Starting an import export business in retirement
My desire to be creative and my love of jewelry and beautiful stones merged perfectly about 12 years ago when I began playing with silver and genuine stones.
“Playing” eventually led to the development of my own line: Desert Designs Gemstone Jewelry. Living in Sedona, Arizona, where every other person you meet makes jewelry of some sort, it was difficult to find a market for my creations. Over time, my jewelry was sold locally in several different venues, as well as in a gift shop in Florida, and a crafts store in Ohio.
I also held a jewelry show every Saturday afternoon in the lobby of a small resort in Sedona.
In 2011, my husband and I visited Cotacachi, Ecuador, and while there, I bought alpaca blankets and ponchos for $15 to $20. In the hopes of starting an import export business, I took them back in my suitcases and displayed them at my weekly resort jewelry show.
I priced the blankets and ponchos at $50 each and sold everything in a relatively short period of time! People loved hearing about our trip, the people we purchased the items from, and knowing the items were made in a little town called Cotacachi.
When we decided to make a major life change and move permanently to Cotacachi, I figured making and selling jewelry would become a thing of the past. I couldn’t imagine purchasing supplies at U.S. prices and selling them at much lower Ecuadorian prices. If I was buying low in Ecuador and selling high in the U.S., it would have been a no-brainer, but the reverse didn’t seem do-able. As a result, I brought very few items with me.
However, to my surprise and delight, new friends and neighbors wanted to see my stuff. I showed them what I’d brought, sold a few pieces at reasonable-but-lower-than-U.S. prices, and began to rethink my decision to leave it all behind.
I asked anyone I knew who was traveling to the States to bring a small box back with them and eventually had enough supplies on hand to begin making necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and whatever other jewelry items friends and acquaintances requested.
A local art gallery and a Cotacachi arts and crafts store both carried my jewelry for a while. They sold a few items, but I found that after they added their mark-up to the cost, the final price was higher than most folks were willing to spend. I found myself thinking, “If only I could find a way to sell the items myself, there wouldn’t be any middle-man mark-up.”
The Importing Fortunes program helped me consider home parties.
Would they be successful in Cotacachi? There are a lot of expats in the area and many people stay for a while and then move on to other locations in Ecuador. As a result, my target market would be constantly changing.
After much thought, I decided to give it a try. Since many expats are retired and living on once-a-month paychecks, I wanted to hold my party during the early part of each month, before everyone was broke and waiting for that next payday.
Most area gringos subscribe to Cotacachi’s expat newsletter, so it was my first choice for advertising. It’s emailed out three times a week and includes a wide variety of information: items for sale, items looking to purchase, freebies, looking for a doctor, recommendations for services, apartments for rent, up-coming events, etc.
My invitation asked those interested in attending to e-mail me ASAP to reserve their spot as space was limited. Once people contacted me, I added them to my mailing list.
In addition, I created a website to showcase my jewelry and tell people who I am, why I make jewelry, how to contact me, and urge them to get on the mailing list. See www.bevscherberger.wix.com/desertdesignsjewelry
When the date of my first party arrived, I was nervous, excited, hopeful, and eager to see how this new endeavor would be received.
I was thrilled to hear all the positive comments and to find people trying things on and having fun!
I served snacks, soda, wine, and desserts, and after everyone was shopped and snacked out, they left with a smile and a bag of new accessories. And, of course, I encouraged everyone to wear their purchased items and tell the world where they bought them!
It was a success!
I now hold a party once a month and each one is different. Sometimes I have only two or three attendees; sometimes there are as many as ten. But every month the party goes well, people are pleased with their selections, and I’m inspired to make more jewelry.
I’ve even done repairs for folks who have a beloved piece that needs some TLC.
And my opportunities have expanded. A lady that lives in the Bahamas and does home parties selling “Made in Ecuador” items contacted me back in April. Since then, she’s purchased over $1,000-worth of my jewelry to sell at her parties.
Interestingly enough, I’m exporting my own jewelry now! So I can say I have successfully been on both sides of the import/export fence!
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel. Sign up today here and we’ll send you a report, Get Paid to Travel as a Travel Writer, completely FREE.]