A Thriving Business Overseas for the Price of a Used Motorcycle

Freedom for Toni Putrino means working his own hours, doing what he is passionate about and having the time and energy to work toward his dream. And he’s found the perfect place to do all those things in northern Thailand.

A musician and restaurateur, Toni had been through a financially complex divorce, which left him with little cash. “All I had in the end was a Phantom motorcycle. I had to bite the bullet; I had no money, I had no income,” says Toni.

Building a business overseas, seemed like a logical step. The low overheads meant Toni could get a start. Plus, there are other freedoms in Thailand that Toni appreciates. “Back home, my business was over-governed, over-policed, and over-taxed. You are crucified at every turn. Particularly in hospitality; they discover a thousand new bacteria strains every week. It’s just a money generator,” says Toni.

To get started, Toni sold his motorbike, and with minimal resources he and his girlfriend, U (pronounced “Oh”), rented a little restaurant space in the university city of Chiang Mai. “We bought a little gas stove top. Everything had to be paid for out of a budget of $1,300,” says Toni.

Toni worked in every aspect of the business. Originally, he was the main chef, and also the entertainment. He even built some of the furniture. “A year later we were doing well; the place was really kicking on our musical nights. It was a small place but we were taking good money. I bought a new Phantom motorcycle. That took one year,” says Toni. “Suddenly, the place became too small for us; we had outgrown it. So, we put the business up for sale and someone paid us $12,000.”

With the money, they launched their next enterprise, Yummy’s Pizza. “Yummy’s is a family restaurant,” says Toni. “I wanted it to have an atmosphere where you can bring your family and have a nice evening out. We serve pizza, homemade pastas, tapas, burgers, flatbreads, salads, steaks, and desserts. Good quality food, that is fresh and homemade, appeals to both the Thai and expat market.”

Toni has also taken time to travel extensively throughout Thailand on his beloved Phantom motorcycle. He loves the rich culture that Thailand has to offer and has enjoyed road trips to Laos, Burma, Bangkok, Krabi, Hua Hin, and all the eastern coastline. “There is so much to see and so many beautiful mountains. The trips are wonderful and filled with great scenery and great food,” says Toni. He loves sampling Khao Soi, a northern-style curry soup with coconut milk and noodles, as well as Som Tam Thai which is a papaya salad that is spicy yet cool. Toni, as a foodie, enjoys the Thai flavour combinations of salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and spicy. “My background is Italian, so food is very important. I appreciate herbs and spices and freshness. There are so many great little local food joints all over Thailand. It is fantastic.”

Toni also gets to devote time to realising his biggest dream—a boutique resort in Chiang Mai’s spacious countryside. “The resort, my next project, is all about independence. Slowly we have been building our resort so that eventually we will be able to sell this business and go to our own place, where we have rooms and can start a business, open if we want to, close if we don’t. The best scenario is that I rent the place out for $2,000 to $2,500 a month and my wife and I just travel. Go to Europe maybe. Anywhere interesting really,” says Toni.

What’s the best part of doing business in Thailand? “You don’t feel the pressures. We are happy here. I felt comfortable in Chiang Mai from the first day I arrived. You have got to love it here because it is mountainous. It is a very beautiful place, very green and the climate is unbelievable. You cannot get depressed in this sunshine,” says Toni.

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