Self employment is (not) an option

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Self employment is (not) an option

By: James Ocalia

As the shipping container with all my belongings from Holland is being unloaded, I am starting to think that it represents everything I have accomplished since 2003. My education, my carreer, marriage, house, family, memory of my friends and places I have been. All of the things I have collected during 12 years in Holland, now placed in shipping boxes ready to be unpacked at a new stage in my life.

It has been nine months since we moved back from Holland and when I tell people that, one of their first questions is, where are you working? Ofcourse I answer them that I am self employed, they pauze with a surprised look on their face and then ask me what do you do? The more this happens, the more I realize that when young professionals like me decide to move to Aruba most of us either get a job before we move back to the island or we look for a job when we are here. But there is a third option, enterpreneurship. This is the reason why I came back to Aruba. And it has been a challenge, because the perception is that when you are coming from abroad and you are starting a business you need a large capital to be able to establish yourself and deal with all the hurdles along the way.

Most of my acquaintances that are entrepreneurs now, also started with a fixed job and after a couple of years moved on to start their own business. Which is a wise thing to do because you don’t get a loan from any bank without a  fixed job, you can’t even open a bank account without a job contract and for almost any thing involving a financial contract you need to show your job contract. So the message that is being send to young professionals is that if you want to establish yourself again on Aruba you need a fixed job or you need a large capital, more than 100K which you don’t have if you are paying off your school debt.

So it makes sence to look for a fixed job first. Only in my case this causes frustration. I also tried to get a fixed job but for most job vacancies they told me that I was overqualified or too specialized. I worked at the hospital for a few months as a temporary maintenance guy but I kept feeling that I was working under my capabilities and without having any guarantees of a fixed job I decided to invest my energy in my own business regardless of the consequence. Basically my wife has a fixed job so that helps to pay the bills 😉. I mean I worked for 9 years in Holland at a prominent company, paid my debts, saved some money and made a plan before I came to Aruba. Should I put my dreams aside for an uncertain amount time only to get a fixed job, because social expectations dictates so?

In the past nine months I have been on Aruba I have published a cookbook, competed for the JCI young entrepreneurs award, spoke with local farmers, ministers and business coaches, spent some time with Joseph Simcox, gave presentations to business leaders and dynamic young entrepreneurs, started two businesses, I’ve been in featured in a newspaper article for Amigoe and I’ve just started sustainable farming at a new location. I am driven by my ambitions towards agriturism on Aruba. It is a challenge starting this concept, yet everything takes time and I am grateful to God that he takes care of me and my family.

The container is unloaded and it is definitive now, I am staying here on Aruba. Just as I planned to go to Holland I also planned to come back to Aruba. I believe in the freedom of Aruba’s independence that was fought for by Betico Croes and his backings, for me to practice that freedom means that I can be an entrepreneur and contribute to the economic climate on my own island.

Self employment is an option for every young professional that wants to come back to Aruba. My best advice is to plan, study, save your money, pay off your school debt first, set your goals, persevere and be grateful for people you meet along the way.

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