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Developing the entrepreneurial spirit

Sep 29, 2014

How does a Flagler alumnus with a business degree end up owning one of the top adventure travel resorts in Nicaragua? For Greg Bamford, ‘89, it all started with an idea he dreamed up during his freshman year at Flagler. Now, almost 30 years later, his entrepreneurial spirit is going strong in Mango Rosa Resort Nicaragua.

Bamford, an avid surfer, traveled extensively during his off time at Flagler and was inspired by expats running businesses all over the world. His first 15 years after Flagler, Bamford worked in the Caribbean and Florida, refining his dream of developing an adventure travel resort into an actual master plan. 

It was these years that Bamford paid his dues, learning how the tourism industry really works. It was knowledge that proved invaluable when he began building the resort in a Central American jungle. 

“It’s been a crazy path,” he said. “I’ve waited tables, sold Banzai trees, been a ‘tanning consultant,’ sold boats and been a charter captain. Anything to keep the dream alive.” 

To launch the business endeavor, he spent several years saving up money — trading khaki shorts and Top Siders for a minivan and suits as a pharmaceutical rep. Those six years helped him develop his business instincts and his entrepreneurial resolve. 

In 2005, while on a surf trip to Nicaragua with his brother and fellow Flagler alumnus Scott Bamford, he found the right mix of location and economic opportunity in San Juan Del Sur, where he would launch the resort.

But it was never an easy road. “Well, they call it ‘Jungle Fever’ for a reason,” he said. “Especially in the beginning, it was like the Wild West. Only, cowboys survive.” 

As Nicaragua continues to develop its tourism industry, though, the tourism market has taken off and proven to be a competitive business environment for Bamford. Mango Rosa is almost 10 years old, and consists of 12 residences, a bar and restaurant, a pool and seven acres of lush gardens nestled into a jungle setting.

Bamford’s clients are mostly from North America, and amenities and guest offerings are delivered at a higher level to meet tourists’ expectations.

“Managing 25 Nicaraguan employees, in your second language, is not an easy task,” he said. “Nicaragua is just barely a decade into catering to international travelers, and instilling these expectations into the local people has its challenges and rewards. It’s been great to see our employees learn, grow and see some financial reward as well.” 

What’s his advice on launching a business?

“The biggest thing is to maintain your patience, laugh a lot, remember the love for adventure that brought us to this country, and above all else, maintain your integrity,” he said

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