john berglund of tijonMany people spend a tropical vacation on an idyllic island and wish they could move there forever. That dream usually fades somewhere between the flight home and the first day back at work. That’s not true for John Berglund and his wife Cyndi. They made the dream happen, moving from the States to St. Martin, escaping corporate America to start a perfume business, Tijon. Berglund chronicles the story in his book, “A Beach Less Traveled.” Moving to paradise took years of planning and there were more than a few snags along the way. Tijon is now a thriving business in Saint Martin, earning rave reviews on Trip Advisor for its perfume classes in which customers can create their own personalized scents.

The latest move for Berglund and his family is establishing Tijon in U.S. His daughter Rachelle will be running that store which recently opened. We asked John about the book, the new store, and island life:

1) Your book details both the joys and frustrations of starting a business on an island paradise. If you had to do it all over again would St. Martin still be your first choice?

Yes, without hesitation. While there were frustrations, and some remain in doing business in St. Martin, the positives clearly outweigh the negatives. The weather is beautiful and the people there are most welcoming.

As an added note, my wife Cyndi and I met in Minneapolis while I was home from law school in San Diego. She later visited me in San Diego and, after marriage, we often visited there. Cyndi has always expressed a desire to live in San Diego, and that was a driving force in opening our 2nd shop there, in addition to our daughter living there. But after spending two months in San Diego getting the shop ready, Cyndi told me she was happy to be back “home” in St. Martin. I guess we have both now transitioned to island life.

2) You took the opposite route from many business owners, establishing a business abroad first and then in the US, what are the difference between doing business in La Jolla and in St, Martin.

Our route is truly unusual. The differences are two-fold: The first is in relation to the business license and fees, and both have difficulties but in different ways. San Diego had more hoops to jump through, but the hoops were clearly defined unlike in St. Martin. Both have applicable rules and regulations but there is little enforcement in St. Martin. San Diego has more fees and taxes.

The other difference relates to our marketing efforts. In St. Martin, whose economy is 80% tourist based, each week there is typically a new set of tourists/customers that we need market to. In San Diego, while we similarly market to tourists there, there are two million people within the county; meaning that if someone enjoys their experience at Tijon and tell their friends, their friends are in a proximity to visit our shop. In St. Martin, when the tourists go home and tell their friends about Tijon, their friends may never have the opportunity to get to St. Martin.

3) Your daughter is running the store in La Jolla, what made her decide to join the family business?

She had extensive travel requirements in her sixty plus hour corporate position and, although she loved the company, she was getting a bit tired of the travel. After about eighteen months of trying I finally convinced her to partner with her mother and I. Right before she was to give notice, they did offer her a nice promotion and a raise, but she stuck to her decision.

4) Will this be your last store or do you foresee more expansion for Tijon?

We’ve had many customers at Tijon St. Martin suggest that the shop would be a wonderful addition to their community, which in part, is why we decided to try a shop in San Diego. If it works out in San Diego, and if we can document appropriate systems and procedures, we will consider additional locations. Although if we do, I’ll likely leave most of those challenges to my daughter and her husband, who is self-employed with an MBA from Stanford. Island life beckons.

5) Your perfume classes seem to be one of the most popular things about Tijon, Why do you think this resonates with people so much?

Perhaps a few reasons: interactive events are popular these days, whether it be cooking classes, pottery classes or whatever as it combines entertainment with education. Additionally, everyone recognizes some type of celebrity perfumes (JLo, Brittany Spears, Michael Jordan) and never thought they could have their own branded perfume, which Tijon offers.