While there is ample evidence to support the popular adage that ‘success breeds success’, nobody should ever overlook the key characteristics that make any entrepreneur successful in the first place. Notably vision, creative thinking, risk taking, motivation, resilience, passion, and good old-fashioned hard work - the kind of adjectives that neatly sum up the personality of Vincentian serial entrepreneur Kelly Glass.
As a young man, New Zealand born Kelly gained invaluable life experience while travelling around the world as a professional rugby player and later working as an Electrical Engineer in diverse countries ranging from Australia to Libya. It was only when he arrived in St Vincent in 1985 to take up a post at the Cumberland Hydroelectric Project that his wanderlust finally came to a halt. Smitten by the island’s charm and natural beauty - and yes, a Caribbean lady - Kelly planted his roots in St Vincent and set about turning the country’s obvious untapped potential into actual business opportunities.
In a remarkable career spanning four decades, Kelly Glass has racked up a long list of outstanding business success stories throughout the Caribbean and beyond, predominantly in the infrastructural development sectors of telecommunications, construction, marine facilities, energy, and hospitality. Along the way, while working alongside leading international entities on an array of projects, he has been awarded prestigious accolades such as the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Thanks to his innate ability to predict future trends, with the provision of cable TV via fiber-optic cable being a good example, Kelly has been able to successfully launch and develop companies, then on-sell them to competing giants in multi-million-dollar deals.
Today, having accumulated significant resources over the years, Kelly Glass is ideally positioned to carry out a broad range of major work that will greatly benefit the Caribbean region in general, and St Vincent & the Grenadines in particular. Under the auspices of his umbrella company, K-Group, Kelly is currently overseeing multiple projects ranging from multi-million dollar investments in the production of medicinal cannabis to boatbuilding, to constructing ports, roads and bridges, as well as opening new hotels and developing marinas to service the yachting industry.
In Kelly’s own words:
“I think that SVG is heading in the right direction as a high-end destination. In addition to the new Sandals on the mainland and well-known names like Canouan’s Mandarin Oriental, SOHO House and Sandy Lane Marina, Mustique, Palm Island Resort, Petit St. Vincent, and so on, we also have several smaller but very classy hotels and restaurants that give top service and attract high quality visitors.
Our group alone is successfully running several properties throughout the region. In St Vincent we have the Blue Lagoon Marina and Hotel, where we opened The Loft Restaurant, plus the Coconut Grove Beach Club. On Bequia, our operations include The Liming, a boutique luxury hotel and restaurant in Paget Farm; as well as the Bequia Plantation Hotel.
And what I find to be really exciting is the enormous potential for the future of the west coast of St. Vincent, which is one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the Caribbean. There are lots of attractive features like coastal waterfalls, inlets and tunnels, plus numerous sheltered bays that would make ideal locations for marine facilities. For a start, I’d love to see a new dock built at the Falls of Baleine, along with the restoration of the original ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ site at Wallibou.
I also see similarly promising opportunities on the horizon for Mayreau, one of the prettiest islands in the Grenadines. Over the last 30 years, I’ve bought in excess of 100 acres there and set up an SPV (Special Services Vehicle) to facilitate the start of Phase 2 of the project; for which we are preparing the infrastructure work on a stunning 78-acre block overlooking the Tobago Cays, with arguably the best views in the Caribbean - just 10 minutes from Canouan’s jet airport and right in the absolute heart of the Southern Grenadines.
With 32 islands located within a very manageable 32-mile stretch, a beautiful natural environment and a rich maritime history, the Grenadines has incredible potential to be further developed as a world-class sailing destination. Consider the fact that when a marina offers 150 berths, with each yacht having four cabins, that is the equivalent of a floating 600-room hotel with a fast turnover. The money spent in this sector has huge trickle down to the wider economy - agricultural products, bakeries, supermarkets, liquor stores, bars, restaurants, and numerous other small businesses and service providers - so any growth would be good for Vincentians and visitors alike.
We already have planning permission to expand our Blue Lagoon Marina to 150 berths and work will start on that soon. I also have plans to build a new marina on Bequia, at Admiralty Bay Harbour. And, as we also own and manage Clarke’s Court Boatyard and Marina, the largest marina in Grenada, we have learned from first-hand experience how to do this job well. Part of my vision is to have a revitalized Bequia Regatta, followed by a Grenadines Sailing Week.
One of our most recent ventures is to launch a boat-building business. To get started we are using the Dominican Republic as a training ground for the operation, with the intention of bringing it to St Vincent, possibly to the likes of Ottley Hall or by building our own facility on the Leeward side of the island. There is an increasing demand for day-charter vessels and, with us currently working on our second 70ft catamaran, we are getting a lot of enquiries and orders. I have no doubt that the final approvals we need from the Government of St Vincent will be forthcoming and, as soon as the local infrastructure is in place, we will relocate. Without doubt, that would bring new job and skill-set training opportunities to our shores.
I have never hesitated to invest and re-invest in SVG because we have a good governance record, reliable utility services, and an ever-improving infrastructure. And now that the long awaited and much needed new Argyle International Airport has been opened – with connections to the UK, USA, Canada and the Caribbean – I can see an even brighter economic future.
Throughout my journey I have been supported all the way by incredibly talented people, many of them much smarter than me. It’s no exaggeration to say that without our team, the business would not be where it is today. First and foremost, I owe a huge thank you to my family Jankie and Tessa, who have been involved in the business for many years and play key roles today. Other long-serving stalwarts include Ram Ramgoolan, our contracts manager, CFO Melissa Wright, Andrew Arrindell and his IT team, and Conor Holmes in the marine side of the group. Plus other loyal, hardworking employees like Reds Husskinsson and ‘Buttercup’ Me Kiel, the best heavy machine operator in SVG. Moving forward, we have just engaged John Mangos as CEO to carry the company though to the next generation with Tessa. And last but definitely not least, I want to give credit to Michael Brackin, my trusty #2 man on my boats and plane, who also looks after our property management.
Outside of the company, I also owe a debt of gratitude to Sir Charles Antrobus, our ex-Governor General - and at the time the only West Indian GM of Cable and Wireless in the Caribbean - who had great faith in my start-up company. He was a huge help in our group expanding throughout the region as a communications contractor.
Overall SVG has been good for me, and I’d like to think that I’ve been good for SVG. For sure, I have worked hard to make a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing development of my adopted homeland. And, happily, I have no intention of stopping just yet.”