The second episode of the centralamerica.com podcast where we speak to Rob Stirr, aka The Sausage Guy about running a small expat business in Costa Rica.
You might know this already by now, but we’ve jumped on the bandwagon and started a podcast.
The idea is to talk to interesting people in Central America doing interesting stuff, whether they’re a local, an expat, or a visitor.
In this second episode, we chat to Robb Stirr, a Canadian expat in Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica, who’s building a remarkable business called The Sausage Guy, that’s kept on growing despite the pandemic. And he’s done virtually entirely through word-of-mouth on Facebook groups.
My interview style in this second episode still leaves a lot to be desired, I’ll admit it. And also, we had some technical problems in this podcast, where Rob’s internet froze a couple of times.
That’s life in Costa Rica sometimes, but we apologize anyway. Please don’t let my style or the couple of short gaps due to tech problems get in the way of an interesting chat with a very interesting guy.
Whether you’re a fan of sausages or not, Rob’s insight into finding a niche and creating a viable expat business is worth listening to.
Please find the podcast below:
When Rob and Joanne came to Costa Rica in 2018, they expected to live out their lives in blissful retirement on the beach.
What they didn’t expect to do is start up one of Costa Rica’s coolest little micro-businesses, producing, selling, and distributing some of the finest artisanal sausages you’ll find anywhere, let alone Costa Rica.
Something many expats miss when they come to Central America are some of the creature comfort food of home. Don’t get me wrong, the food down here is great. I’m a fan of Costa Rican food. But you know, you can always miss something.
For me, it’s cheese. Good cheese in Costa Rica is hard to come by. It’s an expat gripe. I’ll admit it’s a lot better than it used to be, and there are more quality cheesemakers popping up around the country.
Things have progressed from back in the day, when the only cheese you could get was that white tasteless stuff you could bounce off a wall and squeaked when you ate it.
Nowadays, you can find good cheese, but it’s still a mission, and it’s not cheap.
Enough of me and my cheese. For Rob, it was decent Italian sausages that he missed.
He was living in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, and he couldn’t find a good quality Italian sausage worth the name for love nor money.
So instead of settling for the local chorizos (which Rob says aren’t all that bad), he decided, like you do, to make his own.
Back in Canada, he made a few kilos of sausages a couple of times a year, so on one of his trips home, he brought his grinder down and got to work.
He started making Italian sausages – sweet, mild, medium, and hot – and giving them away to some of his neighbors in the condo where he lived. Someone suggested he set up a stall at the Playas del Coco Sunday feria, and by early 2019 The Sausage Guy was born.
Rob spent 2019 honing his craft, perfecting his Italian sausages, adding in his breakfast patties, selling them at the Playas del Coco feria, and expanding out to other Guanacaste ferias like the Flamingo Monday Night Market and the Tamarindo Night Market on Thursdays.
Very soon, he was working various ferias around Guanacaste, and The Sausage Guy was a full time concern with a loyal following and an expanding range of products.
Then 2020 happened. You know, the pandemic that changed everything and everyone’s lives all over the world.
For Rob, it meant the end of the ferias. He still had word-of-mouth business in Guanacaste, but now he decided to get onto social media.
He reached out to Nel Cameron, a fellow Canadian, who runs a Facebook group called Cooking in Costa Rica.
“I can’t remember where I first saw his ad,” says Nel, who normally doesn’t allow advertising in her group.
“I decided to let it go as he was providing a service. It wasn’t a shop that was at one end of the country and unavailable to most, he delivers everywhere. That’s a service!”
It was Nel who told me about The Sausage Guy in the first place, over beers one Sunday in her backyard. She raved about him, in fact. Coming from her, one of the Costa Rica expat community’s major foodies, you know when she says a product is good, it’s good.
“And besides,” she continues, “After trying his products, and finding out how great they were, I encouraged him. Now he has his own page. He advertises on Canadian Expats too… he’s Canadian and offering a service. Really good one too. He’s a good guy.”
Rob’s Facebook ads on Nel’s groups led to recognition all over Costa Rica.
Turns out there are plenty of expats who miss decent sausages. Despite the pandemic, his business exploded.
Now he and Joanne spend their time driving all over Costa Rica delivering quality sausages to expat communities. He visits San Jose, Dominical, Puerto Viejo, Santa Teresa, and elsewhere.
His story is super-interesting to me, because it’s a story about finding a niche. So many potential expats thinking of coming to Costa Rica or elsewhere get stuck on what to do.
Lots of businesses fail, but Rob proves that if you can find a niche, find something – no matter how “out there” it might be – that people want, and pour your passion into it with a great product, then you can create something good.
The Sausage Guy has become a real business employing real people, which, given the collapse in tourism in Guanacaste over the past year, is a fantastic thing for the community where Rob lives. He hopes to continue hiring as the business expands and we wish him the best of luck.
Oh, and thanks in advance for the British bangers!
Please find the podcast at the top of this page and again below.
James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.