When Tracy Ginger first visited Belize on vacation in 2015, she knew that she’d found her new home. She had grown tired of the seemingly never-ending Canadian winters and the hectic pace of city life. The laidback island vibe of Ambergris Caye—the largest of the islands off the coast of mainland Belize—was the perfect remedy.
Ten days later, she had purchased a villa and was heading back to Canada to make a permanent exit plan.
“I love to cook and had a side business back in Canada where I would prepare fresh juices and small-portion meals for my clients,” says Tracy.
When her mom came to visit that summer, the two of them spent their idle time in the kitchen, whipping up their favorite dishes. “My mom is half Ukrainian, half Polish,” says Tracy. “I grew up eating pierogis and other traditional dishes.”
Together, they made so many pierogis that summer that they shared them with all their neighbors, Belizean locals and expats alike. “Everyone went nuts for them. They asked for more so we kept cooking and experimenting with ingredients.”
She created pierogis with eggs, bacon, jalapeños, and other veggies. When the requests kept pouring in, Tracy realized she was on to something. “You can’t find pierogis anywhere on the island. In fact, you can’t just walk into a store and buy prepared foods here.”
For most businesses, summer is the slow season in Ambergris Caye and many restaurants close for a month or more. But the expats on the island love to entertain year-round. To meet their demand, Tracy expanded her offerings to include lasagna, cabbage rolls, mac and cheese, soups, and even fresh salads.
Homemade Pierogis by Tracy quickly became a local favorite and Tracy became known around the island as the “Pierogi Lady.” Her fully cooked meals come frozen and are easy to prepare.”
Startup costs were minimal as she only needed to buy the ingredients for her pierogis. “I think I spent about $500 for the initial stock of ingredients,” she says. “I really didn’t know where to buy anything in the beginning so I paid premium prices.” Now that she’s a regular customer at the local markets, she gets discounts and can buy in bulk.
When she heard about a local farmer’s market that was starting up, she made a big batch of pierogis and rented a booth for $7.50. “I made $1,200 that first day and sold out within an hour and a half,” Tracy says.
Tracy is now making plans to open a food shack at the South End Market.
Once her trade certificate arrives, she’ll pay $400 per month in rent and hire one or two Belizean employees at $10 an hour. She plans to sell both frozen and cooked-to-order pierogis, lasagna, soups, and more.
“I love living in Belize,” says Tracy. “I have a successful business in less than a year and more friends than I can count. Life is good.”