Beth and her husband have lived in Corozal, Belize for the past year. You can read Beth’s blog at bethbowersescape.wordpress.com/
My husband, Brian, and I moved to Corozal Belize about a year and 6 months ago. We both moved here with the intention of working, living, and contributing to the community.
He had built custom homes in Georgia for 25+ years and when the economy stumbled the business fell with it. We went from having plenty of work for ourselves and our sub-contractors to nothing.
When both our homes sold within 1 month we took that as a sign that we should try something new.
Our search for a English speaking, safe to buy, friendly country began. Belize popped right up. Many countries don’t mind you buying a condo or home, but really don’t like you working or starting up a business.
We studied properties, residency, retirement (not an option), etc. Looking at all the Caribbean areas blew our minds as there are some very expensive places. Belize won out in the end.
After buying a house and moving here in May of 09’ we took some months off before starting our new venture to get used to our new surroundings. It didn’t take us long to make friends with a variety of people and really feel good about the choice we had made.
After our initial ‘vacation’ from the real world we knew from watching our savings diminish that we would have to get jobs soon.
Belize is interesting in the fact that to get a ‘work’ permit here you have to follow the no ‘compete’ law. Which means you will not be taking a job that a qualified Belizean could fill.
With Brian’s knowledge of home building and previous experience in Real Estate he set out to get his permit for ‘consulting in the Real Estate field’.
This left me at a crossroads. What could I do in a country blooming in promise such as Belize? What did I have to offer? Strangely enough I got to thinking of all the kids in the area. Belize has a lot of children and they are always looking for after school programs and activities.
I participated in the Lighting of The Christmas Tree program sponsored by the Corozal Town Council by doing a couple Ballet Dances and a Color Guard Routine. (Both are things I’d had done in School).
The children’s eyes lit up and it started me to thinking seriously about an after school program.
Going on this concept I started the process of opening a Dance Studio. (Corozal Classic Dance Education – see us on facebook)
I had to purchase a work permit for $1,000 bz ($500 usd) which would cover me for a year. In that year we wanted to complete our residency program (where you can have a business but not required to have a permit). (As a note: Brian’s permit was $2,000 Bz as he was considered a professional… The permit idea is very flakey and changes all the time.)
For those wanting to know: To apply for the permit you go to your local immigration branch here in Belize and they fill you in on what copies, stamps, forms etc. that you will need to turn in.
The permitting process took us about 2-3 months. (We are now working on our residency and hoping to complete that soon. For residency it is require that you live in the country for 1 year without leaving for 14 days. Day trips to Mexico do not count against the residency process.)
After receiving my permit the Studio started with 10 students. We held a Recital at the end of March 2010 and it was very well liked.
The next semester of the Studio started in May and continued until Sept 1st when we had our second Recital. It was a lot bigger. Consisting of 28 students! We did 10 different songs on the theme of ‘Nature Unleashed.’ We had a great turnout of 250 people for the show!
It’s very hard to run a business here. The trick is to find a niche that has not be explored before. Ballet (or Bal-et as the locals call it) is taught in Mexcio and in the city of Belize, but not in the smaller areas. Overall I’d say that I have had a very positive reception. The kids love learning to dance like little princesses and the parents like that they are learning and staying active.
To keep the Studio afloat I charge minimal fees for the Rent, costumes, equipment, etc. If I were in the states I would not be able to keep going on the amounts that I take in, but here it works out well for all. I don’t overcharge or undercharge. I try to keep it relative to the community and what the people can afford.
I’ve often heard a saying “ The quickest way to make a million dollars in Belize is to move here with two.” Meaning that you don’t move here hoping to become rich quick. Investing is good, but don’t over do. Moving here is a switch to a way of life and life here moves at a much slower pace.
For me to be my own boss is a great thing. I’ve come to enjoy the freedoms found here. I make my hours, plan my days I’ll work, set a pay rate and run the show. (If the show gets much bigger I’ll have to hire help!) Handling a Studio entails a lot. Billing, rent, past dues, costumes, etc. Anyone who has been in any type of performance knows what I mean.
After being on stage since the age of 5 dancing, pageants, chorus, and band it is uplifting to spread the knowledge of what I had learned to the people here. Belizeans are sponges when it comes to learning. Especially something they enjoy. Anyone who says the people here aren’t smart is totally wrong. It’s like anywhere in the world. Some are gifted. Some not, but each offers something different.
I hope this ramble helps people understand that Belize offers a lot. Her promise as a country is still fresh and new ideas are welcome!