For members


20 business ideas that can work in rural Spain

Rural Spain has a big problem with underpopulation and a lack of services. But it is in many ways a blank canvas, "a land of opportunities". Here are 20 business ideas that could help both you and your new rural community.

20 business ideas that can work in rural Spain
Marketing rural produce could be a great business idea in Spain. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

España vaciada or ‘Empty Spain’ refers to huge rural areas in the country’s interior that have suffered severe depopulation over the past decades.

Provinces and regions such as Soria, Teruel, Cuenca and parts of Extremadura are the most affected in Spain and are among the least populated areas in Europe. It is estimated that 3,403 municipalities in Spain are at serious risk of depopulation.

A life in the Spanish countryside can be blissful, especially for those who wish to get away from Spain’s busy and noisy cities, but the matter of work is one of the main drawbacks for many people considering the move, especially those of working age.

At Spain’s 6th Congress on Depopulation and Demographic Challenges in the city of Albacete in February, there was talk of action rather than victimisation, with calls for ‘Empty Spain’ to be referred to as ‘The Spain of Opportunities’ instead. 

READ ALSO: How ‘Empty Spain’ is now a political party

In that vein, rural Spain offers far cheaper property and rental prices, an impressive and growing network of villages with fast internet, a lack of competition and the welcoming attitude of locals who want new arrivals to breathe life into their waning municipalities.

So if you’re considering what kind of businesses you could set up in rural Spain, here are 20 ideas to get you started.

Door-to-door errands
Many businesses and physical shops have been closing down in rural Spain, opening the way for door-to-door services from larger towns. This could be for anything from gardening to furniture delivery to clothes shopping.

Service aggregator
Good online services are few and far between in rural Spain, so one good option could be to gather together lists of local plumbers, painters, electricians, etc and present them in one place so that people only have to go to one website to find what they need.

READ ALSO: The Spanish regions where the population has declined the most

Mobile beauty services
Often those in rural villages might have to travel a long way to get their hair done or have any beauty treatments such as waxing or manicures, so there’s a lot of scope for someone willing to provide mobile services door-to-door.

Specialised training centres
Training centres are severely lacking in rural communities in Spain and often people have to travel several hours to a large city if they want to undertake some type of course. An online training centre with face-to-face support and assistance could be a great idea.

Food delivery services
We take companies like Glovo and Just Eat for granted in big cities, but in the countryside, these are often just not available. One good business idea could be a food delivery service with its own kitchen to supply rural areas.

Private minibuses
Public transport can be spotty and unreliable in underpopulated areas (or even non-existent), so a minibus service offering set routes for people to be able to go shopping or visit nearby towns could be a profitable venture.

Co-living spaces
Co-living spaces have become all the rage in places popular with digital nomads – basically large houses where people can live together and enjoy a range of services. It could be ideal in places where they aren’t many options available to rent.

READ ALSO: How to find Spanish villages that are helping people to move there

Co-working spaces
With Spain’s Startups Law approved and the digital nomad visa now available, there may be an increase in remote workers who want to experience rural Spain. They will, however, need services like a good internet connection and office spaces, so co-working spaces will be in demand. 

Online communication services
In areas with a good internet connection, it’s possible to create online communication businesses such as podcasts, online newspapers or newsletters to connect communities.

Ecotourism companies
Of course, rural or eco-tourism companies are a no-brainer, especially if you are located close to natural and national parks or areas of stunning natural beauty. It could feature activities such as bird watching, hiking excursions or even photography tours.

Business services
If you are good at what you do, you could help other local businesses by providing marketing services, legal advice or digital services, so that they can thrive too.

Artisanal/Farmer’s markets
Creating places so that locals can sell their local produce could be another great idea in rural communities, especially if people can find them all in one spot. 

Reclaim lost trades
Basket makers, knife sharpeners and blacksmiths are just some of the professions which are scarce these days, but in rural areas, there may still be a need for them, plus many of the places where you can do them such as old mills etc. still exist. 

Local gourmet produce
There is more and more demand for local kilometre 0 produce, which you could market and turn into a gourmet product for nearby towns. 

Workshops or factories producing natural products
One advantage that the countryside has is that the land to build an industrial plant is much cheaper and, in addition, you have better access to raw materials too.

Restoration of towns and villages
With more than 3,000 abandoned towns in Spain, there are a whole array of profitable ideas that they could become, from language camps for foreigners to tourist attractions or hotel villages.

Gym and wellness services
One of the big problems in rural Spain is that people are so spread out and often don’t get the chance for certain services like in cities. Why not start yoga or Zumba classes and travel around to different areas so that people can partake in these activities?

Digital intermediation
More and more services are going online, but in rural areas people may not be used to this yet and still hold on to old practices. By acting as an intermediary, your business could help people through the digital transformation process.

Recovery and care of the environment
Recovering old olive trees to mill for oil or planting new crops could be a business idea that will help both the rural communities and the environment.

Basic services
Don’t forget that basic services are also needed in rural villages such as bakeries, hairdressers, bars, mobile repair shops, pharmacies and local stores, and these can be of great benefit to the local communities too.


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For members


Finding your tribe: A guide for Americans building a life in Spain

Finding your tribe can make the difference between feeling at home and being homesick, writes Barcelona-based writer Jennifer Lutz, who set out to discover how other Americans in Spain have made friends and developed hobbies.

Finding your tribe: A guide for Americans building a life in Spain

New life, new friends

Find a local bar, choose your coffee go-to, get on apps, become a club member, throw a dinner party, or just chat to the stranger at the table next to you.

There’s something daunting about leaving your friends behind to move abroad; I moved to Spain on my own and strangers still ask if I’m lonely (with lots of emphasis on me being single). I’m not lonely; compared to the States, I found it easy to establish relationships in Spain and made most of my friends in bars, coffee shops, and terraces.

“Just talk to people,” says Reem, a Sudanese American who moved to Barcelona from Minnesota. I met my community here, she told me, gesturing around Xiloteca Coffee, where an international crowd lingers, despite the botiga not having tables.

If chatting up strangers in cafes isn’t your thing, you can find more organised ways to connect. Gerard, an Argentinian-American, moved to Madrid with two small daughters and had the best luck enrolling in Tennis classes. “It’s a pretty small club and you get to know the other members,” he told me. Tess, an American woman living in Valencia had the best luck with Internations, which helped her to meet other internationals.

Moving to a new country isn’t easy, but when you’re a foreigner you join this sort of club — you’re all away from home and it’s really possible to find a family here in Spain.

Spaniards are active and sporty, which means that taking part can be an easy way for Americans to break the ice and get to know people in Spain. Photo: J Schiemann/Unsplash

You want to meet locals, you say?

Learn the language, choose local spots over flashy touristy ones, be patient, extend an invitation.

While you’ll likely have an easier time meeting other foreigners than locals, a few things will help you meet Spanish friends. First, learn the language; a little goes a long way. I learned most of my Spanish by speaking with locals at Bar Petit, a small neighbourhood spot, that I chose over splashier cafés with a touristic crowd.

When she moved to Granada after a year of struggling to meet locals in Córdoba, Kathryn Kuypers was determined to integrate. “I used the apps Meetup, Bumble, and Tandem to meet locals. I met up with a lot of Spaniards via these apps, but only became friends with a couple of them,” she explained. One of the friends she met on Tandem became her current partner.

Another great way to meet locals is to throw a dinner party for your neighbours and if you’re invited to someone’s home, be aware of cultural differences. I spent months bringing fancy desserts to my neighbour’s home; the day I offered to dress the salad is the day I became one of them.


‘Little America’

Join a club, attend events, choose a school.

I’ll be honest, the first year I lived in Spain, I had no interest in anything American (including my fellow nationals). With time, that changed and the handful of American friends I have are an important piece of my life here; sometimes you just want to speak with someone who has a similar background.

If you’re looking to keep a network of Americans around you (and to do some networking), you can check out any of the many international clubs active in cities throughout Spain. The American Society of Barcelona, the American Club of Madrid, or the American Club of Costa del Sol, to name a few.

With the expansion of remote work, American entrepreneurs have been settling in different areas of Spain.

Randall Purcell, Director of the carbon sequestration company Seafields, found his scene on the north shore of Ibiza. “The American community in Ibiza is really tuned in. I’m impressed by the small community of fellow entrepreneurs I’ve met here and attracted by communities built around environment and sustainability. It’s a lifestyle led by the belief that we can really do something; you can feel the excitement,” he says.

Another way to meet other Americans is through international language exchanges. If you’re moving to Spain with children and want them to have a community from “back home”, you might consider enrolling them in an American School.

Spaniards are very social and tend to meet outdoors with friends, so when in Rome (or Madrid)… (Photo by Gabriel BOUYS / AFP)

Keeping hobbies and finding new ones

Follow your passions, join a club, search your crew on Meetup, get outside your comfort zone.

Finding a community isn’t just about friends; it’s also about those activities that make you feel like you.

James Coleman is an American musician and has lived all over Spain; where he played at jam sessions and let the different styles of music influence him. “Andalusia is mostly flamenco, and it’s harder to find rock or jazz, whereas in Barcelona, it’s a more jazz, neo-soul, and international music scene, and Madrid has both international and local influences,” he told me. Traveling around Spain and playing music, he absorbed some of those acoustic jazz, soul, and flamenco influences.

Kai was already a dedicated cyclist and triathlete when he moved from Chicago to Cantabria, so he joined a local cycling club. “Northern Spain has some of the best routes in Europe. It would be very hard to leave this and go back to Chicago,” he told me.

If you’re not quite sure what your thing is, you can use apps like Meetup to find activities, expand your interests, and try new things. In the past few months, I’ve attended a nude drawing class, fallen off a paddle board (numerous times), and sparred with a German girl twice my size in a misbegotten attempt to learn kickboxing. Whatever you’re looking for, you can likely find it.


Making the most of your free time

Slow down, share moments, take it step by step, have fun.

The best advice I received when moving to Spain was to enjoy my new life. When I asked other Americans why they moved to Spain, their answers were remarkably similar; more balance, better quality of life, greater social support, the weather, and that European lifestyle so many of us grew up dreaming about.

In their free time, Americans are doing all sorts of things; but the key is, they have time to do them. George walks his two daughters to the beach every day after school. Anna plays volleyball after work, and Simon has culture Saturdays (30 minutes at a gallery and then hours drinking on a terrace). I mostly write in bars, meander around Barcelona’s nooks and corners, and share meals with friends.

Sentados a la mesa; sat around the table, is a very typical way to spend free time in Spain and enjoy the moment.

Jennifer Lutz is a writer and journalist. She’s written for the Guardian, The Independent, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, Thrive Global, and more. You can contact her on or @Jennifer_E_Lutz on Twitter.