Expat Entrepreneurs: Zoe Baker

Where do you live?

Nowhere, and everywhere! I'm currently in transit, which is exciting: though right now I am in Johannesburg, South Africa for three months. I have lived in London for the past 10 years, so call London and Auckland my home bases.

What do you love about your current city, what makes it special?

Johannesburg has got incredible weather (it's winter and it's sunny and reasonably warm everyday!), it has an endless number of beautifully designed restaurants (there's a big eating out culture here) and it's a great base to explore the rest of South Africa: the beautiful mountain ranges of the Drakensburg are close by, Kruger National park isn't too far, and Durban and the coast and Cape Town are only a short fligt away.

What is your current business venture?

With zoe&zest, my goal is to help women to age better and live longer! Advances in science means better ageing for us all, so I'm building a platform for curated products, approaches and science related to ageing, to make it easier for women to access the incredible (and useful!) information that's out there.

What things do you always ask your guests to bring out for you from home?

Marmite (the NZ and UK marmite is so different!) and Whittaker's chocolate, it's up there with the best in the world, it's so good!

In what ways have you changed personally or professionally since living abroad?

Living abroad has really helped to grow my confidence. Whenever I need a little confidence boost I remind myself that I managed to move to the other side of the world on my own, embark on a successful career and formed an amazing group of friends. 
It also made me more open to opportunities, getting in to the mindset of saying 'yes' to things that come my has had such a positive impact on my life. It's a habit I'm going to continue to try and nurture.

What are some of your personal highlights since living abroad?

Seeing so much of the world has been an incredible experience, getting to see places I never thought I would. Forming such close friendships and such a tight-knit circle of friends was an unexpected bonus of living abroad - your friends become your family, and I feel so blessed to know that we will be friends for life. The job opportunities available in London also meant that I was able to succeed career wise, and being a head of marketing and communications teams was something that I was very proud of. Finally, meeting my partner has been a highlight. If I had stayed at home I would never have met my amazing man who is South African, of Portuguese heritage and loves adventure and exploring the world as much as I do, so that is definitely a personal highlight! 

What was the trigger that made you start up your own business? How did you have the initial idea?

I had been doing a lot of thinking about my lifestyle; living in London life can be frenetic, balancing a demanding career, a lot of socialising and travel, and whilst it's great for a chapter in one's life, I had decided that I wanted more balance. But most importantly, I wanted freedom to be able to live anywhere around the world and to create the type of lifestyle that I enjoy. Creating that location independence is much easier if you have your own business! I also realised that if I worked as hard at my own business as I did at work, that  I could be successful (one of my fears is that I wouldn't be!). 

I had lots of ideas swirling around in my mind, but I decided to see a transition advisor/career change coach, as I wanted to make sure that I chose an idea that was right for me, and that could be built upon to create a business. Working with Rikke was the best thing I could have done, as the idea I am taking forward now, evolved over the three months I worked with her, and it's something I feel really excited about - as well as reassured that it's a viable business idea!

What areas of your business have you struggled with? Where and how have you got help for that?

So far the biggest challenge has been staying focused on one thing at a time and trying to avoid feeling overwhelmed! There are so many things that need to be done and could be done when you're starting a business and on occasion I've felt the weight of that, but having a coach has helped me immensely. Rikke set me specific goals to help me stay focused and always replies to my slightly panicked emails giving me reassurance when I need it! 
I also try to read/listen to podcasts regularly, to make sure I'm learning - and then implementing - good work habits to help me stay focused, such as working in 45 min sprints, setting myself just three things to achieve each day etc. There are so many free, excellent, resources out there these days, to help fledging entrepreneurs like me.

What have been some of your business highlights / rewarding moments (why should others set up their own business).

I love the sense of freedom, and reward it brings. To know that you are responsible for creating a successful business is exciting, and when you start to see small successes, it's really exciting. For me, it's still very early days, but one of the highlights has been setting up my Instagram and really engaging with people on that platform, it's nice to know people are enjoying the content you are producing! One of the other surprises/highlights is how supportive online communities can be. I am part of two for entrepreneurs, and they're filled the gap where my team used to be when I worked. It's so helpful to have people who understand where you are in your journey and you can bounce ideas off, as well as get encouragement when you need it! A final highlight was the response I got from people when I finally felt confident enough to tell people about my idea. Friends and family have been incredibly supportive, and that's been lovely. 

What is the best bit of advice you can give for others wanting to set up on their own?

I love Anais Nin's quote: 'Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage'. It can be terrifying making the decision to go out on your own, but it's worth having the courage to do so, as the rewards can be so great. Seeing a coach in the beginning feels like a big investment, but one I highly recommend, as they can help you get something off the ground much more quickly than you might be able to do on your own, and it's so helpful to have guidance from someone who is experienced in the world of entrepreneurship. I also remind myself, that if I need to, or want to for whatever reason, you can always go back to work, or get a freelance, part-time or contract role - that always gives me comfort knowing that I have options if I need to earn money to support my business. 

Have you adopted any new customs or traditions from various places you have lived?

Drinking tea whilst I work, is strangely one tradition I have adopted. In England, it was builders tea (Yorkshire tea or Tetley's) or Earl Grey, when I travel I love trying the tea locals tend to drink, Turkey has the best mint tea for example, and now I am based in South Africa for three months, I've adopted Rooibos tea as my go-to, I love working with a pot of tea beside me! 

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What is different about your normal routine currently compared to what it would be back at home?

It's definitely a little harder working whilst being on the road, and I've had to adopt some flexibility with my routine. I usually like to wake up, do some yoga and meditate, have breakfast and start working and work through to lunchtime, but when you're travelling that routine can be interrupted, by travel, lack of wifi etc. We are travelling for eight months at the moment, and I try to have as many days as possible that are close to that normal routine, but I don't get too stressed if it doesn't work out, I just switch things around and on those days try and do a lot of reading, or squeeze in 10 mins of yoga in the evening, having a list of things I need to achieve each month means I can select something off that list that I can fit into a shorter timeframe or I can do without wifi for example. 

What is your:

Fav book: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, it is beautifully written

Podcast: At the moment it's John Lee Dumas - I love that his podcasts are short but jam-packed with helpful hints and tips.  

Quote: "Go forth boldly, joyfully, and courageously", John Cranna from the Creative Hub said this whilst I was doing a creative writing course with him and I latched on to it. I love it as it embodies how I would like to live my life.

Instagram account: @jetsetmama for light relief and @mindbodygreen


If visiting your current city where are your favourite spots to go for:

DInner: Any where in Parkhurst, their Main Street has a great vibe and lots of good restaurants.

Drinks: The Westcliff, Four Seasons Hotel. The restaurant/bar has the best views in the City, and it's such a pleasant place to while away a few hours.

Day trip: I recently did the hop-on, hop-off bus tour with a tour of Soweto included, and I highly recommend that combo. Johanesburg is such a big city it's great to see it from a double-decker bus and to hear the history of this interesting city (founded during the gold rush and is the largest man-made forest in the world!), and going to Soweto gives you perspective on Jo'burg and South Africa generally. Also, Sun City, Cradle of Mankind or the Lion Park are apparently very good, I haven't yet been but they are on my hit list! 

Must see: The Apartheid Museum, it's a world-class museum that shines the light on South Africa's fascinating, and fraught, history, as well as key figures like Nelson Mandela. I can't recommend it enough.

Coolest Shop / Brand: shesaid.co.za - is an amazing blogger here in SA, who has loads of blog posts of cool brands, shops and places to go in Jo'burg. I haven't been here long enough to have found one, but I take her word for it!

Best entertainment: Trying out all of the different restaurants in this city! They've also recently regenerated Maboneng, a cool area with markets and great restaurants and bars. 

Favourite way to stay fit: I usually like to join a yoga/pilates studio and then just add in a short workout at home or a run around the neighbourhood, but the gyms here deserve a special mention. They are phenomenal. Because they have space in Johannesburg the gyms are all huge. You could almost spend a day in the Virgin Active close to where we stay: it has a couple of yoga/pilates studios, an exercise studio, multiple gym areas as well as a cafe. 

If you could go back and give yourself advice what would it be?

To believe in yourself. You have got what it takes and with some self-belief and knowing when to ask for help, you can set up a successful business. 

Follow Zoe at:

Instagram: @zoeandzest