Ten years ago while stationed as a volunteer nurse in Archidona, a small community not far from Tena in Ecuador’s jungled east, Michelle Klein found the accommodations to be lacking. “I rented a room for $50 a month. But there were up to nine people at times competing for the bathroom, the shower didn’t have hot water, and the windows didn’t have screens. It was dark. And there really wasn’t any other good place to stay,” she says. It was easy to spot the gap in the market.
Imagine owning a business needing zero capital investment and offering an immediate start-up option. Now imagine owning that business on a Caribbean island... spending your days in the sun and your evenings enjoying the ocean breeze with friends. That’s exactly what Sophia Fedio does after leaving her trendy loft and successful career back in Toronto and becoming a tourism concierge in Roatán, the largest of Honduras’s Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. In early 2013, she joined forces with Avi D’Souza, who had started the business, West Bay Tours, and was seeking a partner.
Getting a small business loan can be a challenge anywhere. It’s especially tough in a new country where you may not have a credit history or collateral. Fortunately, there’s a way to raise money for your business abroad that bypasses banks altogether. It’s called reward-based crowdfunding. With crowdfunding you fund your business idea without taking out a loan, going into debt, or sharing equity with a financial partner. It’s a perfect solution for many expats because it enables you to fund your business across borders. You can raise money from backers anywhere in the world for a business activity in the country of your choosing.
A few decades ago, going abroad for medical or dental care, especially surgical procedures, was practically unknown. But today, fueled in part by the rising cost of health care in the developed world, medical tourism (including dental care) is growing by leaps and bounds...and by some estimates it’s already a $100-billion business worldwide. Expats in Latin America and Asia—where costs are low and health care quality often high—have launched businesses that cater to the growing demand for medical tourism. Others—often those with medical-related training—have found different ways to earn a living abroad in this industry.
Licensed attorney Ashley Blaylock thought she had her life all mapped out. She was planning a legal career, specializing in corporate and tax law. But prior to taking a summer program in international law and human rights in Costa Rica in 2003, she took a vacation to Nicaragua. And that changed everything for this Houston native. “As a kid you have a vision of paradise, and when I saw Nicaragua, it was exactly like the vision I had,” explains Ashley. “It’s a gorgeous country, with mountains, verdant green countryside, and miles and miles of unspoiled ocean.
Ten years ago I was one of the millions of middle management, middle-aged people commuting into the big city. I was exhausted, bored, and stressed; deeply frustrated that I didn’t get to spend enough time with my young family. I was a walking stereotype. Today, I still work for the same employer, but I live on the other side of the world. I have spent the last eight years living by the beach in Australia, while being employed full-time by a company in London. My employer is a digital sports broadcasting company, and I’m a graphic designer, creating promotions for the various sporting events that we broadcast.
Places where expats and tourists gather are good locations for a food enterprise that gives them a taste of home— particularly when it comes to a daily staple like bread. Central America simply doesn’t have the same bakery tradition as the U.S. or Europe, which means you can find a hungry market for European-style loaves, pastries, wholegrain, sourdough, croissants, and more. Belize is a case in point. With tourism increasing more than 10% year-on-year since 2011 and a real estate boom reaching even into the less expensive areas like Corozal, San Ignacio, and Punta Gorda, the market for specialized bakeries is strong country-wide.
After her daughter left for college, New Yorker Judy Ganes Chase began to look at the possibility of moving overseas…and getting involved in a new business venture. She chose a frozen yogurt franchise and is now the first franchisee in Central America for the Chicago-based chain Forever Yogurt. She has two outlets in Panama City. But Judy has gone a step further and purchased the franchise rights for all of Panama. She plans to open five additional locations in the next two to three years.
It is common for children to develop language skills much more rapidly than their parents. So do all that you can to develop your own language skills, or they will be effectively “on their own.” If your child is by nature more timid and less excited about this adventure, I strongly recommend moving them slowly into the host culture by finding a school for expats or home schooling. Children of this nature are typically slower to develop interests outside of the family and may prefer more solitary activities such as reading or artwork. An unfamiliar culture may serve to exaggerate this trait… particularly in the beginning.
When my husband Jamie and I left our U.S. home in Lake Tahoe, California for our new lives in Argentina, we were looking to learn a new way of life, meet new people and explore a new culture. But we needed income, and both being entrepreneurial souls, we knew that to live our life to the fullest while living abroad we needed to create our own businesses. In the past 12 years we’ve created and run nine successful businesses, from managing a vineyard in San Rafael to creating a bustling vacation-rental company in Patagonia. To say the least, we have learned a few lessons along the way. Here are seven tips to help you create your own successful business abroad…