San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, is a funky little beach-town, made up of a perfect horseshoe bay and 21 beaches. It’s a small, colorful city with a ton of things to see and do. Stroll through the streets and you’ll see surf shops, beach ware stores, little mom ‘n pop convenience stores, real estate offices, tour agencies, and over 69 restaurants.
It was in here that Laura and Jayson Vajda settled in 2006. Before that they had lived in Pennsylvania, where they worked as a nurse and a builder of exotic pools, respectively. In 1994 they moved to Jamaica, where Jayson continued his craft. But in Nicaragua they finally found what they were looking for.
“We have what we call a ‘hobby farm,’” says Laura. “We have 34 acres just a few miles outside of town, a handful of horses, goats, chickens, donkeys, four rescued cats, and eight rescued dogs. We have monkeys and parrots aplenty. Life is simple, but sweet. The city is close enough that we can just hop in for a short while to get supplies or meet up with friends, but mostly we enjoy hanging around the farm. We think of ourselves as homesteaders, and our life feels like it must have been generations ago.”
It was this homestead lifestyle which lead to Laura’s “comfort food” bakery business. “I love to bake and cook,” says Laura, “and I was raised by a mother who loved to teach me, so I found a small niche here in Nicaragua for homemade baked goods and dinners. It’s fun, because it’s easy, creative, and I love doing it, and I can do it out of my house. I have a few outlets that I sell to, so the extra money is really nice.”
And Laura says there’s a way to ensure that you start making money right away. “If you do your investing a little at a time to test the market, you can build it up as you go along. I’ve watched too many people jump in feet first to a brick-and-mortar business, and end up selling out within six months to a year, because they can’t keep up with the overhead.”
Her bakery business does very well as an extra income. “The clients for my culinary skills are 70% expats and 30% tourists. During the high tourist months (December through April), it is about 25% of our weekly income. We spend a total of $2,000 to live here each month, and that includes utilities, food, house, extra expenses, security, etc.”
The couple found their first customers at the local farmer’s market in San Juan del Sur. Once people tasted Laura’s great cookies and cakes, word of mouth spread fast. Now Laura even does private baking for clients.
In the low season, the couple generally nets about $500 a month. In the high season, it can be as high as $1,500 a month. Laura does all the baking herself with Jayson helping out with everything else. All in all, Laura spends about 16 to 30 hours a week on her baking business.
Laura found it very easy to get started. “There are sufficient bakery supply businesses in Managua, and regulations aren’t restrictive in Nicaragua, so starting was relatively simple,” she says. “My husband and I have lived by the creed of ‘find a need, fill a need.’”
Laura and Jayson enjoy living in Nicaragua, but they admit that it takes a little getting used to. “We have all the modern conveniences, but just in a different way,” says Laura. “Life moves slower, it can be frustrating, but it works. I love the idea of not having to ‘keep up with the Jones’s.’ Nobody’s looking at your new car, or what you are wearing, or what purse you are carrying. I love that land taxes and car insurance are very inexpensive, and I don’t have to pay for health insurance if I don’t want it.
“Overall, we really enjoy it here,” adds Laura. “Now we just sit outside, enjoy the back-to-nature lifestyle and always remember that life is good.”
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