Since she was a child, Karen Emanuel has always wanted to grow up and have a job she loved so much it didn’t feel like work. She succeeded. She owns Jicaro Island Ecolodge.
Born and raised in London, England, Karen received a degree in genetics from Leeds University. She worked for a short while at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the Genetics department but very quickly learned that staring into test tubes and Petri dishes wasn't adventurous or entrepreneurial enough for her. In 1990, she developed Key Production Ltd., which supplies CDs, DVDs, print and packaging to music, media and business markets throughout Europe. She also created Decadent Properties Ltd., a small real estate company in London.
And, as if she wasn’t already enterprising enough, she opened Jicaro Island Ecolodge in December 2009. The seed of the concept had been planted three years earlier when Karen was vacationing in Nicaragua and one day happened into a restaurant and saw a notice proclaiming "Island for Sale.” This sparked her imagination, partly as a fantasy, but also because she recognized that Nicaragua was a developing Central American country with a lot to offer the tourism industry. After an inspiring boat ride with the island’s owners, followed by a relaxing week at an exemplary ecolodge on the Nicaraguan coast, the idea that would eventually become Jicaro began to take shape.
Arriving back home to the bleak London winter, Karen scribbled down a few figures on the back of an envelope and within a few weeks she had bought herself an island. Two years later, with the help of architect Matthew Falkiner and team from Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality, the dream began to develop into a reality. Since its opening, Jicaro Island Ecolodge has hired a staff of local Nicaraguan people and its inaugural guests have had nothing but overwhelmingly positive responses.
“I feel proud of what I have achieved and delighted at their experiences,” she said. “It makes me very happy to see other people de-stress, relax and enjoy what I have created. It’s also extremely satisfying to see the development of an amazing set of employees.”
She says working with Cayuga Sustainable Hospitality has been an amazing experience. “They are the experts. They understand what I want and how to make it happen. And we share the philosophy: Take only photos; leave only footprints; try to do something to help preserve this amazing world we live in.”
Karen is the author of a blog about the ups and downs of building an ecolodge on an island in a lake in Nicaragua at www.karensisland.com
In the photo: Karen Emanuel and General Manager Howard Coulson from Nicaragua.