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Mustard Seeds

Written By Bryant McClain

How Did You Get This Job?

We spend our days speaking with resort residential developers and families searching for their vacation homes in the Caribbean. Invariably, one of their first questions is, “How did you get into this?”

Our journey to owning a Caribbean property advisory service is a fun story to recount, but it was equally exciting to live it!

Of course, there was a pre-beginning…In 1989, the Summer before my senior year of college, I was invited on an adventure that changed the direction of my life by my good friend, Gaston Acosta-Rua. We bought a used Suburu pick-up, filled it with medical supplies for a remote village in Mexico that had been stranded by a hurricane, and drove from South Carolina to the Southern outback of Mexico.

Afterward, we traveled on to explore Costa Rica. The details of those adventures are locked away in my journal, but the joy-seeds of overseas travel and cultural exchange were firmly planted.

I was fortunate to find success in my first positions after college and was able to pay off my student loans in three years. I was a Regional Manager leading the entire Country and making great money, but it was soul-less. I saved up enough to launch a business that realized my goals of international travel and cultural exchange.

I launched an eco-travel company, called Escape Roots, with my best friend Todd Shriver. We grew quickly and helped travelers from all over the country experience authentic Caribbean adventures. We curated private beach-front villas with personal staffs, and we found the best donkey paths and goat trails for our mountain bike rides. Epic times.

Another Man’s Treasure

Our favorite destination was the undeveloped South Coast of Jamaica. It was an idyllic community called Treasure Beach. Our favorite ride included a stop at a thatch-covered one-room school with no running water or electricity. We’d park our bikes to share goodies with the kids, and every one of our travelers was a changed person after their stops at “God’s School.”

The school had been started by four amazing women as a refuge for the kids that couldn’t make it in the normal school system. They had fallen out due to learning disabilities or broken families, but they flourished there.

A brilliant Peace Corps volunteer launched a community triathlon using our favorite trails and the first year’s race raised money for a new roof for the “Gods’ School.” My partner’s father was in the Rotary Club, so I typed a letter (this was the pre-email era!) detailing the school’s mission and requesting funding for a new school to be built, complete with bathrooms and a small kitchen.

It was a magical day when I received the response letter saying the project was approved and we’d be the project’s ambassador to aid communication between the fundraising, multiple Rotary groups, architectural planning and construction.

Completing the school’s construction was my first lesson in how difficult and rewarding it was to be engaged in the islands.

We gave up our quest for Escape Roots after our attorney warned of the risks in mountain biking. We shifted to an emerging opportunity in the States with medical equipment and built a multi-state provider. We continued to spend our personal time in the islands and maintained amazing relationships.


Thinking Bigger

Though I was fortunate to have a lucrative career in the U.S., my heart was always in the Caribbean. In 2001, I married the love of my life, Jenan, and in many ways, she is responsible for the re-emergence of the Caribbean in my professional life.

From the first time I took her to see God’s School and experience the Caribbean’s seductive luxury, she wanted more. Like much of this story, serendipity struck when we bought a new homesite in a resort development called The Cliffs.

The sales and marketing team in charge of sales at the Cliffs was IMI, a local company in Greenville South Carolina that focused on luxury resort developments. Mike and Dan Collins had created a dynamic, fast-growing company and Jenan had become one of their favorite local bankers.

Making the Leap

IMI had projects all over the world and the Caribbean was one of their focus regions. After a couple of years, we made the leap and joined IMI to work on a prestigious project, now the Four Seasons on the island of Anguilla.

We learned from and worked beside bright and talented teammates like Guy Famigletti (Founder Resortopia) and Leah Stoudemire (CEO Rockit Co.). We moved to St. Lucia, where I eventually became the Director of a world-class project, the Raffles St. Lucia (now Cabot St. Lucia).

Our journey has carried us throughout the Caribbean as we helped iconic developers such as Chris Blackwell, the famous founder of Island records and Fernando Paiz, one of Central America’s most successful businessmen.

We’ve walked Golf courses in design with Jack Nicklaus. We’ve also helped so many homeowners choose the best vacation homes for their family’s legacy. Looking back over the 30 years, we couldn’t feel more fortunate for all of the friends gained and lessons learned.

Every new project we advise and every new client we help with their purchase is informed by these lessons and become a part of our journey!

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