This Expat Started a Business With Just a Magic Marker

Josh Beedham first visited Ecuador on a work placement program. “I went to Quito, took Spanish classes and helped in an orphanage. On the weekends I traveled around the country,” he says.

While there, the Canadian native met and fell in love with Natalia, an Ecuadorian woman who taught English as a Second Language (ESL). Following a stint back in Canada, he returned to Ecuador full-time.

“We settled in Baños, a small town to the south of Quito,” says Josh. “It’s a tourist town people visit on their way to and from the Amazon, which is an hour away. There’s a lot to do there.”

Known as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” Baños also attracts people to its natural hot springs, located on the edge of town. The area is lush and green, with temperatures between 63 F and 73 F.

“I tell people it’s like a nice spring day in Ontario all year round,” says Josh. “For me, Baños is the best place to live in Ecuador. Because it’s small, it’s easy to be known and become part of the community quickly.”

Using Natalia’s ESL teaching skills, the couple decided to start an English language school.

“We started our language school in a tiny apartment. It would have been my parent’s walk-in closet back in Canada. We had 30 to 40 students. Then we moved upstairs to a space with an office and three classrooms. We grew to 100 students and brought on our first employee.”

Today, Josh and Natalia have two additional teachers besides themselves and about 240 students. “We have five classrooms,” says Josh. “Classes have between nine to 20 students. The youngest is a toddler. We teach a lot of children, but adults too. People who need practical English for work, such as taxi drivers and hotel workers. The classes are one hour a day, four days a week.”

Josh likes living in a small town. “Our work is three blocks away. We live right behind the only supermarket in town, which is convenient for lugging home groceries. There’s also a market for fruits and vegetables on Sundays and Wednesdays. We have two big bedrooms with attached bathrooms and pay just $225 a month.

“In Canada, I never envisioned working for myself. I never thought I’d be totally responsible for everything. I do the marketing, cleaning, and create lesson plans,” he says.

“In Canada, it wouldn’t be possible. There are liability laws, insurance, it’d be so expensive to promote. It would have been harder to gain trust and become established. Here, we started with ‘English classes’ written in magic marker on the windows and it was enough. The newspaper owner’s son comes to classes for free in exchange for an ad in the paper. We couldn’t do that in Canada.”

For anyone contemplating moving overseas, Josh recommends learning from the experience of those who have already done it. “Do your best to find a good circle of people who’ve done it before. Meet as many people as you can and formulate a group of friends who can help you. Take their advice on where to buy fruit and how to pay your electric bill. Let people help you.”

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