I’m getting more and more questions from readers about starting a business in Panama. It fits in with their ideal 3-step plan:
1. Move to a sunny city where the cost of living is low
2. Start a small business (work less, but have a small, steady income)
3. Live more comfortably than you ever thought imaginable
Luckily, starting a small business in Panama can be easy. In some cases, you can have your business up and running in a matter of days. If you just don’t have the time for that, there’s an even easier route: buy a business that’s already operating.
Many small businesses for sale here represent high value at a low cost. Often the previous owner has already made substantial investments in things like décor and equipment. In these cases, the new buyer benefits tremendously.
In fact, feast your eyes on a few of the businesses I found for sale this week:
Got a passion for fashion? A boutique is for sale in El Cangrejo, one of my favorite areas of Panama City.
It’s a pleasant, walkable neighborhood with expat residents of all ages. On offer for $35,000, the business comes fully functional—that means you get all the merchandise, furniture, and equipment. As is usually the case, the locale is rented—at just $265 a month.
Try your hand at tourism: Also in busy El Cangrejo, there is an operational tourism business that may be just the thing for the new transplant. Rent for the locale of just over 1,000 square feet is $850 a month. The business comes complete with tourism license, centralized phone system, six computers (and cubicles), and furniture and appliances. Asking price: $50,000.
Two-for-one in a mountain town: Looking to leave the city behind? There are business opportunities in every region. A $95,000 offering in the mountain town of Boquete seems like a steal.
The business consists of a fully outfitted restaurant and an eye-catching boutique…just the thing to lure in passing tourists. According to the seller, the business is already featured in several guides on Panama. Any businessperson knows, a mention in a guidebook like Lonely Planet can give you instant success.
Finding a business for sale is easy; just remember, a little bit of Spanish goes a long way. Check local newspapers like Panama’s most popular daily, La Prensa. You can view the classifieds section online here, or buy the paper when you are here (I prefer the print version, as I suspect not all the ads make it online). A few words to look out for:
Clasificados = classifieds
Se vende = for sale
Negocio = business
Negociable = negotiable
Certain words like “aire acondicionado” (air conditioners) are easy to figure out. For the tougher ones, use www.WordReference.com. It’s the best free English-Spanish tool I’ve found online. In a matter of minutes you’ll have your ad deciphered.
Remember, the best deals are typically listed in Spanish, with more expensive offerings listed in English to ensnare “wealthy” expats. Unfortunately, a common perception is that expats are wealthy and can (and should) pay a bit more. Look at the español, like the locals do, and pay low local prices.
Whether you’re looking to invest $10,000 or $100,000, Panama has the right business opportunity for you. And the entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed here all agree: Panama offers a great many niches to fill. Expats often find they are the ones who have what it takes to fill these niches, potentially creating jobs for locals who are eager to learn new skills. Who knows…opening a business here may help you stretch your nest egg and help others, too. What a way to not retire!
Editor’s Note: If you like the idea of working overseas, you may be interested in a free e-mail newsletter we recently launched. It’s called Fund Your Life Overseas. You can get a free subscription here.