Lisa and Eddy Koplin were not planning on starting a travel consultant business when they moved to Lima, Peru as missionaries back in 2010. “We just started this business on a kind of a whim,” says Lisa. “We bought a van…and we thought we could use it in the ministry, and that it would pay for itself if we used it for some little jobs on the side.”
“We started with the expat community on one of the Facebook expat forums. We just put a small ad on there saying we were American and we wanted to help people see Peru. We weren’t even a tour company at that point. We were just kind of doing it privately,” says Lisa. “We started getting expats and they really appreciated the fact that we were on time and we had a clean car. We basically offered the service that you would receive in North America.”
Lisa is originally from Rochester, New York, where she met her husband, Eddy. She admits that moving to Peru with their two children has been a little different than they originally expected. They certainly didn’t have any business ambitions. But their company just seemed to grow organically.
Their initial small two-person operation has now become a thriving business with six drivers. “So now we are at that next point where we are actually going to hire an office manager to come in and try to advance the company, because we feel like we have enough for us but we want to share with the Peruvians…maybe provide jobs for some of our friends,” says Lisa.
“I’m not sure how it works, but we got on TripAdvisor and since then we’ve seen a real change in our business. We’ve maintained really good ratings. We’ve increased our main service, which is city tours of Lima. And we’ll do trips to places like Nazca or Cusco if people really want it. A year ago, we had the chance to put our travel service on Viator (an online platform for finding tours), and it has really changed how much our business has grown.
“I can tell you that I am very content,” says Lisa. “I love the fact that I can go to a local market and have fresh fruits and vegetables at a quarter of the cost that it would cost me in New York. And I love the fact that I can travel all over Peru relatively inexpensively. Our hope has always been to go into one of the provinces, but it’s one of those things we just haven’t done yet. And Lima keeps us here.”
Lisa says that if they were just here to be business people and make lots of money, there is a lot of potential. But Eddy just turned 58 and is quite happy that they’ve got to the point now where he doesn’t really have to work that much anymore.
“This business is great because it allows us to travel. We spent a month in Europe this summer, and two-and-a-half months traveling the year before. So, it’s a business that doesn’t hold us down. We can travel the world, as long as we have internet. It’s easy to call our drivers and guides and plan things at a distance. The business is to the point now that we can live off it with a nice income,” says Lisa.
“Peru is a great country because they like foreigners. But I really think the provinces are a good focus for anyone looking to start a business. I think it takes an adventurous person to go out there, but the sky is the limit. We took a look around and said we could do this and we could do that, and there was no competition.
“And the investment is so much less,” Lisa explains. “You can buy land very cheaply. So, for the expat that comes here to retire, you just pick what you like to do and you’ll probably do great.”
When asked if she has any advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps, she replies, “Find your niche, find out what you do well that the local culture doesn’t, and just start doing it. It could be a number of things. Peru is definitely a new frontier.”
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