Most of our friends and relatives think we’re crazy. We travel a lot and go places they wouldn’t dare to go. We have a lifestyle that works for us, but not necessarily for everyone. Last winter we traveled to Honduras and Guatemala. The winter before, we spent six weeks in Jamaica, mixing our profitable business with fun in the sun.
With our Import-Export business, our working year ends in December and doesn’t kick into gear again until March.
It all started nine years ago when my partner, Nancy, acquired a special piece of pottery at an auction. She did some research online and sourced the pottery back to the remote village of Mata Ortiz, Mexico. Then she took off in her Subaru and traveled the 3,000 miles from the States to the village.
Here, she bought as much pottery as she could load in her car, and upon her return to the U.S., sold most of her newfound art to friends, relatives, and associates. They wanted more.
Although she still had her day job as a psychotherapist, her new importing business was beginning to take off. This is where I entered the picture. I had recently returned home to northern Idaho after three years living my dream of sailing down the Sea of Cortez and along the mainland of Mexico.
It was a perfect match. We both love Mexico and we were more than ready for second careers. Through our new business, Singing Shaman Traders, we’ve been able to make at least three buying trips a year.
In Mexico, we buy pottery, baskets, and silver. In Jamaica, we went to the source and had baskets made for us. In Guatemala we bought scarves directly from the weavers. In Honduras we purchased sea glass jewelry, dolls, bark art, and baskets. In Vietnam and Thailand, we are having silver jewelry and silk scarves made for us, but have yet to visit.
The learning curve to becoming an importer is steep at first, but there is a fun side too. The best part of the business for us is the shopping. We meet the artists and buy their handmade indigenous crafts, thereby helping them make a sustainable living at a fair, working wage. This is what we value most.
Our best quality products are Mata Ortiz pottery and Mexican silver jewelry, which are also the most popular items with our customers. Our best mark-up products are the Tarahumara baskets and wood carvings (also from Mexico). Our silk scarves from Vietnam are of high quality and have a good mark-up.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to learn more about ways you can pay for your life or travels overseas, sign up for Fund Your Life Overseas, a free e-letter from International Living. Sign up here and we’ll send you a free report: Fund Your New Life Overseas With These 4 Portable Careers.