Meet Tamara Jacobi, founder of the Tailwind Jungle Lodge, an eco-friendly family business on the Mexican Pacific Coastline, and the author of Wildpreneur, a practical guide to help you pursue your passion as a business.
How would you describe a wildpreneur?
A Wildpreneur is a free-spirit who is turning their passion into business. That’s my simple description, but it’s so much more than that! Wildpreneurs blaze their own trails, it’s a lifestyle—we love the journey and the destination. Wildpreneurs take many shapes (tiny home builders, digital nomads, wellness coaches, artisans, adventure guides…the possibilities are infinite) across a variety of demographics (from recent college graduates to retirees) however all Wildpreneurs are united by a passion for turning their wild ideas reality. We live by the mantra “no mud, no lotus” (philosopher Thich Nhat Hanh). There is no failure, only stepping stones. Wildpreneurs are masters of artful mistake making!
Is it harder to allow oneself to become a wildpreneur when you are a woman?
Life outside the box is a challenge for all free-thinkers (all demographics—men and women—blazing your own trail is hard work!). However, I would say that as a woman, I did find my experience to be more difficult culturally as I was getting started. I moved to Mexico at 21 years old in 2007. As I rolled up my sleeves to create my business (the Tailwind Jungle Lodge) the locals glanced at my long blonde hair and raised their eyebrows skeptically. They clearly didn’t take me seriously or believe that I would stick with it. But their doubt may have actually fueled my determination to succeed! Though I was a young “gringa” (American girl), I soon turned into a successful “jefa” (lady boss). It took a few years but the local community began to trust, respect and believe in me.
How and when did you start becoming concerned about ecology and nature preservation?
I grew up exploring the wilderness. My parents’ idea of a family vacation was to climb volcanoes, kayak, backpack or bike for months, camping every night. We spent a lot of time outside adventuring. But my awareness around conservation was truly sparked by my studies of environmental economics in college, where I wrote the business plan for my jungle lodge. I was fascinated and inspired to live a low impact lifestyle and create sustainable change.
However, it wasn’t until I’d been living in the jungle for several years that my understanding and actions came to fruition. My mindset shifted, I stopped resisting the cycles and embraced the flow. This was a huge turning point for me and life became much easier and harmonious. I finally understood that I am part of the natural world. Now, as a new mom, I’m going even deeper. My “jungle baby” loves the trees, sand, ocean, wildlife…So I am more committed than ever before to preserve and protect this unique natural paradise.
What are the main criteria to take into account to create an eco-friendly business?
One my favorite resources is a book called Biomimcry by Janine Benyus. Biomimcry looks to natural systems as models and guidelines for business. Mother Nature is a brilliant teacher! This book includes 9 principles that illuminate natural design, use of natural energy and resources, minimizing impact, recycling, diversification, cooperation, localism, minimalism, efficiency and more. I’ve found these criteria to be extremely valuable as I’ve created my eco-friendly business.
However, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to green business. Sustainability is complex. As a family, we implement realistic sustainable practices with a holistic approach that focuses on a triple bottom line philosophy : people, planet and profit. We’ve built our business with love and mindfulness. We strive to harmonize and minimize our impact on the natural world, to nurture a strong relationship with our community and to thrive as a healthy business.
How did the local culture inspired you and influenced your business?
The Mexican culture has not only transformed my approach to business, it has also shifted my personal values. When I initially began building my business, I had a rigorous and specific plan and timeline. I was extremely focused; work and productivity were my top priority. I envisioned growing my business quickly with the goal of maximizing profit. But I quickly learned that the Mexican culture has a very different approach. Their lifestyle is much slower and laid back, they prioritize simplicity and define richness as quality of life right now. Family and pleasure are first, work comes after that.
Though I initially resisted the “mañana culture” I gradually adapted and opened my eyes to the beauty and wisdom of it. The Mexican culture inspired me to slow down and to enjoy the journey, not just focus on the destination. I relaxed my grip on constant productivity and “progress”, and learned to let go of wearing busyness as a badge of honor. Now I prefer to savor the experience, to move slowly and steady (“poco a poco” they say in Mexico) with plenty of time for siestas and fiestas with all my Mexican amigos!
What were the main difficulties you faced during the creation of your business?
In addition to the cultural challenges and my experiences with wildlife, the main difficulty I faced was learning how to nourish myself and stay balanced (mind and body). Life as Wildpreneur can be all consuming and depleting. I put 100% of my energy into creating my business. About 3 years into my life in the jungle I ran out of energy, I crashed hard. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. I’d neglected to take care of myself. As we built the lodge, I’d been living in a tiny camping tent. I comprised my personal comfort and needs for too long.
Self-care as a Wildpreneur is crucial. Energy and health are needed for keeping passion and inspiration alive! Once I realized that I needed help figuring out how to take care of myself, I enrolled in a program for Integrative Nutrition, online classes I could do from the jungle. As I discovered the power of holistic health and learned about my unique bio-individuality, I got my health back on track. I was revitalized, happier and able to refocus on my wild business.
What is like to run a family business?
It’s a dream come true to work with my family but it’s also a tremendous challenge. With many years, we have learned each other’s strengths, weaknesses and how to work together. We built our business on a foundation of fun and that is ultimately what has kept us going for nearly 15 years. We’re never too busy to go for a surf or a jungle hike as a family. We also embrace what we call the “family fundamentals” which include trust, patience, boundaries, unity and love. As I write in Chapter 8 Family Business: Mission Impossible Possible. “Our shared passion for wild living enabled us to create a mission and vision for our business that we all agreed upon—we were on the same page from the outset. Together, we committed to the sacrifices, challenges, and rewards. We’re a team, united by a shared dream—a stability that has helped mitigate the many challenges of wild living and ultimately guided us to success.”
How did you find the time to write a book? What was your writing process like?
For my 30th birthday, I treated myself to a 10-day surfing and yoga retreat in Nicaragua. I’d been hosting retreats at the lodge for years and realized that I needed a personal retreat. Between waves and sun salutations in Nicaragua, I found myself in the hammock with a pen and paper. The lodge had no electricity which gave me a much needed technology detox. I had a chance to breathe, be fully present and to tune into my inspiration. Thus began a 3-year journey of writing my book. I loved the process! It wasn’t always easy but writing is very therapeutic for me. Finding my creative flow is one of my favorite things in life, it makes me feel so alive! I made time to write a priority because I feel that inspiration is truly the best medicine. It’s part of my self-care equation.
My journey as an author has been particularly interesting this year. My son was born in October 2019 and my book was released 3 months later so I essentially had 2 babies. I’ve learned that the writing process goes beyond words; there are a lot of elements needed for putting a book out in the world. It’s been a challenging and beautiful adventure, just like creating a wild business. It’s pushed me to grow and thrive in surprising ways.
What is the purpose of this book?
This is the book that I wish I’d had when I first began my journey as an entrepreneur. This is what they don’t teach you in the classroom. My purpose with Wildpreneurs is to empower free-spirits of all ages to tune into what makes them come alive, explore their wild business ideas, embrace the challenge and take action. My purpose is even more clear with new global circumstances. Given the challenges of spring 2020, Wildpreneursis needed now more than ever as a resource for hope, inspiration and imagining a brighter future. With widespread unemployment, many are considering a “plan B.” They are moving away from 9 – 5 jobs towards becoming the CEOs of their own lives. My wish is that Wildpreneurs will be a catalyst for turning dreams into reality as well as a community to support them on their journey.
Have you ever missed your “conventional” life?
If I had a taco for every time I wished I had a steady pay check I’d be fed for life ! When I first started creating my business there are many times that I wondered if I was completely crazy for choosing this path as I had been offered a job on Wall Street that I turned down. Blazing my own trail and living “wild” has pushed me out of my comfort zone many times. It’s not an easy journey.
But honestly, that feeling is fleeting. I’ve never doubted my path. I’ve never really lived a conventional life and I doubt that I would be fulfilled by life in the box behind a desk. The challenges that I’ve experienced have been stepping stones that have pushed me to grow stronger and ultimately thrive and experience richness beyond dollars and cents. As I reflect on my experience I have no regrets. I love being the CEO of my own life! I am truly grateful to have the freedom to wake up each day and embrace a new adventure! No day is the same. I’m particularly grateful for this approach now given the current crisis that we are living; Wildpreneurs are accustomed to uncertainty and are willing to adapt to whatever comes.
If you had one tip to give to a woman who wants to start her own business what would it be?
I would offer an equation that I call the 3 Ws: Wish, Wildpreneur Approach and Wisdom.Tune into what makes you come alive, identify your wild business idea and imagine yourself in action making it happen. Making a wish, setting your intention and visualization are the first step on your journey. Summon your grit and persistence. Commit to embracing the challenge. There is no failure, only stepping stones. And finally: Do what you love! Infuse love and mindfulness into all aspects of your business with a holistic approach (people, planet and profit).
Interview by Amélie Tresfels