Never stop learning. As an entrepreneur you must always learn to be dynamic, to adapt to changes and be open to ideas that other people create.”
People come up with new ideas every day. Some ideas are simple, some aren’t as good, but some ideas stand out greatly – in a good way. Jimmy Stice, the CEO, and founder of Kalu Yala is one of those men who is concretizing one of those outstanding ideas.
Mr. Stice graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Marketing. After garnering his degree, he went on to pursue a position in the Atlantic Investors Group. This was the entry level to start his brainchild, to start a remote town in the mountains of Panama. With access to the real estate properties in Panama City and nearby locations, he was able to develop an idea that he can build a modern village that is self-sustaining and environment-friendly.
Jimmy Stice presented this idea to several investors in various conferences, and he gained public interest for his ideas. Soon after, Kalu Yala was born in 2008 and it has presently been developing, inviting travelers, researchers and students to experience and contribute to sustainable living practices in this remote, yet modern village. He continues to build on this dream with the help of many like minded people who wish to create similar communities in the future.
Since 2009, Mr. Stice was able to create homes made using local raw materials, provide water and energy sources with minimum to zero carbon footprint. The students and professionals who went to the village also contributed several ideas to create the vision of a sustainable community.
Where did the idea for Kalu Yala come from?
The idea of creating a sustainable village came to my mind when I joined the Atlantic Investors group back in 2005. I saw the potential when I was able to view the real estate properties in the areas of Panama and was immersed in the different possibilities that my idea could bring. I was always an advocate of sustainability and care of the environment, so I saw the opportunity knocking on my door, and I didn’t waste time.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I always want to start my day with a sense of peace and tranquility. I get up doing a physical activity for at least 20 minutes, and I go over my to-do list before I start my day. I do remote work if I am in Atlanta, but I often visit the village when I have the chance. I talk to the professionals making operations on-site, making decisions and delegating tasks to my team members. Oh, and having some tea or coffee also keeps me focused throughout the daily grind.
How do you bring ideas to life?
You can describe me as someone who is very visionary. I like presenting my ideas to like minded people and getting their support. I believe in the sense of community when I have ideas, so attending conferences and participating in interviews like this is something valuable to me.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The ideas that come up daily through the development of our sustainable community in Panama always excites me. That is why I love students who attend immersions in our village. Just when I think that something is already a done deal, they always come up with more ways to create environmental-friendly and sustainable living ideas in the areas of generating energy, building homes and agriculture.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think what makes any person a successful entrepreneur is believing in oneself. If you believe in yourself and can find other like-minded people who can support you, you will ultimately succeed. The rest is just background noise.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To always think out of the box. When I was young, I went through a phase where I thought I always had to tread on the known path. I realized later on that you don’t always have to take the same road, you can create your own and that’s what makes the journey worth it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
Some people might not believe that a fully sustainable village is possible. However, that is what is happening in Panama right now, we are creating that vision that seemed impossible for others to comprehend. When you have a good idea, you have to pursue it even if others believe otherwise.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else does?
Never stop learning. As an entrepreneur you must always learn to be dynamic, to adapt to changes and be open to ideas that other people create.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
In order to succeed, I had to find the right people. Finding the right people meant going to the places where they are. By going through environmental and sustainability conferences, I was able to find people who share the same passions making our communities a better place to live in, not just for ourselves but for the planet. You have to be at the right place to get the support you need.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I wouldn’t consider it a failure, but a learning experience. The village has recently received a very biased negative publicity due to an agreement to air the village and some of the students. We know how some elements of media are for sensationalism, and I guess the learning experience from here is to understand that in all agreements, there are risks to be understood. We still believe in the vision for the village, and it is truly opposite of what students really say of our immersion program.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
At present, the trend is focused on environmental-friendly and healthy options for consumers. If you have an innovative idea for a product or service that is leaned towards these trends, say a water-powered lighting system, or creating storage containers for food items that are easily biodegradable, then you have something valuable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Since it’s the holiday season, I recently spent $100 for coffee and breakfast for the Atlanta-based team. The rest of those, we gave away to the staff working in our building. I believe that as an entrepreneur you should make your employees feel valuable in the little and big things.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Since we serve a lot of clients who want to undergo immersion or travel activities, I divided my team into small sub-groups. One team handles the inquiries for students and others for travel. Other teams coordinate with investment inquiries as well. We use a software called LiquidPlanner, where we post project details and it is easier for us to see what each department is up to. I can also get an overview of what the progress of each department is and cross out a project if it’s done.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I recommend reading Margaret Robertson’s Sustainability Principles and Practices. This book really inspired me to better my ideas for the village. If you are someone who wants to start an eco-friendly business, this book is a must-read.
What is your favorite quote?
“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”
It’s a Native American proverb that stuck to my mind. I value sustainability because I want the new generation to see our planet for what it’s really like – for them to be in awe of its beauty while keeping the progression of our society in the years to come.
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