Travel Entrepreneurs:
Amavi Charters, Roatan

 
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We love to inspire adventure by sharing stories from those who inspire us. In this latest installment of our travel entrepreneur series, we caught up with two adventure seeking entrepreneurs making waves in the Caribbean. We’d like to introduce to you Natasha and Rob, the founders of Amavi Charters based on the beautiful island of Roatan.

What were you doing in the United States before moving to Roatan to establish Amavi Charters?

We were living a fast paced life that mostly revolved around our careers in Manhattan, NY. Natasha worked in retail and customer strategy for luxury industry powerhouses like Louis Vuitton and YSL. She most recently ran a multimillion-dollar division for Burberry, overseeing customer retention in 80 retail stores across Brazil, Mexico, Canada and the U.S. Rob worked as a risk management consultant helping one of the largest U.S. banks comply with financial regulations before pivoting to digital marketing strategy…a much more relevant field for an entrepreneur.

What spurred the move and change in lifestyle?

After two MBA’s and rapid growth in our careers, we were starting to feel as though we had outgrown our current paths. We started considering life beyond the corporate ladder and felt the itch for entrepreneurship, which, by the way, is a totally terrifying yet liberating realization all at once. We had been casually putting this plan together for six years, but didn’t expect to act on it until early retirement. The sudden and tragic loss of each of our brothers, in their 20’s, reminded us that life is short, time is fleeting, and waiting for the perfect moment was a risk we weren’t willing to take. Once that became clear, it felt less scary to take on other, more tangible risks, like buying a boat to start a sailing charter business.

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What were your biggest concerns and how did you overcome them?

Startup jitters aside, our biggest concern was sort of a moral dilemma. We created Amavi Charters to offer people a unique way to experience the Mesoamerican Reef while we still have one, yet our very presence poses a threat to the marine environment we love so much. Was it possible to build a charter business that was successful and sustainable? We attacked the challenge head on. Following our launch in late 2018, we partnered with National Geographic and Go Blue Bay Islands to audit and recalibrate every aspect of our daily operations + charter experience in order to reduce AMAVI’s environmental impact and help our guests do the same. We’ve incorporated marine safe cleaning products, mineral-based sunscreens, fully recyclable glass bottled beverages, and durable melamine dishware to eliminate single use plastics altogether! While there is a lot more to be done, we’re only six months in and proud of our status as the first sailing charter in Roatan & The Bay Islands to receive NatGeo’s GoBlue sustainability certification.

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What would you have wished you’d known before undertaking such a life change?

Take it from two recovering perfectionists – perfection is the enemy, not the goal! A move like this boils down to making a thousand micro-decisions in rapid succession. You won’t always have the luxury of time, experience, or even a stable WiFi connection to evaluate all your options before taking action. Between navigating the charter routes, developing promotional partnerships, building the website, improving our photography game, creating food and beverage menus, and designing crew uniforms…we would have saved so much time in the beginning if we had known to forget about making it perfect and focus instead on just making progress.

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What attracted you to Roatan?

We were definitely drawn to the lack of commercialization on the island. Locally owned businesses thrive instead of well-known hospitality chains, and it still feels a bit wild and undiscovered. We also wanted to experience the Mesoamerican Reef before climate change and ocean pollution take their toll as they sadly already have on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Finally, we took comfort in the fact that Roatan is largely protected form hurricane activity, the consequences of which were on full display in the Eastern Caribbean in 2017. Just as we were getting our business plan off the ground, we witnessed the available sailboat inventory practically disappear overnight.

What advice would you give someone considering making the leap to live abroad/start a business?

First mover advantage is overrated. Don’t get discouraged in the ideation phase. It’s more important that your execution be the Best, than your idea be the First. In the tourism environment, you have a viable business only if your product is better or cheaper than the alternatives. If it’s neither, you might make some money in the beginning, but it’s not a sustainable business. There’s always room for disruption. Amavi Charters is living proof of that. Find an idea that excites you, flush it out and press on!

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What are you most enjoying about your life in Roatan?

We love having the freedom to sail our boat to our hearts content! When we have a long enough gap between charters, Rob and I will toss a backpack of essentials together, tie down the paddle boards and sail our to our favorite spots for a mini “glamping” holiday. We get a front row seat to the nightly bioluminescence activity in the water and then get to wake up with the sun; it doesn’t get better than that. We’re also really enjoying the company of an amazing group of island entrepreneurs we are lucky enough to call friends. There’s nothing like a community of like-minded innovators coming together to support one another through this crazy transition. Interestingly, we’ve all settled on Roatan within the past three years or so, leaving behind big city life and the corporate grind. Maybe there’s something in the water here. Who knows? We’re just thrilled to be writing our next chapters with our crazy bunch on this rock we now call home!

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What things in Roatan do you recommend every traveler experience?

Since it’s common knowledge that Roatan is a diver’s paradise, we’ll skip to the other items on our must-do list. You have to experience Camp Bay on the island’s north-eastern tip – it’s a beautiful beach community, sparsely inhabited with a handful of island-style restaurants and small bohemian hotels. On the way out there, stop at Cal’s Cantina for an island fusion lunch – it’s a true hideaway perched on a hilltop overlooking the three bights on the south shore. Next up, two stunningly beautiful remote destinations of Cayos Cochinos - the island chain 24 miles off Roatan – and Port Royal, a secluded harbor located on the south shore of Roatan’s East End. Both are totally off-grid, boat access only, and Amavi Charters will sail you there in style! If you’re into golf, the Pete Dye designed Black Pearl golf course, located mid-island in French Harbor, is not to be missed. Rob’s an avid golfer, and he declares that this is hands-down one of the best golf courses in the world.

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If you’re interested in learning more about this adventure couple or to book a charter and explore the Bay Islands, Honduras visit the link below.

 

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