Expat Conducts Colombian Business Experiment

Many people dream of jetting off to an exotic foreign locale and starting a business from the ground up in an attempt to grab on to a little …

Many people dream of jetting off to an exotic foreign locale and starting a business from the ground up in an attempt to grab on to a little slice of paradise … and a few people actually do it. Cole LaValley discusses how he picked Medellin, Colombia, as a place to live and start a business. LaValley found a Colombian business partner and opened a hostel, a business concept with which he had no prior experience. He is now going into his fourth month at Calle 10 hostel and it appears the place will be a success. Now, LaValley is thinking of taking his business to the next level by opening another hostel somewhere else. For more on this continue reading the following article from International Living.

I always thought that I’d want to live on the beach in some out-of-the-way area. When the time came though, a bigger city was the place for me. Medellín in Colombia is physically beautiful. It’s the greenest city I’ve ever been to. The weather is better than any other place I’ve lived.

The people are nice, and there’s a little of everything here, for anyone’s taste. The people have a sense of pride and duty to move forward and they want to develop as a society. There’s a lot of mutual respect amongst the citizens. The real estate market looked good, too.

When I got here and began to scope out opportunities, I quickly realized that Colombia had just come out of a dark time, and as such, was about to go into a major developmental phase. I wanted in on that.

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When I first decided to open a business here, I looked at a lot of different things. I decided to go into the hostel business because every month it seemed like more and more tourists were arriving. I had no previous experience in running a hostel, but I did know enough to look for a trustworthy and experienced Colombian partner. Ben is Colombian and I actually stayed in his hostel when I first got here.

We set up the Calle 10 Hostel. It’s a simple operation. We have two dormitories with a total of seven bunks, and four private rooms. The house itself is over 80 years old, so we had to install gas and more electrical outlets, dividing walls and bathrooms. We have a public computer, a kitchen, a billiards table, TV and DVDs, a book exchange and a laundry service.

We opened in July, and because we are not high on the tourist radar yet, about half of our clients are Colombian, the other half a mix of North Americans and Europeans.

I’m proud of what I’ve done so far. I think it’s an extremely good move to diversify your living options, meaning if you can have two countries (or more) to call home, you’ve protected yourself from various risks. Here my equity has gone up. I’m concerned for the U.S. and now I’ve got more personal options. But I still can’t wait to go home for Christmas at my parents’ house.

Right now, I want to stay here and put a few years into the hostel. In a few years’ time, who knows?  Perhaps I will go in search of new opportunities in new places. If I stay here and my taste changes, maybe I’ll swap out my apartment in Medellín for a little finca in the middle of nowhere, or a little cabin along a quiet beach.

This article was republished with permission from International Living.


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