“ BE POSITIVE AND FEARLES; ALWAYS THINKING THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED”
Country of Origin: Venezuela.
Occupation: CEO of MadeComfy. State of residency: NSW. Favorite place in Australia: The Great Ocean Road and Sydney Harbor. Upon arrival: Surprised by the diversity of its people.
By Cristina Abela
Sabrina is the Co-CEO and Co-Founder of fast-growing start-up MadeComfy. MadeComfy is a property innovator that combines property manager with hospitality within the short-term rental space. The company is on its way to becoming an Australian household brand for alternative accommodation. For this, Sabrina has been recognised in various awards. She has created at least 100 direct and indirect employment opportunities and is raising the profile of Australian hospitality.
TELL US YOUR STORY
In 2008, I came to Sydney for the first time for work purposes when I was working at Colgate Palmolive. I fell in love with Australia and decided to apply for my PR once I was back home. I have an accounting degree, CPA, MBA and studies in Brand Management and at the time accounting was on the list of highly demanded professions. However, the process took almost five years due to changes in the Australian laws during my application. During that time, the situation in Venezuela continued to worsen, especially from a safety point of view, and this was another critical factor that made me insist in my objective of relocating to Australia.
In 2012, my PR was approved and I moved to Perth as the visa was sponsored by the Western Australian government. The condition of my visa was to live in Perth for at least two years. Moving to Perth, was one of the scariest times of my life as I had never been there before, and I didn’t know anyone. I had no contacts, no friends, no family, nothing! I still remember being at the airport when I arrived wondering how Perth would look like and asking myself what I was doing there; completely on my own, and far from my roots and my beloved family. I tried to stay positive and focused on what I wanted to achieve. The day I arrived, even before leaving the airport, I received phone calls for great job opportunities from companies like BHP and Rio Tinto. Receiving those earlier phone calls gave me the inner security that everything was going to be OK. I arrived in Perth at the right time during the mining boom. There were lots of opportunities, and after my second interview, I got my first job. Only one week after I moved to Perth, I was all settled and ready to start my new life. I think arriving at the right time, being focused and having a positive mindset at all times made the difference.
I lived in Perth for two years, and managed to settle in. However, I wanted to continue building my expertise in the commercial and finance areas in large FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods).. and moved to Sydney in 2014 to work at Kellogg’s. After 1.5 years I lost my passion for what I was doing, and I wanted to find something I truly loved. I decided it was the right time to start my own business, and I started looking for business ideas or a problem to solve.
When I was on the research process a friend called me to ask for help to look after his Airbnb property while he was away. I got very curious about it and after doing some research and looking at what was happening in overseas markets, I realised I found the business idea I was looking for. I partnered up with my friend Quirin Schwaighofer, and together we started MadeComfy in 2015. We have achieved the support of highly reputable investors that have backed our venture with more than $10M to-date. Today MadeComfy welcomes more than 50,000 guests a year to Australia’s main cities Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and officially partners with Airbnb.
I am humbled by the recognition and awards to our work. I was recognized as Rising Start in Travel by Travel Weekly in 2017 and MadeComfy has won numerous awards to date including Australasian Start-up of the year 2018, Excellence in Innovation Award 2018 by the City of Sydney and listed among the 200 Businesses of Tomorrow by Westpac in 2018 amongst others.
Loneliness & isolation - Feeling alone far from family and friends and trying to find the reason why to be here was a challenge. However, I did feel welcomed from the start and felt invited to be a part of Australian society. All the personal challenges that I experienced at the beginning were more things I needed to work on myself, it was more like an internal work. The conditions in the environment here were right for me to adapt and enjoy living here.
Language & accent – When I arrived, I knew basic English. I remember at the first job I was scared of picking up the phone fearing that I wasn’t going to understand the conversation (and that was the case so many times). I was also ashamed of my accent until I decided to embrace it as part of my identity and as a strong code for my personal brand.
Building a business - It has been extremely challenging, but it has given me a purpose and I have enjoyed every day of the process with the ups and downs. My life journey has helped me build strengths to navigate the start-up waters, my approach has been identifying opportunities at the right time, staying focused and keeping a positive mindset.
Cultural diversity - In Latin American our diversity tends to come from our Indigenous people. In Australia, its diversity comes from so many different countries, so many different accents and different perspectives. It is impressive! I was fascinated by it when I first experienced, and it’s still something that I enjoy of living in Australia.
Career opportunities - I have had great career opportunities in Australia from the beginning of my migration journey. My career continued moving forward, and I didn’t have to step back because I was coming from overseas. I have worked with incredible people that have added value to my life. The economic and political situation in Venezuela limits the career and progression opportunities.
Entrepreneurship – Starting up my business hasn’t been easy, but the Australian startup business environment funded by government and the private sector has provided us with numerous opportunities and support. Unfortunately, startups in Venezuela are very few as there is very little support for them. I feel empowered and confident to continue growing my business. This will also allow me to continue making my contribution to Australia.
PIECE OF ADVICE
Understand the visa process – Australia is a great place to live and all the efforts you need to make to be here are totally worth it. If you move with a Permanent Residency (PR) visa, things can be very smooth for you as there are less hurdles to jump work-wise, property-wise, education-wise, etc. However, you need to do your proper research and be aware that sometimes the process is very long and complicated.
Believe in success - I believe that success is created first in your mind. My personal recipe is: think about the actions you need to take to succeed; identify the opportunities at the right time; work hard; and be very focused on your target.
Be fearless - Don’t let negative thoughts frighten you. Be positive and fearless; always thinking that you’ll succeed. Finding a mantra, just a simple phrase that you can repeat yourself, will give you strength.
IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS…
Sabrina plans to continue focusing on MadeComfy until achieving their vision of becoming the most loved hospitality brand in Australia. Within the business, she will be focused on continue developing the guest experience and the brand. She also wants to start writing and developing her writing skills. This year she will contribute to an international blog of female entrepreneurs to share her experiences; hoping other entrepreneurs may benefit from it. She would also like to write a book. She is very excited about what the future holds!