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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Setting Up Shop in Paradise

From the forthcoming book: Landscapes of  Life.
I love my work, but I'd wager a lot that this Media Guy has said, "I need a vacation...STAT!" more often than I care to admit.

Last week I recalled the last time I was at the Aruba airport. I took an Insta-Poll with a throng of  tourists returning to Anytown, USA. It seemed that everyone was lamenting the same thing: how on Earth did I make the choice to live in ____________? (Fill in the blank yourself as the cities ranged from Boston to Houston to Des Moines.) The universal them was "why couldn't I live in paradise?"

That got me thinking. Why can't the Media Guy open an office in Waikiki? After all, resort towns offer opportunity after opportunity to entrepreneurs and the self-employed. Service professionals (NO! not those kind of service professionals! I mean journalists, doctors, plumbers, consultants,etc.) can all earn a cozy living in the most desirable tourist hot-spots around the globe.

That's when I reached out to John Berglund who was once a chief county prosecutor and then transitioned into a lobbyist and trade-association executive. At the end, he left the “rat race” for his Caribbean perfumery in St. Martin. Ah, paradise.

Dreams come true, but not through wishful thinking, says John Berglund, a corporate executive turned “flip-flop perfumer.”After successful careers as an attorney, lobbyist, trade-association executive and bowling industry magnate, Berglund tired of the corporate rat race.  He was also tired of winters bundled in layers of long johns, shoveling snow.

“Everybody has their own version of paradise,” says the author of A Beach Less Traveled: From Corporate Chaos to Flip-Flop Perfumer ( “Whether it’s New York City, the Great Smokey Mountains or my personal favorite, the French-Caribbean island of St. Martin, paradise is within reach – with a little planning.”

An essential part of that was deciding what to do for a living once he got there. Berglund would embark on his new career path as a perfumer with his wife of more than 30 years, Cyndi. How did he do it? He shares the strategies that worked – and some that didn't.
  • Dream big … and do it: Berglund remembers sunning on a pristine beach with his wife, listening to the gentle sounds of wind and turquoise seawater lapping on the shore. When Cyndi heard him order an adult beverage in French, she shook his arm to wake him for the morning commute to work … in the dead of winter in Wisconsin. He was dreaming – literally. “I’d always had a high standard of living, which I’ve enjoyed, but it was time for me to risk a completely foreign scenario – in terms of business and lifestyle – and follow this dream.”
  • Business trends: Boutique perfumeries are where boutique wineries were three decades ago – they’re personal, fun and interactive, Berglund says. They’re not just about walking into a store and choosing a bottle from a shelf. He offers his customers a hands-on experience customizing their scents, and by using local ingredients, he offers visitors a meaningful souvenir of their stay. Berglund envisions his new business as a model at several vacation destinations.
  • Fortitude amid real-world challenges: A dream is the spark to the journey, but moving to St. Martin, where the natives speak French and Dutch, and starting a business takes work. The hurdles for Berglund included the search for property, anxiety on closing the property deal, remodeling, acclimating to life there, obtaining a business license, moving and the language barrier. “These problems may be deal-breakers for many people, but part of the excitement of doing anything worthwhile is the fact that it’s not easy,” he says.
  • A history of business sense: Creating an unprecedented cottage industry may seem like a long shot layered in wishful thinking. “But this isn’t my first rodeo,” Berglund says. “I’ve made several career moves throughout my life, and no matter how unlikely, I always came out okay.” He acknowledges, however, that he was in the right phase of his life to pull off such a change. Plan and prepare so you’re ready for change, he says. Risk is involved.
  • Loved ones: Even though Berglund’s children were grown and he was capable of achieving his dream, he needed to make sure Cyndi was on board. “You can do all the planning and troubleshooting that is necessary for a dream to work, but the one thing that can change the minds of the most passionate is the opposition of a loved one,” he says. “It’s worth a discussion with your family early in the planning process.”    

So lesson learned...when your return flight comes calling on your next vacation, you may want to consider turning your paradise into a new way of life.