As we celebrate the first anniversary of our journey as small business owners in a foreign land, we find ourselves reflecting on the incredible experiences, challenges, and growth that this year has brought us. The establishment of our Costa Rican Corporation (thanks to the wonderful help from Terra Law... we highly reccomend) marked a pivotal moment in our lives, setting us on a path filled with lessons, connections, and unexpected twists.
Looking back at our inaugural steps into this venture, our first year could be solidly graded as a 'B-'. The initial phase was marked by an intense learning curve as we eagerly delved into the intricate web of relationships that drive the tourism industry in Costa Rica. Situated in the mesmerizing Gulf of Papagayo, we swiftly fostered connections with many Property Managers, tour operators, and other local businesses that are the heartbeat of this vibrant market.
Our immersion into the Ecotourism ECOsystem exposed us to the unique dynamics of Costa Rica's economy. A country fueled by tourism, Costa Rica captivates visitors with its lush landscapes, rich biodiversity, and the amazing and friendly people who call this home. We were lured to the beautiful Province of Guanacaste, a cherished haven for both international and national travelers. However, we soon realized the ebb and flow of this industry – the undeniable truth that the low season could sometimes be excruciatingly slow, while the high season, stretching from December to April, brought a surge of activity and revenue. Make your money then... is the lesson... then prepare and position your business for the next high season, during any down time during the low season.
We are survivors, and if you don't adapt you die, sooooooo we learned to align our offerings with the seasonal rhythms. Our product strategy matured as we comprehended the nuances of different regions. For instance, stroller rentals were not in high demand in Playas Del Coco... this came as a surprise, especially since our robust Bob Gear jogging strollers seemed tailor-made for the uneven pavements and sandy beaches of the area. Contrary to expectations, our strollers found the most use among tourists exploring other parts of the country, revealing the unpredictability that often colors business decisions. This also assisted in our decision to expand (see below). We found ourselves delivering to the Liberia International Airport for customers to take our strollers to destinations like, Tamarindo, Nosara and Manuel Antonio.
To counterbalance the slow periods and maximize the peak seasons, we formed strategic partnerships with a range of service providers. Collaborations with Transportation Services, renowned Eco Parks like Diamante and Vandera, as well as various boat and tour operators (as discussed in our last blog here), allowed us to offer customers a comprehensive one-stop solution for their Costa Rican adventure. In addition to this, we started a retail portion of our business, representing and reselling amazing Eco Fashion and Eco Cosmetic companies like Dreamland Sunglasses, Tribu Tica Eco Cosmetics and New Body sunscreen. With our eyes set on the horizon, we remain committed to expanding and strengthening this network of offerings.
A chapter of our journey that offered both insights and amusement was our entry into a physical store in Playa Hermosa. Initially showing promise, the reality soon hit us – foot traffic was.... needed but missing lol, particularly outside the peak of the High Season. Days would pass with only the occasional visit from locals offering delicious empanadas and cornbread. Our affinity for these treats, though delightful, left us operating at a net loss on those days! They were super tasty though...
The store experience, while ultimately not as fruitful as our online business, gifted us invaluable lessons in location strategy, and who could argue with a daily supply of mouthwatering empanadas?
The online realm has been our bread and butter, contributing 98% of our revenue. While a brick-and-mortar store remains a possibility in our future, we've learned the necessity of strategic location selection and the wisdom to explore this avenue when the time is ripe. For now, we relish the cost-effectiveness and reach of our online platform, which continues to be a dynamic hub of transactions and connections.
As our journey progressed, so did our web of connections and quality of relationships. As our business partnerships developed into friendships, we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to partner with a trusted associate in San Jose (the largest and most populated city in Costa Rica, and also the capital). This collaboration opened new doors, enabling us to serve customers arriving at the San Jose International Airport (SJO). We have serviced all of Guanacaste, as well as the Country's other International Airport in Liberia (LIR). We are now able to service both major international airports in this beautiful Country. A goal once distant was now reality as we secured inventory storage and streamlined delivery protocols in San Jose, in anticipation of the upcoming High Season that looms just a few months away.
In addition to this expansion... a distribution center in Santa Teresa (refresh your memory here on how awesome that place is), a cherished locale close to our hearts, is on the horizon. As we prepare for another High Season, we are excited to unfold this new chapter in our business journey, enhancing our capacity to deliver exceptional services to the increasing number of tourists.
In closing, we extend an invitation to all to experience the wonders of Costa Rica. From every vantage point, the country offers a breathtaking tapestry of ocean, jungle, mountains, volcanoes, and wildlife. To stand in certain places and witness all five elements is an experience of pure wonder and PURE LIFE (PURA VIDA)... As we continue to embrace the challenges and rewards of our small business odyssey, we're reminded that every twist and turn is an opportunity for growth, connection, and the creation of lasting memories. We hope to see you in the safe, natural paradise that we are currently lucky enough to consider our home.