Finding Opportunities In St. Maarten

Finding Opportunities In St. Maarten after Hurricane Irma

(RISE) Resilience, Intentionality, Startups & Energy

After canceling my trip in 2017 due to Hurricane Irma, I was excited to return back to St. Maarten to see the state of the island with my own eyes. It’s one thing to get second-hand information, but another to physically experience how things were going while on the ground. The spirit of entrepreneurship and business is amazing in that the people of St. Maarten through tragedy and devastation still they emerge strong. A people that are united is a people who can overcome anything. While driving on the island, it was evident that there was much work to be done; but this did not stop the island from uniting and re-opening its port for business. The resilience of the people of St. Maarten is what blows me away.

When I think about the journey that St. Maarten has been on in the last 9 months, I am reminded of one word. This word represents exactly what it takes to push past mediocrity and stand out. The word that I speak of is RISE. I created an acrostic R.I.S.E. which better explains what it has taken for the people of St. Maarten to get to this point. Resilience, Intentionality, Startups & Energy/Excitement are the pillars to building back better and finding opportunities in St. Maarten post-Irma. This is what I see in the eyes of the people of St. Maarten. Allow me to share six stories that bare proof of R.I.S.E. in St. Maarten.

Resilience

Marcel of Simpson Bay Resort –  In talking with him and learning how he dealt with having a resort full to capacity during the worst hurricane to hit the island. How do you manage to restore hope and be a leading voice of calm while rebuilding? It takes resilience to deal with something of this magnitude to show leadership while restoring hope in a time of tragedy.

Intentionality

A young lady from Poland that we met on one of our trips to the beautiful island of St. Maarten. She literally came to St. Maarten on a vacation; but she saw an opportunity. Straight away, she made a decision that life was much better on the island than her homeland where she had come from. The principle that I want to point out is, “It’s all about mentality,” nothing in life is given to you. When she assessed her lifestyle and livelihood, it was evident that even at her worst on the island maybe operating at 50% that she would do better off than returning home.  Starting wherever there was an opportunity or as some would say (the need), she began working at a nightclub. She went from working at that nightclub to save money, to working in a restaurant part-time; to now owning that restaurant!  When asked was she afraid to make a move from her country her response was, “Afraid of what?”

Startups (Seize Opportunities)-

I had the opportunity to meet Terese & Ray, from New Orleans, Louisiana – A family that had only been on Island a total of 30 days when we spoke during Koop Avond. I learned that they started their business “Island Snow Balls,” just 2 weeks after arriving on St. Maarten. Entrepreneurship is the backbone of any community despite geographical location and this is proof.

What a pleasure to meet Roxi from Giana, 30 years ago she came on vacation and continued to travel to St. Maarten until finally deciding to move there. She worked in the hospitality industry at one of the beautiful resorts on the island for years, until one day she decided to pursue a dream and start her own restaurant. She is now the proud owner of Butterfish restaurant.

Energy/Excitement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(From left: Dr. Vernet Joseph, Prime Minister Marlin-Romeo, Dr. Will Moreland, Dr. Jamal Cummins)

It was truly an honor to come back and participate in such a prestigious and monumental event as the swearing in of St. Maarten’ 2nd female Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo and the new Council of Ministers. I see a people who are ready to rise and regain their strength. A people who are willing to put away their differences in opinions to make a difference in their communities and the island. A special highlight was being able to award Prime Minister Leona Marlin-Romeo the “Woman of The Year” and “World Civility Day Statesman awards from iChange Nations™. Dr. Clyde Rivers is the founder of iChange Nations™ (ICN) and Honorary Ambassador at Large of the Republic of Burundi. The recognitions were conferred on her by iChange Nations (ICN), an organization focused on “Bringing Back The Lost Art of Honor.” The “Woman of The Year” was presented by World Civility Ambassador and son of the soil, Dr. Jamal Cummins and the “World Civility Day Statesman” was presented by iChange Nations Senior Advisor, Dr. Vernet A. Joseph.

There are 5 things that I believe that are going to help St. Maarten as a people, government, and island. These five things are going to be pivotal in the pathway forward. Let’s review the challenges in doing business in paradise and the opportunities that also arise when we as a people decide to RISE.

Start looking through this lens or perspective. SEE:

  1. Opportunities -vs- Obstacles
  2. Creativity -vs- Negativity/ Complaints
  3. Urgency -vs- Complacency
  4. Risk -vs- Being Reserved
  5. Mindset -vs- Status Quo thinking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(From left: Dr.Moreland, Dr. Cummins, Dpt Prime Minister Wycliffe Smith, Ife Badejo, Dr. Joseph)

During this trip, I had the opportunity to meet with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Youth, Culture & Sports; Minister Wycliffe Smith. I am excited to see how we can connect and assist the island of St. Maarten to become a self-sustainable force. I am elated by the energy of the new government and the sustainable pathway forward.

When I think about what makes the world a better place, I am always reminded of “The Power of Relationships, Collaborations & Partnerships – Understanding your RCP!” A great example of this during Hurricane Irma is Anastacio Baker – the owner of Bakers Suite. In the time of tragedy and great need, he became a refuge to his neighbors the Atrium hotel and Simpson Bay Resort when they needed it the most. This is also a true testament to why they call St. Maarten “The Friendly Island.” It is evident that once you experience the island you can’t help, but to fall in love with it.

St. Maarten, a top destination in the Caribbean is a friendly island not only by name but also in deed. With over 156 different nationalities on a 37-square mile island, with 37 sandy beaches split in half with both Dutch and French side. Finding Opportunities In St. Maarten is not hard if you simply open your eyes and seize the moment.

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