Many people who travel to foreign lands do so for vacation, business or a bit of both, but only a few have stories about the former evolving into the latter. Reece Guth traveled to Nicaragua for a little sun one recent winter and ended up bringing home some pottery from a small town called San Juan de Oreinte. She noticed guests in her home really liked the pottery, so she made a second trip with a plan to buy more. She brought those pieces home and showed them to various dealers and the next thing she knew she was in the art export business. Her simple advice to people thinking of doing the same: if she can do it, anybody can. For more on this continue reading the following article from International Living.
I wanted a tan in winter—that’s why I was in Nicaragua. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the country, its people, and its pottery!
The art of pottery goes back many thousands of years. In the village of San Juan de Oriente, artisans demonstrate an astonishing range of creative skills. I found potters using designs and techniques that reach way back through the centuries. They painstakingly make one delicate piece at a time, drying it in the tropical sun.
The cobblestone streets and dirt paths lined with pastel-colored adobe houses made walking around feel like stepping through an unseen door into the past. Like a treasure hunter, I somehow felt that a determined look beyond the surface of this dusty pueblo would yield some hidden gems. I was not disappointed—the pottery and talent I found was truly overwhelming.
I returned home from that trip with four pots in my suitcase. When I got back to the airport I had to shovel my car out of three feet of snow. There was a huge storm and people were stranded all over the East Coast. Back in Nicaragua, it was 85 degrees. That was a real motivating factor.
I put the four pots on my mantel and looked at them for the rest of the winter and everybody who came to my house noticed and liked them. That spring I went back to Nicaragua with the vague idea of buying some samples and having them shipped home. I also had a wad of $50s tucked into one of those money belts you shove down your pants. In hindsight, it’s not a business strategy I would recommend.
But I didn’t want to look back later with regret. So, with little more than a few hundred bucks and some determination I decided to give it a try. Now I have a nationwide business. It’s a small business, for sure, but it’s profitable, manageable and fun. Of course, no business is all fun, but what I can honestly tell you, is that if I can do it, you can do it too.
To cut a long story short, I found a shipper and I got about 40 pieces sent to the airport back home. I muddled my way through customs and then showed the pots around some local stores—they loved them. I didn’t really have many of the particulars worked out at that time but I knew from the reactions the pots were getting that I was onto a good thing.
Since then I’ve brought in air shipments of containers, I’ve sold them retail and wholesale, on the Internet, at trade shows and at street festivals. I’ve sold to large museums and little shops on both coasts. I’ve sent pots to just about every state in the U.S.
My focus is on the types of handmade products or limited production items that you may come across in a non-industrial setting; somewhere you might go to get away from the States.
The producers I work with are generally small, family run businesses and they are very accessible. They want to sell their work. I think that anyone who travels could find themselves in a similar situation—one that turns out to be the starting point of an excellent opportunity.
I’m here to tell you that it can be done. It’s not super-easy, but it’s not impossibly difficult either. What it does take is a substantial time commitment. That said, you can make your business suit your goals. You want your business to pay for your travels? You can do that. You want to make six figures? You can do that too.
This article was republished with permission from International Living.