Rhonda Abrams | Special to USA TODAY
After the last couple of years, small business owners need a break. I certainly did. So after years urging, I flew to Mallorca, Spain, to work in person with my fiction writing editor. Mallorca is one of Europe’s most popular vacation destinations, though perhaps less known to American travelers. That may soon change because, as virtually every Mallorcan pointed out to me, as of June, there’s now a non-stop flight from New York City to Mallorca’s capital, Palma de Mallorca.
I am fortunate to have one of the country’s best fiction writers as my editor and coach: Alice LaPlante, who now lives in Mallorca full time. In addition to being a former writing teacher at Stanford, LaPlante is New York Times bestselling author. Her first novel, a gripping murder mystery, “Turn of Mind” was about to be made into a major motion picture when COVID shut down production.
After working with Alice over Zoom – I’m flaying away at my first novel – I finally took up her invitation to work together face-to-face.
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Now, whenever I travel – especially internationally – I make a special effort to patronize local, small businesses. Dining, shopping, staying, playing and touring at and with small local businesses is fun and interesting. You meet the nicest people – often the business owners themselves – and have memorable experiences.
This trip was no exception and I met three incredible women small business owners right here on this magical island.
In the heart of the town square of Pollenca, a charming city in the north of Mallorca, I discovered “Dodo,” a relatively new café/shop dedicated to supporting and promoting “zero waste” products in addition to providing delicious, fresh food and coffee.
Dana Bena and Claire Trelford, Dodo’s owners, got the inspiration for “Dodo” during COVID and launched in February of this year.
“During lockdown, we became very aware of the amount of plastic and unnecessary waste there was,” Trelford recalled. “Dana and I both thought it was totally unnecessary and, as an island, we couldn’t sustain that.”
“Originally, we just wanted to do ‘upcycling,’ then it morphed into something bigger,” said Trelford. Dodo sells repurposed, reused items and allows customers to bring their own containers (or pick up a jar donated by other customers) for food and goods they buy. “The café/restaurant came because it helps us pay the rent.”
“During lockdown, we had the time to slow down,” she added. “We’ve both been interested in upcycling. We both like to find an old chair and do it up and reuse it. It gives us great pleasure knowing that something has another life.”
With their gentle approach, Bena and Trelford are helping to support the sustainability movement – an issue that is taught in schools in Spain.
While both Bena and Trelford are transplants to Mallorca, another woman entrepreneur I met is a native “Mallorquin” – Cata Simo. Simo owns and operates the company Boat Trip Mallorca, which provides excursions around the island of Mallorca in her classic sailboat El Gordito.”
I spent a stunning day out on the water, sailing out from Palma de Mallorca, thanks to Simo. It was a perfect break from my time in front of the computer screen. Simo navigated us to one of Mallorca’s many lovely “calas” – a sheltered beach cove – where we swam in turquoise blue waters, paddleboarded and then ate freshly-prepared “tapas” – or appetizers.
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Simo has owned the boat for four years and runs full and half-day trips around the island. Like so many small business owners, she was hit hard during COVID.
“For two years there were no tourists or income, but I still had to pay very high docking fees,” Simo recalls.
Now, the tourism business has returned to Mallorca and, as usual, Mallorca is attracting some world-famous stars. Simo was fortunate to have singer Shawn Mendes film the video for “Summer of Love” aboard El Gordito.
If you love small businesses as I do, then I urge you to spend as many of your tourist dollars as possible at small independent businesses, especially now since small business owners all over the world, like Simo, were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even if you might not feel you have time to travel, it helps you recharge your batteries so you can return to your business with renewed enthusiasm. And that can help small businesses the world over survive and thrive.