Look Before You Leap: Opening up a business in Tamarindo by Rob Goodell


More than ever before people are contacting us in Costa Rica, interested in permanently moving here and starting a business. To assist those of you that would like advice regarding taking the big leap and becoming one of the many expats who own businesses here and now call this beautiful country home, I interviewed someone who has been successful at doing just that. His name is Ben Zeigler and he is the owner of the best sports bar in Tamarindo, Sharky’s. Ben first moved here 10 years ago on a sabbatical and realized after a while he needed to start making money again. He opened a successful tour agency, which he eventually sold and that business is still prospering today.

The first question I asked Ben was, “What advice would you give to someone that was considering starting a business in Costa Rica?”

Without hesitation, Ben told me, “Do your homework. Go to the place you think you want to be and live there for 3 to 6 months and ask the people who live there if there is a need for the business you are considering starting up especially if it is a business that does not currently exist in the area.” Sounds like basic common sense but the majority of the people who he has seen fail here through the years just “jump in” without doing their homework.

When asked why his business has done so well through the years (even after Sharky’s burned down in November of 2010), his answer was “Hard work is something under estimated. This market is very competitive. The dream people have about coming to Costa Rica and starting a business is that you live here, hire a staff, let them do the work and still be on vacation. You can’t come here and ‘half-ass’ it anymore. ” He also told me that for every obstacle that you are happy you don’t have to deal with in The States, there will be a totally new and different one to overcome here, its just different headaches.

To sum it up Ben says, ” Look before you leap, do your homework, realize quitting is not an option and you can be resilient and get through anything.”

I would like to thank Ben for taking the time to sit down with me and answer a few questions. Next time you are in Tamarindo, check out Sharky’s where you can have a cold drink, some delicious food (best burger I’ve had in Costa Rica, tasty Buffalo Wings and real Beef Hebrew National hot dogs!) and watch your favorite sports events on their giant 30’x18′ white screen and four LCD’s where you can see up 7 sporting events at one time. Karaoke Tuesday is always a blast as well as Saturday Ladies 80’s where ladies drink for free while rocking out to 80’s hits.