Starting your business from a winning position – wisdom from those that have done it
Ever wondered what it takes to get started? Or questioned why some people seem to make it work effortlessly while others wallow in a big pool of failure? After interviewing dozens of destination entrepreneurs, some key themes for those that are successful keep popping up. They are all simple, straightforward and all are very achievable. So here they are, in all of their unvarnished glory. The 3 things that destination entrepreneurs do to make sure their chances of success are remarkably improved.
1. Know thy country You are in big trouble if you think you can move to a country and set up a business there without first doing some research. The internet is your best (and cheapest) friend for this stage. You should be checking simple stuff like:
- What are the government rules around foreigners owning a business
- How long are you allowed to stay in the country, and under what conditions
- Does the country’s cuisine complement your own highly evolved culinary preferences
- Are there are prevalent creepy crawlies or bloodsucking insects you simply can’t stand being around
Website such as StartUpOverseas, CIA World Factbook and the Doing Business Overseas Report are useful macro-level resources. For more detailed information you are going to have to drill into websites dedicated to your specific country/ies of interest. Once you have done your initial research, the next step is the most fun part. You have got to get your boots on the ground. Nothing beats an in-person scouting trip – preferably a few of them. Some destination entrepreneurs plan these trips out to the exact minute, but most that I speak to arrange a rough schedule and let the trip evolve organically. The kinds of things you are looking to experience during your scouting trips are:
- Quality of services and infrastructure like roads, water, electricity and internet. For example, if you want to run a business that relies on great access to electricity, you really want to know that internet is reliably available.
- Interactions with the locals. Better make sure you like them because you will be spending a lot of time with them!
- Tapping into the expat community. These people are going to be your BEST resource when you leave to go back home after your scouting trip. All of these people were once in your position so they understand you and will most often be very helpful.
Important note: You can do the touristy thing and stay in touristy hotels while going on touristy trips. However, you won’t be a tourist when you move there, so the most useful trips you can do are ones where you are experiencing life as you will eventually experience it.
2. Follow your passion The best, simplest and easiest piece of advice every single destination entrepreneur provided: do something you will love being involved with. You are thinking of being a destination entrepreneur probably because you either want to escape the 9-5 rat race you currently live, OR, you want to have a big change in your life and are ready for a bit of adventure. Either way, make the business you intend to start something you love.
3. Give yourself options to do things on your terms The most common mistake noted by successful destination entrepreneurs is that they failed to plan for the event their business would take longer than expected to get off the ground. You might plan for the business to start generating revenue in 3 months, but it takes 6 months. You might miss your revenue targets, you might even decide your original business idea sucked, and you need to try a new one from scratch. If any of these happen to you, how do you ensure you keep living the life you want to live? After all, having a great time is one of the pre-requisites for a destination entrepreneur right?? Here are some ways to have your cake and eat it too:
- Get a job or consulting gig when you first move to the country so that you can get paid while you work on your business. This has the added benefit of giving you first-hand experience with the way business is done.
- Depending on your business idea, there are many grants, business plan competitions and awards available. Free money is always good money (!!!) particularly if it means you have a nice buffer which allows you to take your time in getting things up and running.
- Sometimes, the country you want to target actually is willing to pay you to come. Chile, for example, has had a program for a few years now where they will pay you $40,000, set you up with interested investors, and give you a 1 year visa. Pretty cool huh?
- You could try crowd-funding to raise funds from friends and family and future consumers of your product. For example, if you are planning a fashion label in Africa, you could raise money by selling clothes you intend to design. It might sound a little ridiculous, but don’t scoff just yet. It is starting to become somewhat common place. For example, these guys raised 7 times the amount of money they needed (they raised nearly $400,000 and set a target of $55,000!!!) for a light that didn’t yet exist. These guys raised an amazing $73,045 by selling knitted hats. So, basically, where there is a will there is a way.
If you spend time on these 3 points, you will be well on your way to making good choices in your pursuit of a successful experience. It certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, so I’d like to hear from others. Did I miss something important? Do any destination entrepreneurs out there have any advice for those just starting their research? Please share below.
Photo credit: lablab