This article comes to us courtesy of InternationalLiving.com, the world's leading authority on how to live, work, invest, travel, and retire better overseas.
Photo from Jason Holland, InternationalLiving.com
Warren Ogden couldn't afford to set up his ideal business in the U.S.
Yoga and fitness had been part of his life for years. He had studied it at Duke University in North Carolina -- and later in India, at the Agama Yoga centers in Rishikesh and Dharamshala. He completed his yoga teacher training at the Holistic Yoga School in Boulder, Colorado.
"I could never afford to create a gym, spa, and yoga studio in the U.S. And most markets are saturated, anyway," says Warren. So instead he was working as executive director of a small, international non-profit organization in the U.S.
Then he decided it was time for a change.
"I was ready for adventure," he says. "I grew up with Nicaraguan immigrants in the U.S., so I had a natural connection to the place. It was a lucky stroke, because I fell in love with the country. I saw -- and still see -- Nicaragua as a place of opportunity."
He moved to Nicaragua from the U.S. in 2006 in search of an opportunity to do something that would provide income... and motivate him.
"I looked for a market niche that hadn't been filled... which was also a realm of endeavor that interested me. A yoga studio happened to be the perfect mix of the two. I bought a decrepit house and fixed it up."
That's how Pure came into being. Warren's first challenge was finding good staff. "There is less regulation here than in the U.S. -- which is unfortunate," he says. "All of my massage therapists are thoroughly trained, and most have three- or four-year degrees.
"But there are lots of folks that offer massage in Granada that have barely any training at all. When tourists have a bad experience, it reflects poorly on all of us. It takes years to cultivate a solid staff. That is my biggest accomplishment... I now have a great staff."
With many qualified people spend long stints traveling in Central America, Warren saw an opportunity to take on highly-trained staff for short-term contracts. They were glad to have a few weeks or months work while seeing the country... and he was able to provide good instructors and therapists for his clients. His work/exchange program continues to this day.
"Now that Pure has been a fixture in Granada for over five years, we can rely on a network of yoga teachers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and fitness instructors to spend time with us as part of our work/exchange program," he explains. "Without the visiting instructors, I couldn't offer 16-20 yoga classes per week... and only charge $5 per class (or $2 per class for gym members with a 20-class package)."
There are a variety of packages on offer at Pure, ranging from $360 up to $1,290, not including accommodation.
Warren has also teamed up with the Holistic Yoga School International in Boulder, Colorado to offer teacher training programs. The course involves 200 hours over 25 days and is delivered perhaps once a year.
Tourism to Nicaragua is on the increase and the government is trying to make it easier for overseas investors to set up tourism-related businesses in the country. Warren sees a strong future ahead for operations like his.
Warren made the decision when establishing Pure not to provide accommodation. There were more than enough hotels around Granada doing that. But Warren partnered with them to offer his services to hotel guests. In fact they could book in for a retreat at Pure while being accommodated at one of the hotels he recommends.
"We work with the best hotels in the city. We offer their clients free access to the gym. Many of them discover that we offer top quality massages for only $24 for an hour, and jump at the chance," says Warren.
"I think that wellness retreats are simply a great idea. It is so much harder for people to make a lifestyle change during the normal grind of life. But when you remove yourself to a place where you can really focus on taking care of yourself...it works. And then you can bring your new healthy habits home with you," he points out.
"The market has been fairly flat for the last few years, but it seems to be on the upswing as tourism continues to grow and Granada prospers. The potential for more businesses like this is enormous. We are so close to the U.S. Nicaragua, and Central America in general, has so much to offer. If you're thinking about moving here, spend time in the region before laying down roots. Really get to know a place before you invest."
Setting up a wellness center overseas is a business of double-benefit. You get to live a more relaxed lifestyle, while earning an income helping others to relax. You work an easier pace, and reap the rewards of what you teach.
"I have observed the benefits of practices such as yoga, meditation, and tai chi in the lives of so many people and felt the effects myself," says Warren. "I can't help but want to share these practices that are so inexpensive and effective. They are literally a joy to share. I benefit every time I teach a yoga class. I feel better. So perhaps it is more selfish than it appears!
"I am very happy to have a sustainable business that pays good wages and makes solid contributions to the community, while providing my fiancée and myself a viable and enjoyable lifestyle in a wonderful country."
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