How I Started A $1.5K/Month Side Business Helping People Relocate To Costa Rica

Published: April 11th, 2021
Marcia Solis
Founder, Send me South
Send me South
from Dulce Nombre de Jesús, San José Province, Vásquez de Coronado, Costa Rica
started January 2012
market size
avg revenue (monthly)
starting costs
gross margin
time to build
720 days
growth channels
Direct sales
business model
best tools
Google Drive, WordPress, Google Analytics
time investment
Side project
pros & cons
39 Pros & Cons
2 Tips
Discover what tools Marcia recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Marcia recommends to grow your business!
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hello! My name is Marcia Solis and I run Send me South, a company that helps people relocate to Costa Rica, Central America, since 2012.

My customers are people from all over the world. My clients make up a beautiful melting pot of nationalities. I count clients from the United States of America, Canada, England, Jordan, UAE, Belgium, and Spain.

Our customized services help our clients understand the relocation process and finally get their residencies approved. We take care of everything right from the beginning and we guide our clients so that they arrive with all the documents needed to succeed in this process. We offer a full package to make sure our clients will be satisfied and finally receive what they are looking for: their resident status in my beloved country.

Since this is a business that is mostly referred to by word of mouth, clients do not show every month. However, there is always a family coming to stay, wanting to give their children the Latin experience of learning Spanish directly in our schools, or retired people looking for the tropics to spend their golden years in our beaches and mountains.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

We began our business when we realized there was a great need of providing legal services to expats looking for a longer stay more than a vacation, and could not understand the hassle of dealing with our immigration system, plus the language barrier they had to face.

Never leave an email unanswered, even though it may be a client who will walk away.

This is a process my associate had to face, being a US citizen who came down to Costa Rica in 2010 and had to deal with our Immigration officers trying to finally get residency for him and his family. It was a very frustrating process for the intricacies it demanded from him, plus the lack of assistance he received from the authorities.

So he and his family became the guinea pigs in this process, where he finally succeeded and got their approval and all of his family had his residencies granted.

This was the moment we just said: This is a good business opportunity for helping expats have their process done smoothly through our assistance.

Even though this is not a business that generates steady income every month, the satisfaction it provides when we finally can tell our clients that their applications have been approved, this moment is priceless.

Also, the residency process not only helps expats get their cards but also, usually comes with the idea of purchasing properties and vehicles. Therefore, we decided to offer our clients the possibility to find properties and vehicles for them. This was a great success and there have been clients who have contacted us before arriving asking for vehicles waiting for them upon arrival, so we did!

The most rewarding part of this experience is the smile of satisfaction and the confident look our clients give us when we give them what they expected.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

The residency process involves several professionals to finally have them approved by our authorities, and even though Immigration has a website where the residency categories are described and listed the documents needed to apply, our authorities do not provide any type of assistance in any other language other than Spanish.

Therefore, a lot of expats find this process very difficult and frustrating, and they eventually end up spending more money than they should when trying to go through the process by themselves and end up hiring a company like SendMeSouth to help them finish the process and finally get their residency cards.

So, when it comes to advising on this process, we customize our clients' needs according to the type of residency they wish to apply for and guide them through the process until they get their cards.

So we decided the best way for having this business launched was through a website where anybody can take a look at our services and contact us.

Describe the process of launching the business.

So when our website was launched, we started to promote it through word of mouth among other expats who were already in the country willing to begin their application process to have their residencies, or perhaps looking for vehicles and or properties.

We always give our best effort and commitment to providing our customers exactly what they need and for this, we are always open to answer all of their questions so we can understand their needs and be able to provide what they need.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

This is a business where top-notch service is the key and secret to success, if someone sends an inquiry, it is answered promptly and not delayed, and if there is no possible answer in a short period of time we reply by asking for more information and tell them we are working on their questions.

This business has provided the best human relations school ever, dealing with people from all over the world opens your mind, and allows you to understand other cultures.

Never leave an email unanswered, even though it may be a client who will walk away.

On the other hand, we are not the cheapest providers, nor we are the most expensive. We try to keep our rates in a range that helps us stay in business and help our client's loyalty in the market.

We offer rates for individuals, and when it comes to families we give them discounts.

We are not in social media for a very simple reason: we are a staff of only three people and only one speaks English, therefore our client's workflow does not allow this only person to update and follow up any social media and give the proper maintenance to it.

It is better to provide our clients a customized service rather than having them on standby due to social media maintenance.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Send me South is a side business, it does not provide enough income to talk about gross margins, and its growth depends on how many people decide to choose Costa Rica as their home. Besides, this is not the only company in the country providing this same service.

This is not a business that you can say has been profitable enough to make a living. Profitable? Yes, when a client comes in, this is always profitable, for the client and for Send me South. We provide peace of mind by taking good care of our clients and SendMeSouth wins another satisfied client.

Therefore what is important here is to keep Send me South as the best option for expats to choose and have their residencies taken care of.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

This business has provided the best human relations school ever, dealing with people from all over the world opens your mind, and allows you to understand other cultures. It has been like bringing the world to our beautiful country and making the world fall in love with our beaches and mountains so much they end up staying here for life.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

I am 57 years old and you can imagine social media is not familiar to my generation but our kids, we grew up without the internet and dealing face to face with people when making business. The feeling of having your clients in front of you grants you a warm feeling of humanity, that can never be replaced by a meeting online.

We have not used any of this… this is a matter of love for your fellow neighbor and our will to help others achieve what they need.

We always try our best to step in the other’s shoes and understand their needs to provide the service they deserve.

We sell our services putting our heart on it, with the only desire of finally drawing a smile on our clients’ faces.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

We started this as a side business and it remains as a side business after eight years, and this is because we are not the only providers in Costa Rica, but also we depend on how many people decide to relocate to Costa Rica, and of course, if they decide to chose to Send me South for their relocation process. This business does not provide enough income every month to make a living out of it only. This is why we also provide other services such as car and property research and purchase.

Depending on the nature of the business and before beginning it, it is important to research enough and to learn from others' mistakes. Never put all of your money on it right from the beginning, keep some of your money for any unforeseen event, and despite the concerns and fears that you may feel, it is better to live saying: “I tried, failed and learned” rather than: “If only I have tried…” and no matter if you want to sell products or services or both, always be true to your product or service, never promise what you cannot give and give the best of yourselves no matter what.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Everybody is welcome to refer to Send me South to potential clients, we are always happy to give commission for new clients when they hire our services.

Where can we go to learn more?

Thank you very much for this opportunity of telling my story, your site is a wonderful window for entrepreneurs willing to tell their stories in a more personal way.

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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