Not many people can go from being a traveller to homeless in a foreign country to making 6 figure sales in a dropshipping business in less than a year and then opening an eco-resort, Reconnect, with sustainability as the focal point. Thomas Despin has seen it all.
In 2015, Thomas went on a bicycle journey around Europe and the USA to meet the CEOs of startups, learn from them and write their stories. After having met over 100 CEOs and cycling through 12,000km, his journey came to an end in Canada. Feeling the need to go to a warmer climate, Thomas booked a flight to Bali where his bank account got hacked, leaving him with no money after a few weeks of travel. To make matters worse, he was hospitalized for a food infection. He ended up living with a Balinese family in exchange for his online skills and found a job in a reputed digital agency as a marketing advisor. After spending 30 days working there, Thomas knew one thing; he did not want to spend his time doing something he did not like in restricted time and space. He ended up leaving the job.
Thomas started to look into freelance opportunities before he collaborated with a friend to create an eCommerce dropshipping project with a friend. Thomas describes his initial experience by calling it “frustrating and discouraging”. While there were minor successes along the way, the first big hit came in the third month where they achieved $1100 worth of sales in a day. By the end of the 11th month, Thomas and his friend had made $750,000 worth of sales. But Thomas ended up parting ways from this venture as the numbers were starting to decline and so was his motivation. While this project served as a valuable learning experience, he felt there were better opportunities waiting for him.
Continuing his journey to do something more meaningful this time, Thomas’ latest initiative is all for making a difference, one step at a time. Reconnect is a high-impact private island eco-retreat. The idea is for visitors to connect with nature, themselves, and with others. Located on an island called Buka Buka in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, Reconnect offers an authentic and interactive experience to visitors, all while empowering local communities through high-impact social programs and preserving its nature.
The eco-resort offers comfort to its visitors whether they decide to live in glamping tents or luxury bungalows. They will also have access to water adventures such as snorkelling, kayaking, drinking coconuts etc. However, the experience doesn’t just end there. Thomas aims for visitors to experience the day to day life of the locals and learn from them by joining them in making coconut oil, climbing through the jungle to find freshwater, transplanting corals to improve the ecosystem, learning the transformation of plastic into fuel, growing food in permaculture garden etc. The purpose is to live differently, learn progressively, and contribute to making the environment better.
Thomas plans to bring a solar-powered desalination system to the island so they can have easy and ample access to freshwater while sharing it with locals. Currently, water on the island is scarce. Locals climb up to the center of the island for an hour to find freshwater from very limited supply and they transport it in cans carrying it in their own hands. With setting up a solar-powered desalination plant, the visitors can sustainably coexist with the locals. Thomas also intends to introduce high-impact social programs that will contribute to empowering the local communities and preserving nature. These include the Coconut Journey Workshops where locals will be able to learn how they can set up small scale side businesses with the use of coconuts, thousands of which are wasted otherwise, coral transplantation which will help improve the ecosystem surrounding the island resulting in more marine life to observe, and tree plantation to offset the negative environmental impact of the wood used in building the structures of the resort.
Reconnect will officially launch in early 2020 however they are taking pre-bookings and welcoming guests who would like to contribute to the completion of the project.
While quitting a job or closing down a successful business may be seen as a setback, Thomas took it as all part of the adventure that got him one step closer, each time, to achieve meaningful and impactful successes. In the realm of profitable businesses, Reconnect seems like a breath of fresh air.
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