I want to move to USVI and start a business
I am sick of my life here in Arizona. I am about to graduate from ASU and have no interest in going in to the life of working myself to death just to move in to some stucco box. I have spent quit a bit of time in the islands and my time down there has really been the only times in my life that I have been truly happy. So I'm deciding to pack up and move down there. My goal is to start a business when I get there. I would like to open a small fun bar on one of the islands. I'm thinking St Thomas or St John. It has always been my dream to own a place similar to Woody's on St John. What is needed to start a bar in the USVI? Is it hard to find space to open a new place? Are new places accepted by the people down there? If you do own a bar there what did it take for you to do so? Is it tough to find good employees? What are the things that are unexpected in starting a new business in the USVI?
Thanks for your help and I'll be seeing you all soon 🙂
SD, I like your spunk and I'll be interested to see what kind of responses you get as I have had the same thoughts on many occasions. Who knows, maybe we will some day compete for the same customers (would that be swell);)
Also another unrelated question I had was would it be better to buy a jeep here in the states or to buy one when I get out there?
"I am about to graduate from ASU and have no interest in going in to the life of working myself to death"
And you don't think you'll work yourself to death here? You will probably have to work a lot harder. My suggestion would be to come here & work in the kind of place you'd like to own for at least 6 months to a year or so. It's not an easy business so experience & watching what goes into it would be the smart thing to do. If you buy a car in the States with a loan, make sure the finance people will let you take the car out of the mainland. Some don't.
I spent 2 years working for otherson both ends of the island , than bought my own business..........there are still surprises.every week.............buy a jeep here........just my opinion.............oh and bring 5 times more cash than you think you will need, that way you will only have to borrow 1/2 as much later........
Listen, before you make the "plunge" do yourself a favor and ask yoursel what is it about living in Arizona that makes you "sick of your life". Just so you are aware, you'll have to "work" in the VI's just as you would in AZ. Also, most homes in the VI's are "stucco boxes" so that aspect of you life won't change by relocating. The point is YOU are who YOU are and your troubles won't go away simply by moving. Add to that the fact that statistically the majority of new businesses fail within the first year no matter where they are located (and the VI's have a higher than average failure rate) and you can see why you might be facing an uphill battle.
You mentined "my time down there (the islands) has really been the only times in my life that I have been truly happy". What exactly made you happy? What makes you "unhappy" in AZ? Where you visiting on "vacation"? If so, that's not a true indication of what life in the Caribbean is really like. Living on an island is not all about sitting under a palm tree drinking pina coladas. You have to deal with everryday life - i.e. go out an earn enough money to pay your bills (you'll need more money because living expenses are probably higher than you now pay), you'll have to do the same grocery shoppping you do now, you'll still have to do daily chores like laundry, clean house, pay (very large) utilitiey bills, pay the rent or the mortgage, shop for clothes, wait for the repairman to come and fix your refrigerator, do the yard work, etc., etc., etc. In otherwords the "drudgey of daily life goes on in the VI's much the same as it does in AZ. If your luckly you might find time for that pina coloda but don't count on it as you'll probably be too busy making a living.
Now to comment on your other questions regarding starting a business. If you want to open a bar your best bet is to buy an existing business - there are lots for sale by people such as yourself who were chasing a dream only to find out it became a financial nightmare because they didn't do their homework. Finding a "new place" where you can start from scratch is difficult and EXPENSIVE. Whatever route you decide to follow you'll need permits, liquor licenses, inventory, working capital, etc. so, like snapper said, bring plenty of money as it will disappear very quickly. There's an old adage that goes something like this - How do you make $1 million dollars in the Bar business in the VI's - Start with $2 million.
You'd be wise to follow the suggestion made by Trade - come down to the islands for 6 months or so, find a job in a bar, watch and learn about the business and daily life in the islands . You'll then know if island life is for you and you won't have invested (and lost) all or a big portion of your life savings in a pipe dream that failed or a lifestyle you found out was no better than you have now. Get time on your side - do your reseach, not by asking strangers on an internet chat forum but rather by thorough, in person / hands on contact with your accountant, tax advisor, legal advisor and/or the proper governing officials. There's no substitute for good old fashion hard work.
The more "real" research you do the better your odds of success will be. If you choose to ignore the advice you could end up losing a lot of money.
I agree with the last poster. If you are not happy where you are chances are you won't be happy here until you change the thing that is making you unhappy. You'll just be unhappy in a more beautiful place. I have a business for sale in St. John - it is a gift store, not a bar though. I am a realtor and you can PM me for more information if you like.
Somethings are easier here. It beautiful and quiet and things move slower. People are friendly, but many might hold you at arms length until its apparent your staying and not leaving. Its a completely different culture, which is what many who come here think they want. The slower pace of life and the different culture can make it very hard for many to adjust. We all think we want it but when we get it, it usually takes some serious adjusting to get used to it.
The first year is generally the best and the worst. I would definitely get a job and work towards your goal, but I think you will find its much easier to work for someone then own your own nightmare, I mean bar. Its the cliche American type dream to come to the islands and buy a bar, if you want to break free from the stucco boxes, think outside the box. Come here and really experience a different way of life.
If you're not a chef with a good business sense i would rethink it about 20 times before you start talking to people and planning. You need to know every aspect of a restaurant and how to run all the positions. And the last thing we need is another restaurant with medicore food that goes under in a few months. It doesnt usually take a year here to go under, 3 to 6 months.
OK I think I need to defend my actions a little bit here. LOL. I do understand that it will be a lot of work owning my own place down there. I'm not looking to get out of hard work I'm looking to do work that I truly love in a place that I truly love. While the time I have spent down there has always been on vacation my vacations have always been spent with people that live on the island attempting to get the real experience of life on the island. I am not happy in AZ because of the people and environment here. I am happy in the islands because of the people and environment. I'm not looking to make it rich there I searching more for the intrinsic value of life on the island. There is probably a reason that is different for all of you as to why you decided to move down there and why you have stayed. Also I am doing my research by calling to find out about business licences, calling lawyer, talking to my accountant and doing all of that stuff I am using this forum to supplement that info and to see what regular people from there have to say.
Some advice from an old man that is probably worth what you're paying for it. Slow down a touch. If you try to do what you are asking about, it will be like trying to eat an elephant. Eat this elephant one bite at a time. If you want to come here, come on. The weather is usually pretty nice and so are most of the people. I would suggest you come with about $10,000. That will pay for your start-up expenses of moving here, plus give you a little to live on until you get income coming in. You haven't said which island you want to move to. The USVI is made up of four very different islands. I live on STX and love it here. The other islands just didn't suit me. Check them all out. The reason for the amount of money can be found by researching this board. There are many posts about the cost of settling here. Don't even think of opening a business for at least a year. Get to know the place first. Find out what type of business is needed. If you try to open a snow plowing business, you will probably fail. ( A weak attempt at humor). For young people, a year sounds like a long time. For us old people, it's more like the blink of an eye. It takes at least that long to get acclimated. The previous posters are very correct in that it is much easier to buy an existing business that start a new one. I started two companies in the States and knew many other people who started businesses there, and I can tell you it will take at least a year before you can start counting on the business for income (if at all). Patience is something that increases with age. Believe me, you will need a ton of patience living here. Don't rush. Don't hurry. Let things come as they will. Good luck.
Regarding your comment that 'While the time I have spent down there has always been on vacation my vacations have always been spent with people that live on the island attempting to get the real experience of life on the island.' - if you've only visited for short periods while "on vacation" you really haven't experienced "life on the island" no matter how much of that vacation was spent among the locals. Living on a Caribbeanm island is far far different than being here on vacation. When you are on vacation, you spend the better part of your time relaxing on the beach, going out to eat in restaurants, having someone clean your room, and you get to go back "home" after a week or two. When you live here you LIVE here and like i said in my earlier post you have to contend with the aspects of everyday life and on an island they can be frustrating - long lines at the bank when you want to cash a check, hours if not days spent at the Motor Vehicle office trying to renew the registration on your car, shopping for groceries only to find the store ran out of what you need - the list goes on. That's why we recommend you come for a long "visit" before you make up your mind, find out which island suits your desires, really live like a local so you get first hand experience of what life is like.
Take off the rose colored glasses and keep your options open until you are completely sure island life is for you. Afer a year or so you'll know. When you are sure then it will be time to start your own business. FYI - it helps to have "deep pockets' or at the very least a sizable nest egg to tide you over until your business beggins to turn a decent profit.
Good Luck in following your dream.
Another reason to just work in the type business you want to own is that the economy is bad & a lot of places are closing. Utilities are ridiculously high & getting the permits, etc. is no cakewalk. No matter how much you may know the bar business where you are, it's a different game down here. So if you're hot to trot to move here, go ahead, but in my opinion you're better off seeing how much you love it as an employee until you understand how things work.
Move to the VI and start your business. Work hard and enjoy life. If it doesn't work out change the plan. It is people like yourself that have come here and succeeded against all odds and the well intentioned advice of others that make the VI a more interesting place. It isn't for everyone and it may not be for you buy you will never know unless you give it a fair try and why regret not trying it while you are young.
Benefit Mix! It's an old term, but basically means take advantage of your time working for someone else. Without knowing your personal situation, I can only respond to the norm. Right out of college, limited experience (argue, if you want, you're only 21?), funds could go either way, but if you had to work for what you have, or you inherited from someone who did, then be careful what you do with it.
You have had some good advice and some bad, from what I've read here. You are an adult. If you are serious, you will get yourself down here full-time, and begin the networking, starting with a job in the business, then, the very arduous process of meeting legal requirements and all of the other issues of running a service industry business (in an area not known for customer service). IMHO, if you start up a business without the "benefit mix", you are setting up for failure.
Restaurants / bars fail in the first year. I don't keep up with stats, but it used to be that the third owner made money. Be the third owner, not the first.