5 Best Islands for Starting a Business in 2016

July 29, 2015

The cafe you’ve dreamed of? Open it now.

Best Islands to Open a Business | Ambergris Caye Belize
Ambergris Caye, Belize Shutterstock

When you run a business, you’re in the thick of everyday life no matter where you are; on this island, that means bikes on the beach and cold beer at sunset. An accommodating bureaucracy and active expat culture (think customer base and community) ease the process of setting up shop. Land and building materials are reasonably priced (of course, they’re somewhat higher on the island). Belize pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar (at two to one), which makes ex- change predictable. The setting makes the work worthwhile.

Jamaica Shutterstock

Sweat equity is a real equity. Jamaica for business might be a surprise, but an entrepreneur-friendly government and (relatively) streamlined licensing requirements speed the launch process. Expat owners of record studios, eco-lodges, restaurants and ships know this island country offers something special for those willing to invest and yes, sometimes literally sweat. Residents and visitors, employees and customers demonstrate a contagious Jamaican trait — loyalty. It’s not easy to start a business on any island, but it’s worth the work.

Best Islands to Open a Business | Maui Hawaii
Maui, Hawaii Shutterstock

Walking on the beach at Wailea and paddling a board out of Maliko Gulch east of quaint Paia are even better when you’re invested in the place behind them, selling goods or services you believe in to your neighbors (aka friends). A start-up-friendly culture and a pronounced preference for locally owned businesses give Maui an entrepreneurial atmosphere. Artists, bakers, growers — lots of people here are working at what they love. Call that inspiration. Surfing, dancing at a friend’s luau, hiking an ancient volcano — call that your day of.

Best Islands to Open a Business | Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Shutterstock

Doing business forces you to engage with the locals. This island’s diverse resident population and high visitor numbers mean potential commercial niches are myriad. Surf shop, coffeehouse, photo studio, excursion guide, interpreter — let your passion be your job. Advantages for business include a bilingual workforce (with lower labor costs than the mainland), good infrastructure, and the same legal system as the United States. For business purposes, it is the United States — and also a tropical island.

Best Islands to Open a Business | Whidbey Washington
Whidbey Island, WA Shutterstock

Drive down this long island of forests and fields and you’ll see a string of locally owned small businesses — wineries, cafes, boutiques — not to mention the steady stream of day-trippers who patronize them. (Although a trip to bucket-list-worthy Deception Pass might be a good enough reason to close up shop early one day.) Accessible from mainland Washington by bridge and ferry, the isle suffers few of the supply drawbacks of oceanic islands. And it’s alluring, with views across to the Olympic Peninsula.


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