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The Broken Road – Starting a Beach Town Business in Costa Rica

Life is not easy. I have found this every step of the way in Costa Rica while trying to build a life of my own.  I was never one to follow the rules of society.  I felt like the path of life that was set before most people was just not for me.  I wanted to break free and dare to do something great.  I was told as most people were when growing up, that the road we should follow is graduate high school, go to college, graduate from college, get a good job, get married, get a house, have 2.5 kids and that is what will make you happy. There was a problem. I did not want to follow that destiny; I wanted to set my own.

starting a business costa rica 1The only way most people can truly find financial freedom as well as happiness is by following their own dreams and doing what they love.  I loved marketing and sales, but I knew that my passion in life was teaching. Seeing an intern or student pick up knowledge that I had passed onto them and seeing them use it in their everyday life, is one of the most rewarding things a person can feel in my opinion. However, getting the intern program truly going was going to take funding from some of the other businesses I was running as well as it just needed to be taken to a higher level to generate the revenues needed to turn teaching into a career, and not just a pastime.

A successful business environment requires a person to surround themselves with the essential people that are the cogs to drive the business into a smooth, running engine.  There is a little problem with that when living at a beach town in Costa Rica; finding driven, dedicated and intelligent personnel is a never ending search.  When you do find someone that can produce for you and is a great addition to your team, they either will require a larger salary than you can afford, or if they agree to a smaller salary will be moving onto something better shortly if you cannot start generating enough revenue to increase their pay and keep them happy.

I had gone through the hiring and firing of over 100 employees since getting out of the hospital.  The art of motivating an employee is something a good manager can do, but in most cases both in Costa Rica and the USA, the motivating factor is money.  It is hard to balance starting a business, generating enough revenue to pay for those employees around you, and keeping your business going.  It is the reason why so many businesses fail both in Costa Rica and the world. If was easy being an entrepreneur more people would take the risk and do it since most people want to be their own boss and want to take more of a share of the profits of the company instead of just receiving a weekly or monthly salary.

I had found that until I could generate at least $6,000 of profit per month for the businesses, I needed to do most things myself.  There were long days but it was worth working towards a final goal.  There are only a few businesses that can be developed with only a small amount of capital in Costa Rica and tourism is one of them. The Guy’s Trip site was already generating capital and leads, but it was a process of building the sales pipeline. It would be 3 to 4 months before the groups would be coming in on a regular basis, which was about the time I wanted to get the new intern program going.

I needed a small amount of capital to finally turn the house I was renting into the home for the interns.  It is the-venture-capital-infusionsimpossible for me to market a project until I was sure that it was going to happen.  What was I willing to give up to make my dream come true? How much of the program would be in the pocket of someone else?  I had decided that I had the other projects going so a 50% share was the number I could give out for investment in the company.  If it got to the point that I thought it would get to, then 50% was more than enough to live happily on the shores of Costa Rica for the rest of my life.

It was time to call up friends and ask for a few favors from those I had done business with in Costa Rica.  I had gotten through my days of liars and scammers with by businesses and life intact; it was time to get the right people around me and backing me.  There would be no more believing the false promises of other people and allow them to continue dangling my dreams in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey. Everything was in place for success, it just had to be presented in the proper fashion to those that knew my work ethic, dedication and drive.

I already had an ex-intern that was going to put in about half of the money that would be required to get the project going, but I wanted it fully funded before launching because I did not want any hiccups in regards to getting everything ready for their arrival.  I knew that there would be challenges when they arrived as there always is with a growing program, but knocking out ones I could foresee was priority one.

I felt overwhelmed since basically all of the money I was bringing in was going out to finance both my every day expenses and the new businesses.  I remember when I arrived in Costa Rica, I had seen the marketing slogans that claimed you could live and retire in Costa Rica on $1,500 a month.  I do not know who was saying that, but I know cost-of-living-costa-ricanow that statement is wrong if you want to live any sort of lifestyle which doesn’t involve living paycheck to paycheck. Realistically, you need (as a single person) about $3,000 coming in to live nicely in Costa Rica. A house or apartment in a safe area normally runs about $500 to $600 a month. Utilities will cost about another $150 with water, internet and electricity. For food if you want to eat other things besides rice and beans or pasta every day, expect to pay about $100 a week. Travel and transportation with taxi’s and buses are another $100 a month.  This totals $1,250. So if you eat at home every day and never do anything, you will have about $250 left over.

These are just the basic needs for a single person.  If you are a guy and you decide you want to date or have kids, there is almost no way to survive in Costa Rica on the $1,500 a month that was pushed on people being enticed to come live in the land of “pura vida”. Many Costa Ricans are able to make it on their $800 to $1000 a month as they live at home until they are married and the family has a house that they can move into, or a house next door to the family home that has been paid for when Costa Rica real estate prices were affordable for the blue collar worker. Sorry I went off on a tangent there.

I had several investors looking at my proposal and knew that one of them would come on board. It was just a matter of giving them a little bit of time. The pressure sales techniques to have people invest in Costa Rica does not work because people with money in the country have been hit up from every scammer in the books.  Most of the scammers have taken at least a few thousand from the people with cash that reside within the borders of Costa Rica.  This hardens these people to not trust anyone that comes to them out of the blue.  It can take years working with them before they trust you as a person of your word.  If you get caught in one lie or you screw them over in any way, they will never do business with you again.

In the meantime, I needed to start renting rooms in the house I was living in to help me stay afloat until the program and businesses were in full force and the investment money came in. Finding a good tenant is like finding a good employee in Costa Rica; the good ones are few and far between.  Although you may say no partiers or drug users, no one is going to be honest with you.  The laws of Costa Rica have changed recently and now favor the tenant which; even if they are terrible they can make your life miserable for a long time under Costa Rican law.

It is a complete game of chance and unfortunately the first one I chose was the devil in sheep’s clothing.

It would be 6 weeks of hell with a guy that was angry at the world.

Next Up – The Angry Tenant & a Machete 

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