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.
Argentina is as famous for its economic and political woes as it is for the tango and its Malbec wine. Nonetheless, its booming wine industry offers countless business opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs who are sensitive to the needs of foreign tourists. I’m not going to recommend you plant a vineyard, build a winery, and export Argentine wine to North America or Europe—although there are people doing that successfully.
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.
Sometimes the most successful ideas for setting up a business overseas are right under your nose. Sometimes they are so simple, you overlook them.The very easiest thing you could produce may well have a hungry market just waiting to snap up your output. And you could be well on your way to profits with the most basic product of all—American-style food.
There was a time when being successful in retail was all about having a bricks-and-mortar business in a good location. Not only would you be paying rent or mortgage on your store; you would also have to keep your stock in a large storeroom or warehouse. Your business was about bulk buying, stock control, and supply-chain management.
I’ve made a business out of leading groups of people on walking tours and the year ahead is looking good. I am going to visit two wonderful regions of Colombia where English-speaking tourists are almost non-existent. Then there’s a trip to the Ecuadorian Andes that incorporates stunning vistas and a shopping extravaganza at indigenous markets. Following that, I’ll enjoy a magical walk in Peru on Inca trails that aren’t under the spotlight of big tour companies. The plan is to extend that trip to explore the Nazca region, famous for the figures etched in rock only visible from the air. I turned 60 a month ago and will celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary this month.
Weddings bloom in magical locations all over the world… sunset on a Caribbean beach…a spectacular hilltop in Spain…in front of the romantic Eiffel Tower in Paris. And you could be there, making money while fluffing the bride’s gown, basking in compliments, and popping open Champagne.