One almost sure-fire way to succeed in business is to find a gap that needs filling, or a niche that is unoccupied. And right now there’s a great big gap in the Chiriquí Province of western Panama for home maintenance, lawn care, and handyman services. Of course, there are locals who carry out yard work, but that laidback outlook that expats find so appealing in some ways can leave them waiting to have work done. And when it comes to home repairs, it’s hard to find qualified tradesmen with the right tools. With an expat population of around 20,000, Chiriquí Province has a market.
We knew we wanted to open a B&B, and now we have this beautiful place and a great lifestyle,” says Manzar Lari, 55. In 2013, Manzar and his partner, Terry Richmeier, 48, left jobs in corporate healthcare in Minneapolis to create a new life in the highland town of Boquete, Panama…and a new livelihood in the hospitality business.
Any location that finds favor with expats ultimately needs a place for them to hang out. There is a ready market of people who want a menu of familiar food—like burgers, hot wings, or a juicy steak—prepared in familiar ways. Put their favorite music on the jukebox, and they’ll be drawn in. Offer them NFL football or a pool table, and they’ll become good regular customers.
"You're starting a business where?" That's the question you'll get, over and over, when you tell your friends you've decided to pack your bags and move to Panama. They'll likely know that Panama is famous for its canal. But they may also think of Panama as a Central American "Banana Republic." Nothing could be further than the truth, of course. Thanks to the Panama Canal, this has long been a destination for international business. So Panama has always focused more on its business infrastructure than on luring vacationers.