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My wife and I have been thinking about moving back to Ecuador for a long time-at least 5 years now. After a 2 year stint in Nicaragua with USAID, we both decided that living a mellower kind of life-the kind you might only have in Managua or some other underdeveloped town in an underdeveloped country outside the borders of the world of mass consumerism-was for us. We didn’t even remotely consider this possibility before living overseas for an extended time. Not that Managua is Paradise.
Potholes the size of craters, ox carts on the main boulevard, trash burning in the street, muddy rivers flowing down the street, fires in our backyard because the “peasants” were clearing the land for next season’s crop. Power outages, torrential rains, constant dust, the list goes on. But no constant barrage of media informing you how much you need this, you want that, or how much better your life would be with that next gadget. No constant reenforcement that you don’t have enough, that you should be gnawing at yourself from the inside out to acquire, acquire, acquire. No fancy restaurants to eat at, gourmet aisles in the supermarket, no noisy radio stations, no need for the latest and greatest…you fill in the blank. Ok, there is hardly anywhere left on earth free of these messages, but Managua was pretty close. Home cooked meals every day, a vegetable garden in my backyard, the radio announcing the time on the half hour-because nobody wears watches and they still aren’t slaves to the clock. I have spent over five years living and working in Latin America, and it continues to call me back, in spite of, or rather because of, all these things.
Just before leaving Nicaragua in September 2001, I made a trip to Ecuador and we bought some land in a small town called Cotacachi, planning to eventually build a house there. We haven’t gotten around to that part yet. But when we returned to the US from Nicaragua, we said we’d stay five years in the US at most, before going out on another overseas job (which we figured would come up, but for a number of reasons just hasn’t). Or before moving to Ecuador. So the five years is up, and we’re now counting five years and three months.
The main question has been, just what in hell were we going to do in Ecuador to make a living? A little over two years ago, I went to work in a chocolate shop in Alexandria, VA. An idea was born…I did some research over the web, and discovered via the US Commercial Service in Ecuador that there’s a big demand for chocolates, snack foods and other such items, and that items of US origin (or, in this case, made by a North American) generally have a winning reputation in Ecuador from day one just because of their provenance.
Last year I made two trips to Ecuador to do some test marketing. I turned out chocolates, caramels, candy cremes, brittle, toffee and other candy items. Both times (once at Mother’s day and once at Christmas) I nearly could not keep up with demand. And my only sales person was my mother-in-law, with some additional help from my sister-in-law and general word-of-mouth via the family. It looked good. The plan was hatched.