Working and Living in Ecuador

For those of you who do not know, I have been living in Ecuador since September of last year, over six months ago! Boy does time fly when you are having fun. I have done my fair share of traveling around the country over the last few months, including getting my PADI Open Water Diver certificate.

Unfortunately, you can’t make it without working. Trying to find a job in another country is very difficult, to say the least. My lack of fluency in Spanish does not help. Luckily for me my wife, Cristina, is a Ecuadorian native, making everything possible.

Since I am unable to get a traditional job, it allows my wife and me to focus on our entrepreneurial start-up goals! Over the past six months, we have started two drastically different companies, Shalom Cake and Harbendahl Design.

Shalom Cake is a bakery focused on cookies and cupcakes that is run out of our house. I am in charge of the baking, because I have been making and selling cookies every summer in the US since I was little, and cookies are universally desired. Cristina focuses on the marketing and sales, due to her native Spanish. It has been a delicious time testing and fine tuning different cookie, cake and frosting recipes.

The one obstacle we faced is an Ecuadorian cultural difference that did not occur to us upfront. In Ecuador there is a lack of a standardized address system, making deliveries more difficult. It is not so easy to look up directions on Google Maps, and are provided with directions that tell us to “turn at the pharmacy, make a left at the second traffic light and its the third green house on the right.” It seems like every delivery takes 30 minutes to find, but only 10 minutes to get back home. This not only dramatically increased our delivery times, but also gas expenses.

Harbendahl Design on the other hand focuses on website design and social media management. We already had several clients from the United States, before coming to Ecuador, giving us a nice portfolio to work with. Many businesses here do not have existing website, and if they do, they often look like they are straight out of 1999.

The bigger challenges with this type of work in Ecuador is two-fold. Clients do not place as high of value on having a website as they do in the United States. It is often appears to be a back burner initiative for companies we work with. If they do want a website, we are often asked for a “good” one. While it is nice to have some design independence, it is sometimes difficult to start with no ideas.

The more we worked on website and digital design, the more we realised how much we still had to learn. But that does not mean we have not created some amazing looking websites in the meantime. Check out our portfolio at www.harbendahl.com.

The initial success of Harbendahl Design peaked both Cristina’s and my interest in the digital media field, drawing us to enroll in Master in Visual and Digital Media at the IE University in Madrid, Spain starting this fall! So, my time in Ecuador seems to be short lived at this moment in my life, but it has helped shaped both my personal and professional relationship with my wife, giving us the potential for success no mater where in the world our lives take us next.

Until next time,

Steven

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