How to Start a Business in Chile

Posted By Gerardo ( on 31/01/2014

This is a guest post from James Jones, travel blogger for My Travel Guide Posts.

Chile is one of the best places in South America to live as an expatriate, invest money, own Real Estate and start a business. The following article is intended to inspire and guide expatriates on the process and requirements needed to start a business in Chile:

1. Recognise a niche

Before setting your mind on what business to start up in Chile, consider the following:
  • Research how competitive the market is
  • Get to know the expat community
  • Build trust with local people that will be of help to your business (i.e. electricians, builders, etc) 
  • Learn the local culture and customs
  • Learn Spanish
Also, when identifying a business niche, it is important that the business will be of benefit or interest to the expat and local communities. Always keep in mind how your new business will impact (help) the local people, and develop a good healthy relationship with the locals.

Whichever business niche you pick, make sure it is something you are actually interested in or are passionate about.

2. Business niches ideas 

Here it is some business ideas to start a business in Chile that targets the expatriate and local communities:

  • Restaurant
  • Physiotherapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Import business (i.e. coffee, cars, etc)
  • Speciality shops
  • Aromatherapy
  • Surf shop
  • Hostel
  • Scholarship programs
  • Yoga, Pilates or Gym class
  • Winery
  • Fishing tours
  • Coffee Shop
  • Care taker
  • Teaching English
  • Tour-transport business
A couple of good examples of expat businesses and why they are successful overseas are “PURE Gym and Spa” in Nicaragua and Kelly’s Expat Shop in the Netherlands.

“Pure Gym and Spa” is based in Granada, Nicaragua and stands out from the local competition by offering a spa, gym, yoga classes and a scholarship program for local mothers. 

Kelly’s Expat Shop is based in The Hague and appeals to the English and American expat community because the shop sells favourite brands of products that English and American expats would recognise back home.

3. Starting a company

Chile has, without a doubt, been one of the easiest and cheapest places in Latin America to start a business. Typically it takes 3-5 weeks to start a company at a cost of roughly $650. 

However, as of early last year the Chilean government passed down a new law which cut-down much of the bureaucracy associated with a starting a business in Chile, which means you can now start a new business online at no cost.

The online form to start a business in Chile can be accessed via Chile’s Ministry of Economy (Ministerio de Economía de Chile) website.

4. Reaching out to the expatriates

Aside from relying on word of mouth referrals, an advertising campaign will be an important part of your business strategy.

You will need to identify ways to reach the expatriate community in Chile, which typically includes retirees, young office workers, backpackers, students and corporate managers from places such as America, Britain, Germany, Canada, Spain, France and Argentina. 

Whether the expat community is predominantly English speaking or not, you can still promote your business by reaching directly to them at the places where expats meet in Santiago de Chile.

You can also promote your business thru online websites such as International Living and The Santiago Times, which is an English language daily digest of Chilean news. 

5. Get an accountant & lawyer

Chilean laws are ever-changing and can be complicated to understand. Therefore, hiring a local account and lawyer who are familiar with the laws in Chile is a must whether you plan to start a physical business or an internet-based one. 

A lawyer will keep you out of legal trouble, while an accountant will help with every aspect of setting up and running your business such as:
  • Reducing your tax bill
  • Getting the best tax structure for your business
  • Keeping track of invoices
  • Registering with the tax office - Servicio de Impuestos Internos (SII).
  • Getting a working license from the municipality
  • Applying for licenses 
  • Zoning laws

6. Apply for a permanent residency visa

Before starting up a new business venture, you will want to become a Chilean resident first so you can enjoy the same benefits and rights as a Chilean citizen, which include:
  • Being able to apply for loans and mortgages
  • Being allowed to drive a car
  • Having access to a bank account and credit
  • RUT ( a.k.a. tax payer ID)
  • Not being deported if you break the law
  • Vote (only after 5 years of residency)
Tip. It is easier and cheaper to obtain a permanent Chilean residency when you start a new business in Chile.

About the author

James Jones is a travel blogger for My Travel Guide Posts. He has been travelling since 2008 and has been trekking in the Amazon jungle, hiked the Inca Trail, toured Bolivia’s salt flats and surfed Totoralillo Beach – one of the prettiest beaches in Chile.