Chris Burch Blends Creativity, Entrepreneurial Excellence and Philanthropy
Almost everyone dreams of owning an island, and some imaginative entrepreneurs envision an elegant hotel that welcomes world travelers to crystal blue water, pristine beaches and the perfect wave. A big difference between Chris Burch and almost everyone else is that he did it.
Burch partnered with his friend, global hotelier James McBride, to purchase a cult surf resort called Nihiwatu on an Indonesian island. Readers of Travel + Leisure magazine voted it above all of the other exotic and fashionable resorts as the best hotel in the world.
Inviting Contemporary Travelers to a Natural Paradise
Creating extraordinary beauty is nothing new to Burch, and he focused his enormous creative energy on the natural aesthetic of Nihiwatu. His vision for 27 spacious villas incorporate the native elements of beach and jungle that emphasize the natural beauty of the island. To bring nature into the interior spaces of the villas, he juxtaposes elegant teak wood and natural stone for a dramatic effect.
Burch’s respect for the natural surroundings is a trait of a man who finds elegance where others may not. Early settlers acknowledged the large rocks at the ocean’s edge to give the beach its name, meaning literally, “Mortar Stone.” Burch focus is to protect the relatively untouched geological features of Sumba’s jungles and beaches.
Choosing an Entrepreneurial Path
The lure of becoming an entrepreneur is often hard to resist, and Burch was aware of it when he was at Ithaca College as an undergraduate. With his brother, he invested $2000 to launch Eagle’s Eye apparel. They found success by selling preppy sweaters door-to-door on college campuses. Eagle’s Eye eventually sold for an estimated $60 million. Burch’s understanding of what customers want, his ability to use efficient production sources, and a direct-to-consumer marketing plan, is what created a successful entrepreneur.
After getting an early start in business, he founded Burch Creative Capital where he is the CEO. For 40 years, he has continued his entrepreneurial success as an investor in a variety of interests that include Nihiwatu (now Nihi Sumba Island), a clothing line by Ellen DeGeneres, Bauble Bar, Solid & Striped, and others.
Developing an Expanded Portfolio
Burch’s wide-ranging interests present a diverse portfolio of investment opportunities on the domestic scene as well as international locations. He chose some of the most fashionable areas of the country as sites for developing luxury homes. Owning a residence in Southhampton, Nantucket, and Palm Beach offers as much appeal to many people as owning an island in the Indian Ocean. Partnering with another famed hotelier, Alan Faena led to the development of the Faena Hotel & Universe in Argentina.
Burch’s pursuit of innovative opportunities continues to broaden. He decided to launch Cocoon9 to appeal to homeowners who prefer space-saving floor plans. The designs feature energy efficiencies and contemporary styling that are characteristics of Millennial preferences. He owns a sourcing supply company for the hospitality industry, and another that provides bright and cheerful office supplies.
Giving Back to the Community
With a passion for philanthropy that matches his entrepreneurial interests, Burch supports research and charitable activities at New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital and NYU Langone, an outstanding academic medical center that dedicates time and resources to research and education as well as patient care. His work on his Indonesian island inspires him to support The Sumba Foundation, and elsewhere in Asia, The Child Welfare League of China, and the China Association of Social Work.
Sharing Profitable Practices
As an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, Burch has knowledge that other innovators want to know. He understands from experience that blending productivity with creativity requires discipline. To maintain a balance, he recommends setting a time limit on brainstorming sessions so that everyone can focus on action.
His advice for taking notes while working helps entrepreneurs capture creative ideas when they occur. A focus on meeting a deadline may not allow the opportunity to develop original thoughts, but instituting a policy of sharing them later can provide inspiration for even more inventive and innovative ideas. His recommendation for writing things down extends to staff meetings. Burch suggests that drawing a sketch may appeal to some team members while words work well for others.
One of the most important underlying principles of balancing creativity and productivity is the need for budgeting time for both. Burch encourages entrepreneurs to take a fresh view of ways to introduce creative elements into the budgeted time allotments.
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