LCR: Paul, you’re the first expat I’ve met who has actually moved his manufacturing operation down here. Where are you from?
Paul: We’re both from Oregon, but we’re most recently from Washington state. I started a little manufacturing operation there by myself in 1992—22 years ago. I’m a mechanical engineer, and I make precise metal parts for special industries, like aerospace, medical, and sporting goods. I had been a manufacturer’s rep for metal parts, and just started buying specialized machines of my own to make them myself. Eventually, my moonlighting started to make more money than my sales rep job, so I quit that, and that manufacturer became my biggest customer.
LCR: Where is your manufacturing operation now?
P: It’s in Chapala. I found a 3,000 square foot warehouse near Soriana’s. That part was easy. Getting those huge machines imported was quite an ordeal, though. It was difficult to find a shipper who was willing to ship them. They’re used to shipping household goods, mostly, so this was out of their comfort zone. But the biggest problem was our customs broker. We ended up getting the machines piecemeal—probably to extract more money from us each time another part showed up. What a nightmare. I could write a book.
LCR: That’s not a bad idea. Maybe someone else could learn from your experience. Kathy, are you part of the manufacturing operation, too?
Kathy: No, not really, although I’ve certainly helped with all the logistics. My own background is programming and computer hardware and software installations. I’ve also taught computer science in grade schools and high schools for many years. And, I’ve worked as a technical writer, as well. We reached a point where we just wanted to live a different life. Not to retire, but to experience a different country. Our daughter, Lauren, had just graduated from high school, so we were all ready for new adventures. She’s here, too.
LCR: That’s great. What would she like to do?
K: She and I are going to start a bakery, and then she’ll eventually take it over. She’s enrolled in online business administration courses to learn more about running a business, and I’ll mentor her, of course. We’re sourcing all our ingredients now, and looking for a location. It’s been wonderful how welcoming and kind and helpful people have been. Our Mexican friends know people who know people, so we’ve been very fortunate.
LCR: What are you going to have for sale?
K: Well, we’ve been testing recipes every week for about a year.We’re going to have pies and cakes and cupcakes and muffins—all classic American baked goods. Recently, we’ve made cinnamon raisin bread, a 4-layer toasted coconut cake, and a chocolate sponge cake with raspberry cream filling rolled up in a roulette. Oh, and Lauren made Kahlua chocolate cupcakes yesterday. Our friends taste-test them.
LCR: Lucky friends. What else are you up to?
K: We’ve been building a house.
LCR: You guys are gluttons for punishment. How’s it going?
P: Well, they’ve just broken the ground now, and it’s been over a year. But, we’ve been through several builders in that time. We’re pretty confident now that we’ve got the right ones. We’ve learned now to write a series of contracts for various steps rather than a contract for the whole house. The current contract is for all the gray work to be done by July. We originally thought we were going to be in the house last December. That clearly didn’t happen.
K: There’s another book we could write. The main thing we’ve learned is not to be in a hurry. People should talk to a lot of people, and take their time to learn the process.
LCR: Well, best of luck to you both.