to worry so much; I have always worried in advance about all the things that can go wrong and almost never happen. This is just a waste of time and energy. I would also ask myself to learn to say no before accepting too much responsibility for others.
A low point in your career/life and how you overcame it?
The lowest point in my life and career was definitely when we divorced. We had started the business together with my money but under his name. You have to remember that in 1971 in Spain a woman could not open a bank account, start a business, nor do anything else without the permission of her husband or father. And I was just a foreign girl with a tourist passport, which meant that I had nothing under my name when we had to split everything. To create Malaca Instituto as it is nowadays I practically had to start all over again.
One word to describe yourself?
Probably the word demanding or self-demanding. I am never satisfied and always think that something could be done better.
Your first paying job: What and when?
I was only 12 years old and was typing the invoices for my father. He was a busy architect and paid me very well.
What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them, “What is the one characteristic that they totally love about you, and the one that drives them insane?“
Probably my integrity and on the other side my perfectionism, which makes me and others suffer a lot.
What was the last fancy dress outfit that you wore?
This was a Spanish flamenco dress worn at the Star-award Gala dinner in London. My school Malaca Insituto is the only Superstar winner for Spanish, as you might know.
What would your superpower be?
Probably my intuition and strong will.