Ok so here we go. You know you want to go. You are ready. You know how to go. You may even know when to go. But you may want to decide where to go. You have seen all of the success indicators and the positive trends in certain places and the not so nice indicators and trends in others.
Maybe to get you to stop thinking so damn hard, I can provide a starting point. You of course can start a business or expand anywhere, but perhaps it is good to have just a few places in mind to get an idea of maybe where you should go.
Here are the top 5 foreign countries to start a business in 2012 as an American.
1) Panama- You don’t need any special visas to get started. Just step off the plane and take a look around. Lots of expat communities exist, the tourism industry is growing fast and local services can barely keep up.
Panama City is a hub where you can ﬁnd almost everything—but it’s growing so fast, there is room for more. In the popular tourist and expatriate hubs outside the city, plenty of niches have yet to be ﬁlled. Some restrictions exist when it comes to opening a retail space, but there are plenty of expats who have done it anyway, undeterred. Rents on commercial premises are reasonable and commercial leases are business friendly. With so many English-speaking attorneys, you won’t need Spanish to get started. The country’s business infrastructure is excellent, too, with Internet penetration among the best in the region.
And the local business community is open to, and welcoming toward, foreigners
2) Ecuador- The best place in the world for a start up as a foreigner. It is very easy. Expat David Morrill has run two businesses there over the last seven-and-a-half years. “It’s relatively easy for expats to get into business… Foreigners are treated the same as locals in starting businesses.
There are no restrictions on the type of business and no special visa is required. There’s no problem opening a bank account, no restrictions on employing staff or requirements of how many you need to hire. It is very important, however, that you have good legal and accounting counsel so he or she understands the laws and rules—these are
3) Colombia- In Medellín, Colombia, there is a strong demand for English-speaking tours and services. Over the last decade, international ﬂights to Colombia have increased 120%. The number of tourists tripled between 2002 and 2009 and more and more expats come every month.
4) Nicaragua- The next Costa Rica. The country still has a ways to go with improvement of infrastructure and ease of business; however, this place is full of untapped niches and opportunities for both the growing population and the growing expat market. “Most of the tourist towns have more than enough B&Bs and small hotels, but a good restaurant is hard to ﬁnd, and businesses that offer activities like surﬁng and ﬁshing are rare,” says expat and local businesswoman Tuey Murdoch.
The most successful expat businesses usually appeal to the local market as well as to expats and tourists. Take the example of Eric and Stephanie Slater, who started their bakery in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, to cater to expats, but are now expanding because
of demand from ordinary Nicaraguans.
Above all, says Toni, “Take advice from other expats who have traveled the road before you, do your homework, and remember, you can never ask too many questions!”
5) Belize- “The fact that Belize is English-speaking is the country’s biggest asset,” says U.S. expat Stewart Krohn, who’s been doing business in Belize for 38 years. And when it comes to doing business here, Stewart says, “If you are straight and patient, and apply the same common sense and due diligence you would in your own country, then you will not have any problems.”