How to Start a Business in Mérida in 5 Easy Steps

Start a Business in Mérida by opening a yoga studio

While there are many people who choose to wait for retirement to move to Mexico, there are many others who want to move sooner rather than later. If you are like me, still working and creating, you may be exploring what you can do once you move to Mérida. Of course, you may already be a digital nomad or remote worker. But what about completely starting over? Does this sound scary or exciting? For me, the thought of starting completely over was actually both scary and exciting. I knew I wanted to start a business in Mérida.

Being an entrepreneur since the age of 12, I knew I would find a niche that needed to be filled once I arrived in Mérida. And guess what?  You’re now reading the niche I found; furnishing articles full of resources, information, advice and wisdom . . . all in one place. Ready to begin researching your new business idea?

This article was updated in August of 2023.

First, learn how to establish a legal business

To establish a legal business, you will need a visa. Certain financial requirements will dictate if you qualify for a temporary visa or a permanent visa. The requirements can change, so I highly recommend researching this information when you are ready to apply for your visa.

In a nutshell, a temporary resident visa is for one to four years. You apply for the first year and then apply annually after your first year or you may apply for the remaining three years. After the expiration in four years, you are eligible for permanent residency.

Undoubtedly, a permanent visa is self-explanatory. If you qualify, you can skip straight ahead and apply to be a permanent resident.

Whether you apply for temporary or permanent will depend upon the investments, income, savings, and assets you have for a given period of time. It is best to check this website for up to date information once you research what type of visa you qualify for.

If you plan on working in Mexico, even if it is for yourself, you will need a work permit. The only exception is if you are offering online services only. Gaining permission to start working in Mérida Mexico is straightforward.

Work permits are granted to people who are sponsored by companies in Mexico. Another way to obtain a work permit is through foreign companies with operations in Mexico.

The good news? If you have a specific skill set, it will be relatively easy to get a work permit. Particularly, one that is in short supply. Moreover, you cannot legally work without a visa and a work permit issued by the Institute of Immigration (INM). Have we got that straight?

A word of caution!

Some foreigners choose to work on a casual basis:  a little job here or there.

Casual work translated is working without proper permission, otherwise known as illegally.

Immigration service does not turn a blind eye to this as they have in the past.

But here’s another problem. Occasionally, foreigners set up a business as cash only. Spot checks are carried out in cash-heavy businesses OR if immigration gets wind of you doing business.

Unfortunately, businesses can be reported if someone thinks the business is not running a legal operation or if they feel like business is being taken away from locals. Expect a visit by the police and potential deportation if you are caught.

The solution? Keep it legal, above board, and obey the rules!

Newly remodeled retail shop to Start a business in Mérida Mexico

Opening a specialty shop might be a dream . . .

Second, obtain professional certifications to showcase expertise

Effectively, certifications provide evidence of invested time, dedication to the process, and knowledge of the subject matter.

So yes, potential clients may inquire about your qualifications. Becoming certified is a way to exhibit your comprehension and skills.

Beyond that, you may want to explore becoming certified in multiple aspects. Some universities and colleges offer online programs for these types of studies.

More importantly, investigate your competition. What are they doing or not doing? Do you see any way to improve their process or offer different services?

In any case, being certified elevates you to a completely different level. You are exhibiting your expertise and commitment to the process. Just imagine once your business is certified, it also proves that a rigorous set of standards has been met and established for the betterment of the clients.

And another thing, because you have invested the time, energy, and effort to become certified, your clients may feel more comfortable with a sense of satisfaction and commitment when you decide to start a business in Mérida.

English lessons for Spanish speakers to Start a business in Mérida Mexico

Teaching English may help locals get a better job . . . 

Third, create a business plan based on research and feedback

Bear with me, because I’m going to show you how this may be the most important information on How to Start a Business in Mérida in 5 Easy Steps. Scroll down to the end for my Ultimate Business Plan Template  (or just click on the link if you don’t feel like scrolling ;-))

Without a doubt, the majority of your time should be spent focused on the following:

  1. ASSUME nothing! Don’t assume what you think people want. ASK them!
  2. Find out what is lacking in the current environment. Not all businesses are the same. Is there a niche you can fill? Another service you can offer that will enhance your service or offerings?
  3. Create an outline with information on what you’d like to achieve and then test it with your proposed target market.
  4. Utilize social media such as Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, and online forums such as Quora. Scour these groups to collect information. Do you see any trends? Requests? Complaints?
  5. Talk to as many people as you can about their experiences and for their recommended resources. If they have experience with a similar business or service, ask them about the pros and cons. What could have been done better? Did they find things that were a waste of time? Was there anything special they learned or accomplished? Ask them to share their AHA moments.
  6. Do your homework to understand as much as you can, upfront. This will save you so much energy and time in the long run.

When you have all of this information compiled, list the pros and cons. Focus your attention to answer objections or create new opportunities. Ask yourself, why your proposed business will work and also why it won’t work. Going through this exercise will help you tremendously. Playing devil’s advocate reveals your weak spots that you can then strengthen.

There’s a way for you to enlist the help of a trusted advisor for this part of the process. Have them sign a simple non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. By all means, protect your concept and intellectual property as you start a business in Mérida.

Once you’ve exhausted your research and resources, begin to carefully craft your curriculum and objectives. Keeping in mind, this can change and shift over time.

For example, let’s say that your research has shown that another part of the city could support a yoga studio. What makes yours different than others? Are the people in that particular area interested in taking yoga classes? Include all of this in your business plan to review, revise and help you formulate the best case scenario.

Start a business in Mérida such as offering Music lessons and instruction

You may find a need for different types of music instruction . . .

Fourth, find creative ways to promote your business 

Did you know Mexico has the largest population of U.S. ex-pats anywhere in the world?  Many retirees focus on beach living or small, local destinations. Mérida is a hidden gem for numerous reasons. It is a big city with a small-town feel. If you don’t know by now, Mérida is a well-kept secret. It is also the safest city in Latin America and the second safest city in North America.

But here’s another secret, you may not know.  While more and more foreigners are moving to Mérida for retirement, the reality is many of them still want to work or be engaged in regular activities. While retirement means free time, the one thing that will never happen in Mérida is boredom. Options, decisions, choices, activities, museums, tours, you name it….. A plethora of things to do await!

Why not start a business that focuses on activities for retirees? Do you know what the ex-pat community is like in Mérida? If not, I highly recommend scouting it out. A good place to start is the Mérida English Library. Events, tours, and educational programs created to benefit ex-pats. Another resource is ex-pat groups on Facebook, namely Mérida Coffee Club. After all, who doesn’t like coffee?

You will also find more Facebook ex-pat groups. Whether you are conducting research or already living in Mérida, these groups provide a wealth of resources and information. Multiple resources and activities offer ways to connect with others to tell them about your business; think networking. You will be networking with people in the community promoting your business.

Make it happen! Reach out to anyone and everyone you know and who people in your community know. Once they connect with you, more than likely they will look you up online. 

This requires your online presence and profile are current. Ensure they speak to your passion for why you started this business and how it helps people aka potential clients. Have a clear understanding of messaging, what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. When appropriate ask and answer questions. Get involved in discussions where you can offer expertise as you start a business in Mérida.

Did you know that by providing information, you will be looked at as an authority? The more information you give, the more rewards you will gain. Consider partnering up with other local businesses. Create win-win alliances to benefit all involved. You may be able to promote your business via a flyer in local coffee shop. In return you can promote their shop as well as social media posts.

Everyone loves a discount. Consider adding a discount program such as a half-price Thursday, etc. This is a great way to notify people of your services as well. Think outside the box and consider creating an Airbnb experience (if applicable) or other platforms to reach as many people as you can.

So stick with me here if you are considering a physical location. Namely, be patient, take your time, and move slowly.

You’ll realize more stress occurs from making quick decisions without having all the pertinent information at hand. Many times, people want to rush you about making a decision a location. They may tell you others are looking at the property or give you a deadline in which to make a decision.

If your gut is telling you to wait, then trust your gut. Don’t feel rushed or pressured to make a decision.  Spend time in the area, visit the local grocery or market, and observe the people in the general vicinity. Do you feel this is an area where you will be able to come and go with ease and convenience? You want your clients to feel the same.

Interior design business in Merida Mexico

Enjoy interior design? Try it in Mérida . . .

Fifth, listen to feedback for improvements 

Moving to another country means adapting to a new culture and a new way of life. A new culture can mean difficulties and challenges such as service expectations, follow up, responsiveness, and conflict resolution. Cultural differences between Mexico and other parts of the world can be quite vast. Life moves at a much slower pace; thinking pre-internet will give you a good frame of reference.

Create a way to receive feedback from your clients. Consider an assessment at the end of each meeting, at the end of each level or other areas of development. Having benchmarks is important for any type of business. If you choose to ask your clients to complete a survey, don’t make it too long or too complicated. The client should be able to fill it out in 2 – 3 minutes. You can also use it for testimonials to put on your website or Facebook page!

From personal experience, I have found that offering a scale system for feedback works best. Here is an example of a questionnaire I used in my business (I’ve adapted some of the language for this article). Our goal is to create a great experience for you in a way that is both impactful and memorable. Your feedback is important. Continually improving our systems and processes helps others too. Since I’ve used yoga previously, I will stay in the same thought process for the sample survey.

Please answer the questions below according to the following scale:
1 completely disagree – 2 disagree – 3 neutral – 4 agree – 5 completely agree

  1. Your knowledge of yoga has increased vs. where it was when you began.
  2. The teacher exhibited expert knowledge in yoga.
  3. The teacher was helpful, patient and respectful.
  4. The format of the classes was understandable.
  5. There was enough time in each class for learning, understanding, and questions.
  6. The location was easy to find.

Please include advice, recommendations, wisdom, or a testimonial that would help others:

As you start a business in Mérida, you already have many tools in your business toolbox ready for you to use!

Sewing classes can be a good way to start a business in Merida Mexico

Sewing classes create community connections . . .

Your business involves 9 important components

When you start a business in Mérida, it’s just like starting a business anywhere with a few exceptions. Here is a simple breakdown to help your business juices flowing:

  1. Conduct research and planning
  2. Include your findings in a business plan
  3. Research tax implications
  4. Comply with local regulations
  5. Establish a legitimate business
  6. Adjust your plan as needed
  7. Launch your business
  8. Promote, promote, promote your business as many ways as possible
  9. Network, involve other business and help each other share

The moral of this story? To get to the fun part of the business, ensure you have these important components in place. It will save you headaches, anxiety, and even money.

With this in mind, keep up to date with any changes, hiring regulations and other necessary laws to help you run a legal business.

Floral design business in Merida Mexico

Floral design can be a great business – what is the niche? 

Immerse yourself in the culture of Mérida

The fact is conducting business in another country means adapting to a new culture and a new way of life. A new culture can mean difficulties and challenges such as service expectations, follow up, responsiveness, and conflict resolution.

Consequently, cultural differences between Mexico and other parts of the world can be quite vast. Life moves at a much slower pace; thinking pre-internet will give you a good frame of reference.

My best advice to adapt to the culture? Be patient with yourself and others, observe first before reacting, and learn the nuances and adjust as best you can.

Odds are that with the number of English speaking ex-pats in Mérida, the need for a specialty business is greater than in other parts of Mexico.

Even though Mérida is a tourist destination, there are still cultural differences in customer service. It should be noted what we know and what we are used to can be lost in translation in Mexico.

Interestingly enough, one of the first things I learned when I moved to Mérida was the meaning of mañana. In Texas, mañana means tomorrow. In Mérida, mañana means not today.

You will find those who are intent on creating and maintaining a high level of communication, service, and best practices. You will also find those who just “get by” as well as others who are a combination of both extremes.

Here’s the secret. Getting used to how things work in Mérida, including the culture, is a big benefit.

In most cases, Yucatecan people are extremely respectful. The last thing they want to do is offend anyone. Be cognizant if you don’t get your answers for some of your research questions quickly. Sometimes, you will hear “yes” when the real answer is “no”.

Quilting lessons and shop in Merida Mexico

Teaching quilting using local fabrics and colors can soothe souls . . .

Final Thoughts on How to Start a Business in Mérida

So what does all this mean? The likelihood of success increases exponentially owning your own business. Self-employed people report being the most satisfied.

The biggest advantage? You work in a relaxing and beautiful environment with a lower cost of living.

You have many people you can ask for insight, wisdom, and introductions.  That’s how you can find all the information you need.

To sum up, remember the following:

  1. You still have to file taxes with the U.S. IRS (or your home country).
  2. You’ll also have to file taxes with Mexico with different tax laws.
  3. Different banking practices; do your homework to avoid surprises.
  4. You can drive in Mexico with the license from your home country
  5. Carry copies of your passport and residency card with you at all times.

Develop your cultural intelligence by understanding the cultures and being open to different perspectives on life. Welcome to Mérida where you can start a business and find freedom because everyone is welcome here.

From rehabbed colonial homes to a more local feel south of The Downtown, you’ll find the bright colors of The White City of Mérida where strangers greet you in the street…what could be better?