You might also trade in some of your sanity. Fogarty, and others who made the leap, urge U.S. citizens to step cautiously before they invest their life savings to set up shop in a balmy holiday locale overseas. The very things they love about paradise, like its laid-back lifestyle, can turn into their biggest headaches, she said. “Everyone wants to party and watch the sunsets,’’ Fogarty said. “However, that becomes a challenge when you start a company.’’
Two trailblazers who inspired Fogarty are Bob and Melinda Blanchard, who run a thriving upscale restaurant on the Caribbean island of Anguilla. They sold their specialty food business in Vermont and braved a host of obstacles, such as shipping snafus and hiring snags, before Blanchards Restaurant opened in 1994. The story ends well. Still, their memoir of that effort, “A Trip to the Beach,’’ is an instructive catalog of ways that things may not work abroad as they would in the States.
Just before the island restaurant’s scheduled opening, the electricity failed. The couple needed a bigger transformer to help run all their coolers and other equipment. But the power company didn’t expect a new shipment of transformers for at least six months. The Blanchards’ solution? A flight to Puerto Rico to pick up a transformer themselves.
The couple now advises Americans to consider offering services rather than selling food or goods, to avoid the constant hassles of importing supplies and equipment. Even now, they’re lacking a sorely needed new refrigerator. “Our new refrigerator has arrived on the island but we can’t get it without many days of paperwork,’’ the Blanchards said.
A service business was all Casey Halloran could afford to start as a twenty-something, so he and his roommate took advantage of a then-fledgling Internet presence in Costa Rica to create an online travel agency. That was in 1999. Costa Rican Vacations now offers eco-friendly luxury vacations and “adventure honeymoons’’ in Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua, employing 100 people. But like Fogarty and the Blanchards, Halloran had already spent a lot of time in his chosen region before committing significant resources to his business.