For every substantial, bricks-and mortar business set up by an expat overseas, there are hundreds of small enterprises that people operate from their own homes with very little investment. Within a year of starting their micro-enterprise overseas, Jim and Mariellen Wiemann are making a profit and supplementing their retirement income. “The business allows us to purchase the things we might otherwise not have. We are planning some vacations abroad, and the business will support those adventures,” says Jim.
I had a cute house with a backyard, a great job, a wonderful marriage, and two beautiful little boys. I was living the American dream, but it didn’t feel like it. The long hours at work meant I didn’t have time to enjoy gardening in the backyard. Our sons Diego and Dante spent more time in daycare than with us. My husband and I were once so stressed that we both forgot our wedding anniversary.
Tanya Mimbres loves food. It’s one of her top interests when she travels. A native of New Mexico, she has lived in Paris and Barcelona. But when she moved to Malaysia five years ago she felt right at home. “Lots of my friends were traveling in Asia and were a bit shocked that I hadn’t been there,” she recalls.
There are communities in many parts of the world where arts and crafts are still made by hand…and markets in other parts of the world ready to pay good money for them. Bringing them together is the perfect way to create an income for yourself while enjoying a life of travel or living overseas at a lower cost than back home.
Combine your creative talent with the craftsmanship and designs of another country and you could find an opening for an interior design business. In Jacó, on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific Coast, Lynn Gensemer, 56, of Chungo Interior Designs, eschews expensive imported furniture and fixtures from the U.S. in favor of working with local craftsmen to create custom designs.
Despite his many years working as a car-insurance salesman in Portland, Oregon—and making good money— Caelan Huntress always considered it a temporary gig. Today he has thrown out the cubicle, tie, and daily commute…and taken his sales skills online. He lives and works from his home in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone—a region on the southern Pacific coast, near the border with Panama. The beach is 45 minutes away. Shopping and quality medical care is just 15 minutes down the hill. And the verdant green mountains of the interior are an even bigger draw.
Watching kids play at running imaginary businesses has convinced me that the entrepreneurial spirit is more inherent than we have been led to believe. They are such naturals at trading. They want to buy and sell because that’s one of the first activities they witness their parents doing. It’s engaging and creative. You can set up your stall and then draw in other kids and willing adults to act as your customers.
In March 2012, my wife Lindsay and I decided to quit our jobs, sell our cars, and move to the Philippines for a year. Lindsay would teach at a school for orphans called the Children of Hope School, and I would help the orphanage with their website. I knew that it would be a life-changing experience and a chance to see a beautiful part of the world. I also knew that it would be a time when we’d see a decrease in our income. But we had a solution.
Consumer trends in America have a very good chance of doing well in other countries. And if you can get in early enough, you can make a very successful business selling something that has already proved its worth back home. Food is a case in point. But rather than starting from scratch, how about working with someone who has more success than they can handle.
John and Ellen Lee consider themselves to be the luckiest people in the world running their small hotel and restaurant in the Belizean beach paradise of Placencia. Back in the U.S., John, who’s from Australia, and Ellen, who’s American, believed that because they had invested 20+ years in their careers, they had to stick to them.