'Once you have a phone and a laptop you can work from anywhere'

Two Inishowen women are enjoying the remote working lifestyle of dreams after relocating to the Caribbean during the pandemic.

“You can’t but feel good over here,” says Laura Bonner from Greencastle, co-founder of the Muff Liquor Company. She made a break for Barbados last November.

The tropical island is already beginning to feel like home for Paula Heaney, founder of healthy juice company Skinny Malinkys.  The Fahan native was living in London before she moved out on the same flight as Laura. 

While Donegal has its benefits for remote workers, these two entrepreneurs are living the dream – running their drinks businesses in the morning and spending their afternoons at the beach.

Paula Heaney and Laura Bonner on the beach in Barbados

Laura and Paula were managing their businesses from home offices last year when a global invitation was extended by the Prime Minister of Barbados to entice remote workers to the island. They both seized the opportunity to apply for a 12-month Barbados Welcome Stamp visa.

The pandemic has changed how we all work and travel. With tourism halted, Barbados sought to support the economy by attracting workers to winter it out in sunnier climes.

For Laura and Paula, the decision was a no-brainer.

“It’s always been my dream to live on a tropical island, surf every day in a bikini, and make money while I sleep,” said Paula.

“Once you have a phone and a laptop you can work from anywhere, Covid-19 showed us that last year, the idea you must be in the office in order for it to work isn’t the case anymore. I’m still on every zoom call,” Laura adds.

Laura and Paula at a reception with Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley

Barbados had few restrictions when they touched down last year, but Christmas visitors led to a rise in cases and a semi-lockdown since February. A gradual reopening of business begins on Monday.

Beaches remained open for exercise and swimming, which suited Laura and Paula, who get up at 4.30am/5am to work according to Ireland’s timezone.

Being in new surroundings has helped Laura’s work/life balance change for the better, she said: “I swim in the ocean every morning, I mediate, I eat really healthy, I hang out with a gang we jokingly call the “high vibe tribe” we do yoga classes together, we bounce ideas off each other and everyone has the same positive mindset that you can’t but feel good over here.”

Paula enjoys the productive early starts: “I have to get up earlier which I personally really like, however when the clocks change we’ll be 5 hours behind Ireland but I’m sure I’ll manage. Being able to go for a surf or swim in the afternoon makes it all worthwhile.”

The young entrepreneurs are also gaining inspiration to further develop their brands.

Laura reveals that a new rum is in the pipeline for her award-winning spirits company.

She said. “Within the first few weeks I got a distributor for the island, we were planning to launch in March but now with the breakout in cases it’ll be delayed until later this year, fingers crossed.

“Barbados is also known for its sugar cane so I’m learning a lot from the local distillers here on how to make rum, so watch this space.”

Paula is targeting further growth for Skinny Malinkys: “My business is all online so I have been sussing out new collaborations and looking at ways to reach more customers with our delicious juice. We are currently running a 25% off sale on all stock to celebrate the fact it’s spring and we can bring a little health and happiness to people’s lives.”

The only downside for these digital nomads, it seems, is that the visa is not permanent.

“I want to stay forever, I love it and it really feels like home,” said Paula.

Laura adds that she is prepared to travel wherever the business needs her to go, as soon as the ‘world reopens’ and orders resume.

She said: “I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity, waking up in paradise every day has been an incredible experience. I really couldn’t recommend it enough. They are still accepting applicants and flights are still landing every few days. It would be great seeing more Irish over here!”