Entrepreneurs Go All-In on Mahogany Bay Village, Part II.
This is the second part on an ongoing series of the entrepreneurs who have opened up a business at Mahogany Bay Village in preparation for the Resort’s 2017 opening as a Curio Collection by Hilton. Please see Entrepreneurs Go All In, Part I. to read the story of the owners of Blue Bonefish Fly Shop!
Science & Soul Wellness
Paulette Harwood and her partner Steven Rigo moved from Boston, Massachusetts to San Pedro, Belize on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2016. For many years Paulette has owned an acclaimed yoga teacher training school in Boston called Sacred Space Yoga School. After Paulette and Steve decided they'd explore their options in moving abroad to open another wellness business, they spent over five years researching and traveling through the Caribbean and Central America to find their new home. Where did they end up? Right here at Mahogany Bay Village, Ambergris Caye. Here's their incredible story!
Paulette is an entrepreneur who dreams big and has an innate sense of path and purpose for her life. Entrepreneurship has always been a part of her experience; for 20 years she co-directed a ballet studio in Boston alongside her mother. She has been immersed in the yogic lifestyle and a serious practitioner of yoga since 1995. Today, Paulette is a woman of numerous talents, her titles include: Yoga Teacher Trainer, Ayurvedic Retreat Specialist, Certified Birth Doula, and in 2017 she completed her Parayoga Master Training! (A five-year commitment to the study of the deepest form of the ancient yogic tradition of the Himalayan Institute.)
Between Performing Arts, Pilates, Macrobiotic Cooking and Counseling, Doulaing and Yoga, Paulette has coached, trained and certified over a 1000 individuals from all over the United States and beyond!
Five years ago, during a particularly cold winter in Massachusetts, Paulette and Steve began considering a move abroad. Both Steve and Paulette's kids were grown, and the time seemed right to begin considering a lifestyle change. Their desire was to find a warm, beautiful place where Paulette could bring her yoga experience to open a brand new wellness business that combined all of her talents and expertise. The couple was looking for somewhere that was friendly to American entrepreneurs, and where they would be safe and welcome as part of a community.
Being that Paulette was in the wellness industry, practicing a lifestyle that seeks a connection to nature, whole foods, meditation & yoga — she always felt that her way of life seemed to go against the grain in the Northeast United States. “I knew in my heart and soul that the Northeast and its harsh cold weather, insane traffic, overpriced suburbanized neighborhoods, and competitive atmosphere just wasn’t for me," explained Paulette.
When the two began exploring their options in other countries, they realized how much more connection they felt with other cultures and climates, as compared to snowy, urban America. Paulette had already been traveling for many years hosting yoga retreats internationally, and always was on the lookout for a location to make a second home. Costa Rica seemed oversaturated, Puerto Rico felt a bit unsafe. Then they began networking with other like-minded travelers and Americans living abroad. They met a few professionals who lived on Ambergris Caye, Belize and had good things to say — and the fact that Belize was an English-speaking country was very attractive.
Q. What influenced your decision to move your home and your business to Ambergris Caye, Belize?
A. Well in 2015 we attended a Live and Invest Overseas seminar in Panama City, and there we found ourselves in the same networks of Americans living abroad, many had thriving businesses, hopping around from country to country, enjoying the tax benefits of living outside the US. It showed us that the lifestyle was very possible, and the network seemed to make the world smaller and the possibility less scary. After making friends from Ambergris Caye, we learned that the minimum age to apply for the Belize QRP (Qualified Retirement Program) is just 45 years old. Although Steven and I are far from retirement, it seemed the QRP could be our most straight-forward path to residency. Then, after I discovered Mahogany Bay Village the decision for Ambergris Caye was easy.
Q. Why did you choose Mahogany Bay Village?
A. Well community is so deeply important to us, and Mahogany Bay Village is exactly that — a growing little community in itself. We not only felt immediately welcomed but also encouraged to join the pioneers of Mahogany Bay Village who were building it from the ground up. I knew the Curio Collection by Hilton hotel would provide the perfect accommodation for yoga retreats. Also Mahogany Bay Village's master-planned town being a sustainable, New Urbanism community that's smartly-designed, green, walkable, and full of small business — that was just magic to us! The thought of becoming part of such a dynamic project, in a charming tropical location — Steven and I knew it could provide the home base and lifestyle we were looking to create. Then I met Markus and Melanie Bischof (of Ambergreens Aquaponics) and toured their organic greenhouse right on property. It all just made sense! Mahogany Bay Village was growing the type of culture that fit our lifestyle and the business opportunity fit our brand.
Q. Yoga and the study of holistic health are rather new to Belizean culture. How do you plan on integrating the locals into Science & Soul Wellness?
A. Since we have arrived and even before, I have felt and witnessed a hunger for knowledge of self awareness, self knowledge, self empowerment, self healing. Yoga, Ayurveda, Macrobiotics, and even women's doula health services are self care tools we can all use to ignite dedication to self. Yoga offers a life-changing science and lifestyle to assist individuals along your journey to fulfill their destiny. Science and Soul Wellness will offer memberships and classes geared towards these goals for Belizean and ex-pat locals, and both short and long-term Curio hotel guests. We will be holding a year-long mentorship and 200-hour yoga teacher trainings in a group setting at Science and Soul Wellness for all local aspiring yoga practitioners. We've also already found three trained local Belizean massage therapists whom I absolutely adore, and in April we will hold open interviews for all other positions.
Science & Soul Wellness conducts numerous daily yoga classes at Mahogany Bay Village, including morning flow yoga, aerial yoga, pool yoga, power yoga, guided meditation, yin restorative yoga, and "SUP" stand-up paddle board yoga (r/t boat transporation included) at the private Mahogany Bay Village Beach Club!
Check out the Science & Soul Wellness Facebook page for the most updated class schedule and next time you are in the neighborhood, drop in for a class!
Around the same time that Paulette and Steve of Science & Soul Wellness had discovered Ambergris Caye and Mahogany Bay Village, Paulette’s daughter, Nicholette Lamparelli, was close to graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Business from University of Massachusetts, Boston. Niki and Paulette had often daydreamed of life abroad, and the two share a love of travel and warm weather. As coincidence would have it — the timing was just right for Niki to embark on a Belizean entrepreneurial adventure as well! Niki and her partner, Colleen Clifford, are owners of The Hive, a new food shack opening soon at Mahogany Bay Village.
Q. What influenced your decision to move abroad and start a business?
A. Niki — When my mom first told me of Ambergris Caye, I was thrilled. It really sounded like a place that had everything she had been looking for. At the time, Colleen and I were both 24 and just graduating from business school, and had nothing holding us back. After some discussion and a trip to check out Belize and Ambergris Caye, we decided it was now or never to make a move. I love Boston, it will always be my home. I love the culture, winter sports, and snowy Christmas mornings . . . but eventually you’re over it! It seems like you're always waiting for summer, and then summer comes and goes so fast. All signs converged and pointed toward Belize so we jumped on it.
Colleen — It was the time in our lives where it felt like a wonderful opportunity to create something totally on our own and embrace a new lifestyle. It's a coincidence that this has worked out for us all at the same time to make the move out of Boston. And Niki and I didn’t come here with a pot of money, but sometimes you've just got to make it happen.
Q. Tell us about The Hive and how you decided on the idea.
A. Niki — The Hive is a globally-inspired health food shack that offers healthy grain bowls where the customer can pick and choose their own fresh and local ingredients. We have options for breakfast as well as lunch, and cocktails such as margaritas and sangria all made with fresh juices and fruit. Also we acknowledge the importance of environmentally sustainable products. The Hive is proud to use biodegradable takeout containers and cups from Green Paper Products, which are all plant-based products that naturally disintegrate into soil 90 days after disposal. Sure it's more expensive but we believe it shows our brand's appreciation for where we are.
Colleen — And we decided on healthy bowls restaurant idea because the island lacks a quick healthy alternative to the traditional burrito or fry jack. Plus, Niki and I both have business degrees as well as experience in food and beverage, so it is an idea that developed naturally from our backgrounds.
Q. So you've been living in Belize for a bit over two months now. What are your impressions so far?
A. Colleen — Even on our first trip to Belize, we were instantly enamored by the warm and welcoming nature of the Belizean people. Age and socioeconomic factors just aren't a concern here. In Belize it's just a smile and, "What's your name? Where are you from?" No one is concerned with what you wear — and with the ubiquitous golf carts — clearly it's not what you drive either!
Niki — Also from a safety standpoint, Colleen and I have not once yet felt intimidated or in danger on Ambergris Caye. Being two young women who have travelled a lot, we aren't strangers to occasional unwanted attention or catcalls. For instance we've taken annual vacations with my mom to Vieques, Puerto Rico for many years now, and although we love it there, it never feels 100% safe. Between the barbed wire, barking dogs, and common break-ins to homes and vehicles, it's always a bit uneasy walking around at night. On Ambergris Caye it's a much different dynamic and we have easily felt at home here. And at Mahogany Bay Village it's the best of both worlds — we have 24-hour security and everyone knows everyone else — but in just 10 minutes you can be to the restaurants and nightlife of downtown San Pedro.
The Hive is looking forward to hiring a staff of three local Belizean team members to start, and should be opening to the public by April 2017. Follow The Hive's Facebook page for the most updated information on their grand opening, hours, and daily specials!
Do you have a business idea that could thrive within Belize's largest (60-acre) new resort village with luxury-branded hotel? What about an existing business, internationally or locally, that you have considered expanding or relocating? We are always looking for new entrepreneurs to join our family and would love to hear from you! We offer live / work space for sale or lease, as well as custom buildings. Join us on a Coastal Living® Lifestyle Trips for would-be investors considering purchasing a home or starting a business abroad, and see if Belize is right for you. Come and discover #howtobelize!