8 Easy Steps to Starting a Successful Business in Belize
What stopped you from starting a business in the past? Perhaps you couldn’t come up with the money, there was too much competition, your marketing hook, product or service idea weren’t viable – or you just couldn’t run the legal gauntlet. Time has passed and you’re no longer in the same place. The idea of starting that business in Belize seems perfectly timed. How to go about planting your business roots in this welcoming nation? Follow our tips to morph your unique idea into a thriving enterprise.
Step #1: Do the fun stuff. Come up with a product or service idea and commit everything to paper. If you’re open to suggestion, peruse this resource for a list of businesses most likely to succeed in Belize and those most likely to fail. Determine a business address. Will you operate out of your home or rent a shop? It helps to have professionals on your team to help you get started; a realtor, lawyer, accountant and resources from which your products will be acquired in bulk lots at discounted pricing.
Step #2: Protect your idea by registering your intellectual property. Everything associated with your business should be made proprietary, including inventions, logos, symbols, designs, your business name and other intangible creations subject to theft by others who could try to imitate your business. Drop by the Belize Intellectual Property Office on the second floor of the Habet Building on Constitution Drive in Belmopan. Staff has proper forms that protect your trademarks, patents, industrial designs and/or copyrights.
Step #3: Formalize your business by registering it. This one-time process via the Companies & Corporate Affairs Registry on the Ground Floor of the Garden City Hotel Building in Belmopan is the place to go to accomplish this task. Bring a valid Social Security card for each owner or partner plus $25. Save time by visiting the website before you go. Download the forms and take them with you.
Step #4: Get your hands on start-up money. Local banks are delighted to lend money to ex-pats for start-ups as long as your credit is good. Your time in Belize could determine whether it would be more beneficial to go to an international bank to get the ball rolling. Financial products for which you may be eligible include loans, lines of credit and credit cards. The interest rates you run into to secure funding could be higher than rates at U.S. financial institutions.
Step #5: Acquire a trade license if your business involves exchanging goods and services for money. Depending upon where in Belize you set up shop, visit the Town Board or City Council to get the paperwork they require. This application for a trade license must be approved by the municipal entity requiring it and you can expect to pay an annual fee based upon rental value of the space your business occupies. Estimate 25-percent of the annual rent you’ll pay to guesstimate this annual fee.
Step #6: Apply for a work permit. Everyone in Belize seeking to make money must get one and things get more complicated since there are all sorts of work permits within the Belize legal system, thus that legal advisor you hired is likely to be an essential part of this process. Further, non-nationals can’t operate a business that hasn’t been registered under the Companies Act and/or the Business Name Act. Expect every step of this process to be tedious and lengthy, which is why you’ll need to practice the Zen of Belize Business Launches!
Step #7: Register with the Income Tax and Government Sales Tax Departments. You’ll be given a unique Tax Identification Number (TIN). If you started a business in the past, you are familiar with this process. Whether you intend to operate solo, in partnership or you’ll incorporate, your TIN must be attached to all revenues, be they cash or in-kind goods and services. Your legal and accounting team know about Belize’s Income Tax and Business Tax Act, Chapter 55 and The Social Security Act Chapter 44 of Laws that impact business owners intending to hire employees. They’ll intervene so you don’t run into trouble with the Belize Social Security Board.
Step #8: Learn to do business “Belize Style.” If you’ve come from a place where business is conducted at warp speed, expect a period of transition and readjustment. It’s not just the paperwork and bureaucracy you’ll confront; you’re also going to have to adjust to operating on “Belize time,” especially if you’re hiring folks to help you run your business. You’ll adjust. Everyone does.
And don’t forget to count your blessings once you’ve found your way through this maze. The Belize government goes further than most when it comes to incentivizing people to launch businesses that help build the nation’s economy. We wish you good luck and hope that your new enterprise is emotionally satisfying, fun and financially rewarding, too!