DE 005: Buying a business in a developing country, and living to tell the tale
Bonnie was a teacher in Duluth, Georgia until her husband’s death suddenly changed everything for her. In need of big changes in her life, Bonnie decided to move to Costa Rica and buy a small bar and tacqueria– undeterred by the fact she didn’t speak Spanish, had never run a business, and had never lived abroad!
Despite these obvious challenges, she has made her life in Costa Rica work in a big way. Her business has been profitable from day 1 and is one of the top restaurants (it won a 2013 and 2014 award for customer service from Trip Advisor) in the thriving tourist town she lives in. She also manages to fit in a lot of fun, as can be seen from one of her recent Facebook posts:
What an incredible week last week. Samara Trails Hiking on Monday, rafting on Thursday, Horseback riding on Sunday. I love my life. I guess it is ok to be tired!
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- How to get comfortable buying a business with no business experience
- The importance of doing research to choose a country to move to, and how to do that research
- The best ways to connect with a local expat community
- The quickest way to learn a language from scratch
- Why Bonnie thinks a Sociedad Anónima was the right kind of corporate structure for her
- The way Bonnie ensured she would attract customers and be profitable from the first day
- The secret to running a tourism business that doesn’t suffer in the off-season when the tourists aren’t coming
- How to move countries quickly, by hiring someone else to sell all of your stuff
- Ways to manage visa requirements as a foreigner
RESOURCES AND LINKS MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Bonnie’s bar and tacqueria, Lo Que Hay
- Lo Que Hay’s Trip Adviser page
- Playa Samara, the beachside town where Bonnie lives in Costa Rica
- Samara language school, where Bonnie learned Spanish
- International Living, the magazine (and online resource) that helped Bonnie decide that moving overseas was a good option for her
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PROS AND CONS OF BUYING AN EXISTING BUSINESS
Bonnie has obviously made Lo Que Hay a success, and a lot of that is probably down to the research she did prior to buying it, as well as the hard work and many hours she put in once she became the owner. The business helped Bonnie connect with the local community and gave her a steady revenue stream to fund her lifestyle.
However, not everyone is so lucky, and there are plenty of risks associated with buying a business overseas. As Bonnie mentioned when we spoke, the landowner she rents from didn’t even know the business had changed hands until months after it had happened! It might not have been such a good outcome for Bonnie if the landlord had decided to fight the sale (after Bonnie had already forked over her cash to the seller).
Do you have any stories of buying a business overseas? Good, bad or ugly? Would love to hear them below.
POSTSCRIPT TO THE INTERVIEW:
It’s a couple of months since I actually interviewed Bonnie. Since then, Bonnie has become engaged to a man from Colorado. She has agreed to sell the business and is planning to travel around the world with her new love. Congrats Bonnie!!