How to Find a Business Niche in Ecuador

Sometimes a business idea appears as if by magic.

Rich Westcott worked full time as a magician in the U.S. for 20 years, performing over 700 times a year at the peak of his career. As the economy took a downturn and his work began to wind down, he and his wife Patricia realized they were facing a dim future. They began searching for better retirement options—and decided on Ecuador.

They visited Cuenca and were blown away by the beautiful weather, low cost of living, and colonial architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage city. “We decided, what the heck, let’s go for it,” says Rich, and they moved there in April 2011.

A year and a half after getting settled, Rich was bored and needed something to occupy his time. Bagels, one of his favorite breakfast staples, are not part of Ecuadorian cuisine. So he began experimenting with preparing them in his own kitchen.

“After making adjustments for the higher altitude I started turning out some darned good bagels,” Rich says.

Cuenca sits at 8,300 feet above sea level and water boils at a lower temperature at such altitude. Rich also found he needed less yeast baking at such altitude. Initially, his dough was falling after rising. He also discovered that he needed a longer cooking time to produce a good bagel.

“I let my friends know they were available and posted photos of different varieties on Facebook,” he says.

Word spread quickly and a small cottage business was born. Rich is now producing around eight dozen bagels per day, along with around two dozen English muffins. He sells his bagels both to individual customers and to two popular local restaurants.

“My biggest sellers are onion-garlic and a bagel dog,” says Rich. “But I’m constantly experimenting. My personal favorites are chocolate-almond and pineapple-macadamia-coconut.”

He also sells his bagels every Sunday at a local market and donates 25% of sales to La Esperanza, a children’s home. Soon he hopes to expand his charitable efforts by providing his products to a school to sell for fundraising.

Rich’s business is still in its infancy, and he is working from his own kitchen. However, he feels he has discovered a niche market where there is room for growth, and he hopes to develop his business to meet that demand.

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