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My Biggest Business Failures in Thailand

While I'm not trolling the online dating sites I'm busy dreaming up new business ideas. Starting a business online or offline anywhere in the world can be a challenge and while I like to talk up my successes not everything I've done has been a gold mine. In fact I've had more failed business ideas in Thailand than I really care to list and that's OK because if you aren't failing you aren't winning. Two of my favorite and most memorable Business failures was the donut shop and the eBay listing and management software.

Mr Churro Donut

Unless you speak Spanish, live in the USA or have been to Disneyland you might not know what a churro is. For me it's the best tasting donut ever eaten! I thought I saw some potential in the Churro here since Thai's love donuts they might like this also. So we tested them in a test market and they sold out and were a huge success and things just grew from there. Before you knew it we had 5 donut mobiles driving around Chiang Mai plus a retail shop. Ultimately the enterprise didn't work after a few years of trying mostly due to the high cost of fuel and electricity, but it was a fun business and even though it didn't work out as planned I think I learned more Thai during this period than at any other stage and most importantly how to get a Thai University girl from the ground floor to the top floor. Actually this website was created while I sat eating donuts at the shop so I guess you could say it was worth pursuing.

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”― Thomas A. Edison

Mr Lister Pro

I only just realized that two of my favorite business failures of mine both had the "Mr" name in them so from now on I'm never naming any business or product with a Mr in them ever again. When I first landed in Thailand I had two ideas, first was to build an eBay business quickly which I became very successful at, and then there was Mr Lister. In 2008 there wasn't any easy to use warehouse management systems for small businesses that could actually manage their own warehousing. So before moving to Thailand I created a website solution that could track shipping, print labels, track customers, etc etc. I had it translated to Thai so I could get any Thai chick to print a label and go to the post office so pretty much the whole eBay system was automated. It was a great system....for me. The problem with trying to market this product to other people is everyone was using eBay in different ways, a different country, with different shipping, with different warehousing techniques, and then there was the threat that eBay would just start building these services right into their site (which most of it they eventually did) so while the site did what it needed for me I honestly just didn't care to spend the time to build everything people wanted to I closed it down and just used it myself.

One of the most common businesses people start in Thailand is a bar, I don't think I'll ever open a bar because I don't really like bars, maybe I'll open up a karaoke one day one with Full HD videos, a stripper pole, and with both coyote and PR girls. But for now I'm working on another failure (hope not) the Thai Locator I'm hoping will be the guide everyone uses to know where things are at, if you'd like to follow my progress there then check out the locator page.

Every month I give something away sometimes just to VIP members and other times to anyone who reads the site. This month I'm giving away 3000 baht. Here's how to win:

* You must be signed up to the email list to win!
* Leave a comment about the worst business Idea you've ever seen or heard about in Thailand. In fact you could just comment on how stupid my ideas were, your own, your friends or just businesses you've seen in Thailand that were meant to fail.
* That's it!

I will be choosing the winner next Monday 7th September 2014 so start thinking about it!

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

23 Responses to My Biggest Business Failures in Thailand

  1. Bradley September 1, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I have also had my share – I’ve given up on business in Thailand – I just sell puts on the American stock exchange and make a living doing that. With the current visa issue – not even sure if I’ll stay.

    • Bradley September 1, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

      I wanted to add – I’ve not tried too many consumer ideas; mostly business. First was a ship supply business; it was fairly lucrative – but I didn’t have the capital to make it work. My Thai partners couldn’t get the hang of book keeping. The $100 rides to talk with the ship captains, rides to Chon Buri and general costs just ate up the million baht in no time. It seems that accounting procedures were hard to instill.

      Then I’ve looked at photography business; the local photo shoots I see are horrible and done quickly. Even the Escort pages need some work – they have improved greatly; but still have a long way to go. I do have the best (Einstein strobes) equipment one could find; I think I should look at a lease business with all the equipment – just worried it would be leased and never returned.

      What I have learned; you cannot keep a business running part-time – if you want a Thai business you have work; and work hard. The women I know who are successful in the sex industry – they have no life and work themselves to long hours. Living in their bar and working 16 hour days – but they also make huge sums of money.

      So I recommend, wait and do part time work until you are ready for the big jump. Then be prepared to live meager and work hard.

    • mataleo September 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm #

      sell puts on us stock ex.?

      whats that means?


  2. Harry September 1, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    Previously in Australia I had tried to develop a few software programs with a number of websites to sell the software but nothing had worked out due to failures by the software guys I’d hired to actually finish the programs on time and iron out all the bugs. When I came to Thailand, I used a lot of money buying my TW everything (as many Expats have done, and still do). Some land, a house, a shed, a Kubota tractor, a swimming pool and the ubiquitous Toyota pickup etc. After 6 months I could see my retirement nest-egg was disappearing fast. I had to think of a way to make money in Thailand. I thought I could base it on my latest gadget that I’d built, which was a fucking machine. I had gained some inspiration by visiting web sites such as “fuckingmachines.com”. The machine I’d built worked quite well and my TW was happy enough to give it her tick of approval. I quickly realized that building this sort of machine “for sale” in Thailand would soon get me into a lot of trouble, so instead I decided to write an e-book about “How to build a fucking machine”. I enjoyed the creativity of writing the e-book. Then I built a web site designed to sell the e-book. I had heard about piracy on the internet so did some research and purchased the best “copy protection software” that was available. Soon after, my web site “robocock.com” appeared on the first page of Google because it was one of very few web sites that advertised with such “indecent” wording! Orders started coming in nicely and I sold a few hundred copies of the e-book at $69.95. However after a few months sales began to dwindle. I checked for reasons why this was happening and found my e-book being advertised on a “Warez” site. Some asshole had copied it (so much for “copy protection”) and was obviously making a nice living with the thousands of other titles he had stolen from other authors like myself. Of course other guys with similar ideas to mine had quickly jumped on the bandwagon and websites sprang up everywhere selling plans and blueprints on building fucking machines. People started uploading videos to YouTube helping to show everyone how to build fucking machines of all shapes and sizes. Some were even supplying plans for free and some building and exporting machines world wide. My place on Google slowly retreated to the Nth page or worse. At the same time some religious nut cases in South Carolina were spamming Google with dozens of fake websites that appeared to be genuine “fucking machine info” sites but were in fact web pages they’d hijacked. They contained ominous messages quoted from the bible and then promptly sent a nasty virus to the visitor’s computer.
    So a lot of potential customers became wary of any site promoting these machines and must have given up doing searches which ended in computer crashes and guilt feelings.
    So eventually I had to give up my attempt to make money from eBooks and return to the real world. I returned to Australia and I’m still here trying to make a quid.

    • mataleo September 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

      thats hilarious
      robocock fucking machine

      u serious right?

  3. Ben September 1, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    I’ll start with the best advice I got and than the worst example I read about.

    1) In a recent visit to a rather big swiss company here the MD said “if you are catering exclusively to the expat market here you are doomed to fail”, so true and yet…
    He also added “if you can’t wear it or put it in your car, don’t try to sell it to Thais”, I would ad “if you can’t eat it…”

    2) A recent post was about a bloke starting a frozen yogurt bar up north, his rant was about how much sugar should be added to his “secret” recipe. The take, is wife loved it with more sugar. His take, “it ain’t proper so sweet”. Guess where that’s going…

  4. Graham September 1, 2014 at 6:57 pm #

    My idea worked well, very well in the beginning. Run a super yacht for luxury yacht charters. Got a manger in to help me and I believed everything was fine until the charters per year dropped off very suddenly. Then hit rock bottom. I had started cutting back on under table payments and the usual corruption. In no time my business started going downhill. I sold the boat a ran like the speed of a thousand buffaloes, yes American buffaloes. The buffaloes here cant run at all. Morale of the tale, want to make a small fortune in Thailand, start with a friggin’ big one. Never work here again. Too expensive and all the hassles with tax , accounting firms, corruption and visas etc. I don’t regret one moment though.

  5. Stephen Carter September 1, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    I just write ebooks and post them to Amazon. But so far with little income. Next year I’ll ramp it up so the titles should accumulate to a total of 19, plus I’ll sell them on all available platforms, though 60% of ebook sales still occur on Amazon. I plan to give it till the end of 2015 going all out, and if I’m not in the black by then, I’ll return to teaching. 555

  6. Action September 1, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    Worst business idea? Trying to get people to buy something from you then telling them how bad you’ve been at business! Lol
    Props Chris for telling us your not so good ideas not many make success without a few hiccups.

  7. Lex Luthor September 1, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    I think a tanning salon would be a pretty dumb idea for a business in Thailand 😛 😀

    • Tony September 2, 2014 at 12:31 am #

      Like most business by farangs in Thailand fail because the Thais don’t use them my partner is from Bangkok and her brother in law has a taxi firm so we came up with the idear that most farang only spend a short time in Bangkok and want to know and see as much as they can in that short time without getting ripped off so we had flyers made up so they can call me to get as much info as they wish and get to go where ever they want at realistic prices it helps the in laws and us we hope to get a website up and running this service has only been running a few months but up to now is going better then we could have wished for

      • Chris September 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

        The less Thai’s you tell about this business the better off you’ll be. Soon as you’re a success here the copycats start coming out.

  8. mooshi September 2, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    Read and apply the best-seller book “How to make money in Thailand”… Just to get the 21 y/o cute chicks who dream of her own dress shop business…
    … She’s crazy about it.
    She’s a hyper cute young scorpio sex bomb. ( I fully agree with astrology.com on this 🙂
    So you start doing it for her… http://www.NeoNymphZ.com

    But, she will leave you because now she need to work because her Army dude who was coming to Pattaya 2 weeks per year and giving her 15,000thb every month since 4 year just flushed her for a younger cutie called Po.
    Still got 2 months of juice and tchup-tchup…

    • Chris September 5, 2014 at 9:57 am #

      I can’t understand why guys would pay thousands of dollars a year for ONE girl when you could have MANY girls for the same price.

      • Erik October 1, 2014 at 9:22 pm #

        Yeah well said….. not to mention the yak yak buort hua mak ma.. even when paying them… as the boys say here in Phuket… ur not paying for them, u are paying for them to leave …..

        hey, u did not mention the nights when u have 2 or more…. ha ha….

        yes had that in normal life but not easy….

        great site, thanks all

  9. John September 3, 2014 at 12:47 am #

    Two friends and I started a bar in Koh Samui. We bought it off an acquaintance who was selling the bar to move on, since he and his girlfriend, broke up. We bought the bar, and the ex-girlfriend became the bar manager.

    The girl acted like a bargirl, instead of a manager, and used the bar as her own personal ATM, pumping hundreds of thousands of baht into partying, and gold, for herself.

    When we found out, we tried to fix it, but then our friend(of 25 years+), and partner, proceeded to make sure he got his cut before the bar failed completely, and embezzled money from the bar for a couple months.

    All in all, we walked away with nothing but a bad experience(but experience, nonetheless).

    • Chris September 5, 2014 at 10:05 am #

      The only people who have ever ripped me off, stolen from me, and let me down were people I called “friends”. In Thailand most people are killed and robbed the same way. By people they know. I’ve heard your story a million times and it really irritates me that people rip of their mates. I’m one of few morals but what I never do is screw over a mate. Unfortunately as you learned, most people don’t think like this, all they think about is ME.

  10. ChiangMaiGuy September 3, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    How about starting a bar?

  11. Chris September 7, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

    So I’ve decided that Harry wins the 3000 baht because it was the most involved story and simply i’m glad he failed. Fucking machines are all aimed at women and if all women started using them then why would you need us. It’s a bad idea for humanity if not Thailand. Thanks for the story, send your thai bank details or paypal to my account and i’ll pay you shortly. Thanks to everyone else who wrote something as well. cheers.

    • [email protected] September 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      Thanks for the prize Chris, I really appreciate it and it will be well spent on a birthday present for my daughter on her 5th birthday when I visit her in Thailand in October.

      And thanks for your comments too.

      It’s a controversial subject, is fucking machines!
      You’re forgetting all the lonely women who can’t find a partner.
      e.g. people with disabilities, or disfigurements.
      I think they might like to experience what it’s like.

      There’s not much difference between a hand dildo and a fucking machine really.
      Just that the machine enables a more life-like motion and never gets tired, doesn’t stay out late with the boys, doesn’t drink, burp or fart, always ready, never argues about money.

      You must admit electrically powered vibrating dildos are popular the world over.

      However it will be a long time before they replace the real thing that delivers a load of real baby-making sperm as a bonus !

      Now back to the drawing board …Hmm .. that’s given me new idea ..

  12. mataleo September 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    i do business and its quite good

    but i dont want tell u what it is

  13. Ayai July 28, 2021 at 8:06 pm #

    How much did you lose for developing Mr Churro Donut?


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