By Merri Scott

There are so many opportunities in Import-Export in Ecuador today…but many readers have expressed doubts and fears…can they succeed? Well, here are a few stories… if I can do it so can you!

It was late in 1969. I had been studying in Continental Europe for over two years. Now, it was time to go back to the Deep South. The weather had been bad a lot during those years. My father had died. The family business that I was to enter was on very tenuous grounds. I had changed a lot, learned a lot and experienced a lot. I was determined to follow my entrepreneurial path and maintain my freedom, integrity and desires.

I had been toiling, studying and coaching in the dark, damp gray of most of Europe.

At times in breaks between studies, I would cross the Brenner Pass. Just at that moment of crossing the top of the mountain, guess what? Sunshine! Every single time. This helped formulate a plan that I did not want to miss out in my life the advantages of being a multinational…to go where life is best. (Much later of course, I married the epitome of the Multi-National Man…Gary Scott, who helped me fine tune a life of wealth, worth and wonder.)

Suddenly it was time to return to Georgia. I did not want to spend a rainy, gray winter there and yet refused to be a burden. I felt adamant that there must be a life for me that would fill my dreams, my pocketbook and my desires for the sun and sea.

Without help from others, I figured I had $500 to spare. After less than a month of research, it struck me that what I wanted was the following:

1) to make money but to help others less fortunate at the same time

2) to spend time traveling to exotic locations learning, discovering, helping

3) to be free from the daily grind, but at the same time be willing to work.

Nothing seemed to marry these desires but a whispery idea of bringing products from other countries (those I wished to experience) and selling them in my own country. I don’t think I even knew the term” import/export”.

Wrestling with all of this and seeing winter looming put me under great pressure. So, I jumped in. With one import product, I began! My first small ad (cost $499) in House and Garden magazine brought in a whopping $5000! I quickly took those profits and expanded out to other magazines: Audubon, New York Times, House Beautiful, Smithsonian, etc.

I took a bit of profit and set off for Mexico. It was a long but beautiful drive from Georgia all the way to Brownsville. What were the plans? Well, of course get down to the sun and the sea and explore as much of that country as possible. My 1968 Mercedes diesel brought back from Germany was a natural. It was rough in Mexico in those days-rough roads, rough experiences, rough maps and no signs. After putting 12,000 miles on that car inside of Mexico, I found lots and lots of opportunities.

Some very radical ideas were forming. What I expected was to find tons of products that I could bring back. What happened was that I located many  great craftsmen, excelling in wood, pottery, textiles and papier mache. However, none of their products seemed right in their appeal to my audience.

Designs popped up from nowhere. I sketched off some rough drawings. Meanwhile, although I was a language major, I was desperately trying to add Spanish! Before I knew it, there were lots of products pouring out….all I felt would be great for my markets.

The first year, profits were (for those times) a staggering $80,000! OK! Had an editor visit me from House & Garden to do editorial backup. Found an orphanage in Mexico whose children wanted to paint the designs on the nursery products. Found a chain of stores who wanted their own designs made. Discovered how to work both roads…import and export. Friends in the Yucatan desperately wanted German scissors (aha! my background there solid with contacts) and men’s cotton shirts (aha! Georgia, the largest textile manufacturer in the US at that time).

I learned to fly down with my scissors and men’s shirts and come back with loads of hand carved mahogany suns, exquisite 3′ tall handpainted papier mache nursery animals, collections of hand made cotton outfits and more and more.

After a few years, I grew restless…sold the company, took 5 years off to study and recoup. Traveled around in my 65′ yacht (complete with captain) off the shores of Florida and the Bahamas.

Then, as life would have it, I received an invitation from Baby Doc (just taken over from Papa Doc) in Haiti. Went down, had a look, was invited by the Mellons (who had devoted their life) to the Dr. Albert Schweitzer Hospital for lepers.

What a turn of events! There I fell in love with that whole colony, saw their beautiful hand made rugs and wooden items and brought back their work to America. Helped the Mellons get doctors/nurses and medicine for their projects.

Now, import and export once again became the center of my universe! The look of devotion on the faces of the badly deformed lepers when I bought everything they made! Ahh…what sweet pleasures in life…enjoying their company and laughter and getting to know the Mellons (one of America’s wealthiest) who lived in a small cottage and toiled day and night to better this forlorn country. Seeing, experiencing these people, their talents and their zest for life changed me forever. And of course enjoyed the sunshine.

I repeated the import-export plans over and over again over the next years. Every time discovering new countries, helping, traveling, making money and just being a multinational.

But that was the past. What about Import-Export for the future? Compared to the 60s and 70s starting a business today is incredibly simple and cheap. Keep in mind, I had huge expensive monthly commitments to advertisements. I had to be right month after month.

Today, I’d follow the advice of my wise husband and start up by Thinking Big and Spending Small. I’d follow my Passion to Profit. I’d get a website and/or ebay (with practically no set up costs) and begin! Today, just offer your import items on the Internet….the world can beat a path to you.

And where would I begin? There’s no thinking on that one. Ecuador, the Land of the Sun.

By chance, Gary and I were invited to go down there 12 years ago. We had really no great desires, no expectations. Who would have guessed that we would fall in love with this beautiful land?

We’ve traversed almost every inch of the country, hiked its mountains, swam in the clear seas, soaked in glorious hot waters, eaten incredible foods, lived with the indigenous, bought a hacienda with 800 acres, learned a bit of Quichua, started a foundation to help others and taken 1400 + people down there. And everywhere we go, we see opportunities of a lifetime in Import-Export.

All of this is so easy in Ecuador. First of all, the Spanish brought the Guild System from Europe. So, instead of searching all over a country like I did in Mexico (following countless leads, getting lost, getting threatened, worn out). Today just go directly to the one village that specializes in your interest.

There’s Cotacachi-leather workers, San Antonio de Ibarra-woodcarvers, Zuleta-embroiderers, Chordeleg-filigree jewelers, Bulcay-Ikat weavers, San Bartolome-guitar makers, the Paute River-sweater makers (there’s a 90 year old weaver there who wove for Gary with the colors to help him fill his mission in life!) Gualaceo-pottery makers (throwing 60 pots a day per person), Peguche-rug weavers, even Ibarra-the ice cream makers! (plus hundreds more) And of course Otavalo, the greatest indigenous market in South America.

I could go on and on and on. But the point is: Ecuador is organized. You can go to a single village and talk with dozens of people, look at their wares and pick the best- simply, easily and with a lot of fun.

Because of the machismo of the Mexicans, there were always problems for a woman down there. Also, their lack of follow through was notorious. When I lived in Quitanana Roo (this was the days when Tulum was just a sparkle in Pablo Bush’s eye), I discovered the Lebanese of Merida. The Lebanese are some of the best business people in the world. After my organization got so large, I found it was necessary to have them follow through. They controlled most of the textile industry.

In Ecuador, it is much different. The national drink is Chamomile tea…not espresso coffee. Got any ideas of the implications of this? We deal directly with the indigenous thus giving them all the money and also giving ourselves the great pleasures of knowing and being with these gentle souls. Also, the country dollarized in 2000…so there are no currency exchange worries.

There’s an infectious joyousness in these people that Gary and I have fallen in love with.

How about follow through? Let me give you a true story. A delightful client of ours went with us to the village of the wood carvers. She found in a little workroom a great French desk. This was carved in the grand 17th century tradition. Behind that desk was a small, wiry man beaming with pride. They made a deal (at an unbelievable price). The client left. She made plans to return for the table. Time went on. A year later, she called me, didn’t know the man’s name and couldn’t find the invoice.

Gary and I went to the wood carvers’ village. I had translated for her and vaguely remembered his location. I peeked in door after door and finally saw this old craftsman, diligently carving. He looked at me, burst into a smile (one year later), wiped his hands and rushed out to greet us. “Senora, your friend’s desk is ready!” He disappeared into his shop, brought out the original invoice and thrust it in my hands! The man had the desk, it was ready and was so happy that the lady would receive it.

Tell me what other country do you know like this? Import-Export is so much easier when you have organization, willing people, and a tradition of follow through. Besides nothing can be more pleasing than helping others.

What makes me recommend Ecuador? 1) multitudes of unique products 2) easy relations with craftsmen 3) easy to find craftsmen 4) good communication 5) great prices…who will make just one of anything at the same price as an order of dozens 6) excellent follow through 7) a chance to make a difference in people’s lives 8 ) a country with sunshine without heat and humidity 9) favorable import-export laws 10) an easy to reach country just 3 1/2 hours from the US.

We’ve brought forth BIRM from Ecuador, an unusual herbal product with a history of great successes. Clients and friends of ours in their mid 80s moved down, bought a farm and now export tourism! Another client came down as a single young man with nothing special in mind…discovered the superb religious art (icons, Santos) started selling artifacts over the Internet with a resounding success…but guess what else? Found a beautiful bride and now has one child with another on the way!

A well known retailer in Atlanta helped an entire village of weavers by placing orders for hand made shawls embroidered with hummingbirds (Ecuador is famous for them). Her first sale in the US was for $60,000! The opportunities are endless; the rewards divine.

Gary encourages you to follow your Passion to Profit and we hope that you will join us in Ecuador, the Land of the Sun!

Merri Scott

P.S. Focus on Import-Export with Merri and me and tour Ecuador on our Import Export Expedition.

Vendor at local market near our new home in Cotacachi Ecuador