It was 2002. And I was 14 years old.
The Net was for MSN Messenger and research for school projects, only.
Never did I think I would start a website about a speck of an island in the Caribbean, an exotic part of the world I had yet to visit!
But then, the unimaginable happened...
My Dad loves those inspirational, quit-your-day-job-and-head-south stories. So, when he stumbled across a book called A Trip to the Beach, it was the main topic of conversation during many dinners.
He happened to be chatting with a friend, Doug Burdon, one afternoon, talking about the Blanchards and their move to a spot called "Angueella" or "Angola"?.
My Dad had never heard of it, that was for sure! But Mr. Burdon had.
In fact, he had just closed on a long-term lease on a villa on Barnes Bay. He generously offered us the villa for a week in March. Five months later (August 2002) we returned for six weeks. We had fallen in love.
Cove Bay, August 2002
A month and a half of tanning, swimming, eating, and watching Nickelodeon, was any kid's dream. My Dad brought all of his work with him (one computer!). My curiosity grew.
I thought, how about a website about Anguilla? After all, we did have quite a collection of stories and photos, being there for over a month.
The rest? It's history!
For six and a half years the website grew on 2-3 hours of input per week. Anguilla-Beaches.Com was mostly a hobby site in those early years, my main focus being school and those wonderful vacations, of course...
Scrub Island, March 2007
And then it happened. Life changed!
My Mom, Dad and sister permanently moved to Anguilla in August 2008 before me. I finished up the university courses I needed to transfer out of my Communication Studies major at Concordia University, joining the family at the end of 2008, accepted to a business major in New York City for the autumn of 2009.
I used that period from January 2009 until school started to learn more about the inner workings of a successful web-based business from my Dad's SBI!.
What a valuable segue! It was perhaps the most important course that I will ever take. By the time I was starting school in New York, Anguilla-Beaches.com was growing in traffic and income.
Over the next three years I studied entrepreneurship and management at the Zicklin School Of Business. It is one of the "oldest business schools in the world," is also "the largest business school in the United States" and "consistently ranks as one of the best business schools in the nation." (source: Wikipedia).
My Dad's company and its product ("SBI!") now have over 40,000 clients who build online businesses based upon something they know and love. You would be amazed at how you can turn what is in your head into an "e-business." Here are some examples.)
And Anguilla-Beaches.com has grown to become the #1 site on Anguilla in the world, receiving over 1 million visits per year. And all by writing about something I love.
The income from Anguilla-Beaches.com provides me with independence. I have choices. I very much want to build a meaningful startup (I am working on one with a partner friend as I write this).
But if ever I decide to live in a warm, free nation "forever," an island with a different lifestyle and values, Anguilla-Beaches.com provides me the independence to make those choices. Here are some stories about what other SBI! owners do.
I cannot recommend SBI! highly enough to anyone who is looking to build an additional income stream and financial independence. Yes, I know I am biased. ;-)
Writing from our home in the Caribbean, looking out at St. Martin, graduation from school in NYC seems long gone (May 2012). Since, I've moved home to Anguilla to focus on Anguilla-Beaches.com full-time.
Today, Anguilla-Beaches.com continues to grow and the team expands, too.
Kirmani Honoré I first met Kirmani back in 2011 when he joined up with our yearly internship program at Albena Lake Hodge Comprehensive School.
Since graduating in 2013, he has come on board full-time, learning about the Internet and helping grow Anguilla's presence on the web.
Enthusiastic, Kirmani is always up for an adventure (he can be found scaling some pretty intimidating cliff sides)!
Louise Fayet If you have been to Le Bon Pain, you might recognize Louise.
Her Mom owns and runs the bakery, and Louise was born and raised in Anguilla.
She is our Summer 2016 intern from Albena Lake Hodge Comprehensive School - with a passion and an eye for photography.
Kristin Bourne Working in the fast-paced world of marketing in NYC, Kristin uprooted from New York years ago to realize her dream...
Living in beautiful Anguilla.
Today, our friend Kristin calls the shores of Anguilla home and helps with the website.
We are proud to have produced a resource that helps Anguilla itself. People here truly are special. And life is as good as you might imagine a tropical island to be...
Mom, Yuki and Me
Kirmani and Me
Dad and Me
(It's always tough to get a family shot. Someone has to snap the photo, after all!)
Yuki and Me With One of Our Canine Family Members, Toupsie
Kirmani and Louise at Prickly Pear with Allan Ruan and Captain Rollins
"Why not be in a place I love, with people I love, doing something I love?"
Luckily here, work is also play. ;-)