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Your best business development ideas in Panama

Hi everyone,

As a foreign entrepreneur, launching a business in Panama is a fantastic project and an exciting challenge. Some ideas are likely to succeed. Some others are promising but may not work as well as intended.

In your opinion, what kind of business or industry is likely to succeed in Panama? What kind of industry or service currently unavailable or underdeveloped in the country would meet local needs?

On the other hand, what are the most common business types foreign entrepreneurs would be eager to launch in the country but with very little chance of success?

Thank you for your insights.
Priscilla

Without a doubt, the best new business concept in Panama who time has come would be a recycling center. A state of the art all encompassing recycling center........The Brazilians wanted to do it and were ready to do it back in the Torrijos administration but both they and the refinery investers from the  U.A.E. (I believe, not sure from where) were scared off, the rumor being that the bribes solicited by govt officials were astoundingly high. Now there is supposedly a Canadian company ready to build one in Chiriqui here........They tell me its pending..........I keep asking, and keep hearing the same thing........pending...........meantime, the garbage piles up and up........like the tower of babel...........

I think the best business idea is to build apartments outside the capital for example in the province of cocle, because the new generation wants to live modern!

Colombians are already building cheap houses starting from 32k
102/month for 30 years
try to compete

24 hour emergency vet clinics
Dog boarding
Dog grooming
Chinese restaurants
Pretzel shop
cup cake shop
wine tasting bars
specialty food shops
Gardening centers
Great authentic Mexican Restaurants

Forget the good business ideas for panama. It will not work out. I know someone who had invested big time money for recycling plastic and the corrupt government in panama destroyed the business completely to favor a company from Brazil.
Only do simple businesses in Panama, hotel, restaurant, renting apartments or buying and selling land.
But my advise is for everyone, do not invest in Panama. I met so many people that failed here. Luckily my business is somehow OK, but i invested nothing then a car and a few tools. Around 10 000 Dollar, which i have recovered within 6 months.

The Brazilian recycling company who was going to set up shop here in Chiriqui, never happened for whatever reasons........Or do they have something in Panama City? The Canadians are supposed to be setting up a huge recycling center here in Chiriqui to serve the entire country........Ive got my fingers crossed, cuz like you, I know what they are up against..........

There are a lot of very successful businesses that have been started here in Panama by Expats.You need to do your homework diligently.

Sure there are successful businesses and much more that failed. And apart making money, its a very headache to work with this people here. All is slow and problematic.

@sailcompania
talk is cheap

Been living in Panama for a year now. From what I could glean from my research, there is a world of difference between the most lucrative businesses............and the ones with the least amount of "headaches"  LOL

Real estate would have been my first choice. Then maybe transportation (?).

I'm interested in opinions from those expats who currently run businesses of their own (no matter how small), as well as from those who ran some sort of business in the past. What would you say are the endeavours to avoid completely?

only locals can be realtors

I know that.

Perhaps I didn't clarify : "real estate", as in: owning apartments (or houses), and renting them out

This is the only good business without much headache in most of the countries. But you need a lot of money too.
Actually my company is doing quite well but its sometimes very difficult, especially when working with the locals.

So what is your business?

vacation rentals are not allowed

If they are not allowed, which I doubt, that is honored more in the breach since it seems to me that the vast majority of vacation rental offerings are by expats or non-residents.

SunsetSteve :

If they are not allowed, which I doubt, that is honored more in the breach since it seems to me that the vast majority of vacation rental offerings are by expats or non-residents.

My thoughts exactly   :D

why break the law in foreign lands

To earn a living?

You know that if foreigners would not do any business here the country would have collapsed long time ago and would be one of the poorest in the world.

tecnorado :

You know that if foreigners would not do any business here the country would have collapsed long time ago and would be one of the poorest in the world.

Kinda makes one wonder what these panamanians are playing at. 

I mean...........on the one hand, they need our business. For real!

On the other hand, they aren't exactly making it easy for us to create said business, are they?

(Where I come from, there's a word for that kind of "logic"  :D )

@tecnorado
taking advantage by all means is the way to go

@newbietoCA
isn't doing business in the so called first world countries the worst

Its not difficult to set up a business in panama. Its difficult to keep it running because your customer base is very small and the competition is high. Also expenses can be high, especially in panama city. You need to think well or you can lose $100 000 dollars just like this and you have not gotten anything.

tecnorado :

Its not difficult to set up a business in panama. Its difficult to keep it running because your customer base is very small and the competition is high. Also expenses can be high, especially in panama city. You need to think well or you can lose $100 000 dollars just like this and you have not gotten anything.

(a)  Customer base is small

(b) Competition is high

(c)  Panamanians are not the most hard-working people, by their very nature

(d)  corruption is rampant

(e)  general attitude to anything requiring effort and dedication, is non-existent!


The list kinda goes on and on, doesn't it?  :D

Vacation (short term) rentals are allowed if you have legal permits to do this and will charge the tourist tax for the government.  What is not allowed is short term rentals where you rent on your own with no permits.  There are some apartment buildings that do not allow it at all.

Hi all...I´ve been off and on in Panama for several years. As a licensed translator and Interpreter (who´s now desperately looking for work!) I´ve freelanced with U.S. based companies, expats, etc. who´ve tried to open, and HAVE opened, businesses here. Some of the  companies I translated and interpreted for were giant, transnational ones, willing to use up to 50M on start-up costs alone for setting shop here in Panama. Mind you, this was during the Noriega regime and on to the first part of the Endara presidency. Corruption was rampant and money was scarce so 50M was a lot of money and too much of a temptation and "extra-fees" were " required. The companies, not willing to pay the exagerated "paperwork" (read greasehand) fee, decided go somewhere else to open shop.

Now days this is not necessarily true but if you try to open, say, a medium to large size company, it would behoove you to meet the right people, woo them a little and maybe, just maybe you´ll be forgiven this significant "fee".

The best type of business to open here, if your finances are good enough - to the tune of 100,000.00 on the inside - would be a customer service or technical service call center. Panama has a "special processing area" law that includes call centers, industrial, technical and other international outfits who want to set up shop in Panama. This law allows for a lot of petpeeve´s for the company and serves as a safety harbor as far as U.S. Taxes are concerned (this has changed somewhat recently). True enough, as I read on one of the posts, there are constant power and internet outages all throughout Panama BUT this is easily solved with a big enough generator (part of the 100K startup cost), and you CAN get very high speed and bandwith internet services either locally or get this service directly from the States (without additional cost) and set up a significant number of work stations for your customer service reps, etc.

If, on the other hand, you want to open a small business, say a B&B, something that´s not that outlandish, low cost but with good chance of success then, in most cases, all it would take is to befriend your local constables (corregidores) and set up your local municipal tax payments and most likely they will not bother you AND you can make a profit. By "befriend" I don´t necessarily mean to grease their hands, but treat them to some meals, wine, sand and sun every now and then and that´s that.

Of course, there ARE a lot of technicalities that you have to think about, hurdles to jump, business techniques (i.e. promotion and marketing) that would be too long to discuss here. The point is that you CAN open up a business in Panama and turn a profit  if you´re willing to go thru the trouble, time  and, to be honest, often frustrating process of opening your business here.

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