Sunset Homes, Anguilla

 

Sunset Homes is a dynamic globally award winning firm that specializes in Architecture & Design, Form Building Technology, Procurement of Construction Materials direct from factories around the world, Property Development, as well as general design and construction consultancy services.

The Sunset Homes team is led by Ian ‘Sugar George’ Edwards and his wife Janine Edwards. My Anguilla Experience sat down for a chat with co-owner Janine Edwards to learn more about the journey which resulted in the formation of Sunset Homes and subsequently some of the incredible villas and homes we have in Anguilla today.

Ian 'Sugar George' Edwards of Sunset Homes, Anguilla

Ian ‘Sugar George’ Edwards of Sunset Homes, Anguilla

Janine Edwards of Sunset Homes, Anguilla

Janine Edwards of Sunset Homes, Anguilla

Janine was open and engaging as she shared some of their experiences and insight gained over the past 18 years.

Her passion for what they do shone through her every word and as I listened to her I could not help but be encouraged and inspired by what this husband and wife team have been able to accomplish. Read on as Janine Edwards shares their story in this interview with My Anguilla Experience.

How did you get your start in the tourism/hospitality sector in Anguilla?

Janine: There was the volcanic crisis in Montserrat in 1995. By 1996 two thirds of the population of Montserrat had migrated. It was a time when Montserratians were trying to decide where to live and work. Ian moved to St. Maarten and built a house for a client there. He did not particularly care for the ambience in St. Maarten and his friend Mr. Cool invited him to Anguilla to try it out. The Government of the time had extended loads of warmth and hospitality to Montserratians so he was able to enter and live in Anguilla without immigration and work permit restrictions.

Prior to the volcanic eruption, Ian was involved in villa development in Montserrat. Montserrat at that time had a very developed villa sector. Ian came to Anguilla and loved it and resumed his career here in the construction industry.  He worked for a bit on various projects and then decided to buy land. In terms of personal property development, Ian designed and built Splash villa which was completed by 1999 and was offered on the market for short term rentals. This was followed by Spyglass Hill Villa and then the home in which we now reside.  During this period he also designed and built many villas and homes of various architectural themes for various clients.

In 1998, after completing my studies at York University, I moved to Anguilla. I worked for short periods in the financial sector, in the hotel sector at Cuisinart, and then I did some work with Bob Green of Anguilla News while working part-time for Sunset Homes. As the company got increasingly busy I transitioned full time into helping to run and manage Sunset Homes.

Both Ian and I were always involved in the full range of the construction, tourism and real estate sector. Ian would design and build and I would follow up by marketing and managing the villas. I managed other villas during that time as well.

Can you share how the idea for Sunset Homes came about?

Janine: Ian is self-trained. At the age of 21 he was a foreman and by age 23 he started his own construction company. He previously owned a construction company in Montserrat called Edwards Construction. It was renamed Sunset Homes for marketing appeal when we moved to Anguilla so in effect Sunset Homes had its beginnings in Montserrat.

What is it like being a husband/wife team? Tell us a bit more about what you each do in the business?

Janine: Work never ends but it is a lot of fun. Work is at work, work is at home but we enjoy it.  Ian focuses on the designing and property development, basically the technical side of the business. I handle the administration, marketing and villa management aspect of Sunset Homes. We make a great team as we have complementary skill sets – what I am good at he is not and what he is good at I am not. We work for ourselves and for our children with the dream of creating a legacy.

The 'Edwards' Family at launch of Sunset Homes magazine

The ‘Edwards’ Family at launch of Sunset Homes magazine

Do any of your children have an interest in following in your footsteps?

Janine: We expose the children to the business but they are interested in many things so you never know. All of the children are integrally involved in what is going on, especially our oldest son. They are all aware of the importance of things like customer service. Our oldest son is also exposed to architecture and design, technical drawing and marketing, social media and other skills. We expose them to different aspects of the business so even if they do not end up in the same field, they will benefit in their career and life from the skill sets they have had around them.

Sunset Homes won a number of awards in 2012/2013. Tell us a bit more about the awards. What was your initial reaction when you learnt that you won?

Janine: We entered the International Property Awards which is a highly respected, globally recognized competition. We entered the competition for the fun of it. The process required us to submit a project and we decided to submit the Beach House on Meads Bay. There were over 2000 + entries from around the world which covered areas like architecture, design and property development.

The Beach House, Anguilla

The Beach House, Anguilla – Photo Credit – Rene Guinto

When we traveled to London we knew we were semifinalists for some categories but we did not anticipate coming out on top or even competing with the big guns. At the dinner we were sitting with persons who had over 700 architects in their firm. While there we also had the opportunity to promote Anguilla by hosting a round table discussion on Anguilla. We felt proud to be representing Anguilla and bringing Anguilla into the architectural circles. It was a fantastic experience.

The highlight of the event was the Awards.  We won Best Single Property Unit – Anguilla; Best Architecture Single Unit – Anguilla; Best , Property Single Unit – Caribbean; Best Architecture Single Unit – Caribbean;  Best International Architecture – Single Residence for 2012-2013 (the most-coveted prize), the sole “World’s Best of the Best of the Best” for that category.

We were over the moon when we won the global category. It was a once in a lifetime experience which you can never really replicate.

What are the biggest challenges of the work that you do?

Janine: At the height of the building period in Anguilla we had over 70 employees. There was no shortage of jobs on Anguilla so we had to import labour as we could not get enough workers at the company. We could not even find houses to put them in during this time. There were a lot of administrative challenges then, such as signing contracts with landlords (as they did not want to rent to employees), establishing bank accounts, getting cell phones, language barriers etc. It was an absolutely stimulating time for our company, but also very challenging because we could not easily secure the human resources element to execute what was needed. Currently, we are fortunate to have a good core of persons working with with Sunset Homes. Sometimes though there is still a challenge with finding human resources at highly skilled and managerial levels.

Another challenge we face is importation of materials. In Anguilla, almost all materials must be imported. This is a challenge as cost and logistics such as shipping delays and custom delays all come into play. Can you imagine shipping something from China and when it arrives something is incorrect?

On the marketing and administrative side, it is sometimes a challenge to get things done in Anguilla but perhaps this is the case everywhere. There is a lot of red tape and paper work which can be frustrating when we are trying to accomplish other value added things.

What are the biggest attractions of the work that you do?

Janine: Ian loves creating from a clean slate, envisioning and expressing the concepts from his head and the surroundings, to create designs and then seeing them come to fruition.  He also really enjoys finish carpentry work but he does not get too much time to do much of that anymore.

I most enjoy brainstorming and networking with others to develop and execute innovative ideas to market our various services. I also enjoy connecting with clients and business associates for idea generation and sharing, for both personal and professional growth.

Spy Glass Hill Villa, Anguilla

Spyglass Hill Villa, Anguilla – Photo Credit – Chris Mason

How do you make time for family?

Janine: We have a lot more flexibility with our family and family matters as we work for ourselves. It is one big time management affair – We mix it all in.

We can take them to work or introduce them to clients. We have found that most of our clients are open to family even at dinner meetings. This is one of the perks of living and working in Anguilla.

What attributes do you believe are fundamental to your success in business?

Janine: Our passion and drive for what we do are definitely fundamental. Our openness to always wanting to learn and also to putting ourselves into a position to learn is also important. Ian and I believe in life time learning. We attend a lot of conferences and trade shows overseas and do research online, as these are great for keeping abreast of what is new in our industry.

We build and value relationships and we contribute and engage in community building. We also think creatively and remain open-minded. We think across sectors and about how one resource can be used across platforms, even if not for Sunset Homes, but by someone else, and we happily connect them with that opportunity.

Sunset Homes just launched a new magazine. What was the motivation behind the magazine?

Janine: We showcase our properties online all the time but the idea came to us that we could present most of our work in a nice magazine. The design layout work was executed primarily by two staff members Verna Jerome and Hari Cuffy who were trained in Graphics by Ken Hodge, lecturer at the Anguilla Community College and this area was facilitated and completed with the support and input of Orrett Wynter of Design Anguilla and Trudy Nixon of True Communications. My Mom and I made up the Editorial Team. It was mostly an in-house project with some guidance from close business associates.  We were able to put a lot of our work over the years into print so that it is now something all audiences can enjoy.  Many persons enjoy looking at home magazines whether they have a home or not. This initiative brought a lot of pride to the staff. The launch of the magazine was a great success as well.

A christmas tree of magazines

A Christmas tree of magazines

How does Sunset Homes give back to the community?

Janine: Sunset Homes believes in giving back to the community. We particularly focus on and enjoy organizing and supporting activities and events in the areas of youth, sports and education.  We host an annual sport fun fair event in August where we give away school supplies to primarily young persons in the villages of Cauls bottom, Stoney Ground and Little Dix as that is where our business is situated. We receive help from clients and Anguillians living abroad like Kate and Joe-B in Florida, to support this initiative. Community enthusiasts like Joan, Ali and Alma have been with us volunteering passionately from the inception on this event.

Sunset Homes Fun Day, Anguilla

Sunset Homes Fun Day, Anguilla

We also have some community partners such as Kids Kare, the Anguilla Public Library, the Arijah Foundation, Tropical Treats and Canita Ruan who does face painting and others. Businesses such as Mary’s Bakery, Merchant’s Market, J W Proctors and Aronel also support the cause. The Royal Anguilla Police Force also kindly assists.

Ian’s passion is football and he coaches, manages and sponsors the Sunset Homes Attackers Football Club.

I also work with Runway Anguilla, an annual fundraising fashion show which supports causes such as medication for the elderly and education for the youth. Another cause I am involved in is the Women with Heart group which organizes certain annual breast awareness activities.

We try to get involved by lending time, expertise and financial resources in various positive activities and causes on the island.

When you are not working or enjoying the lovely villas that you designed, what do you do for fun in Anguilla?

Janine: Ian’s passion is football and this is how he uses most of his spare time. I love to read and to get active in the children’s schools. We also love to entertain and liaise with friends.

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Do you have any advice for persons hoping to start a business in the tourism sector?

Janine: You must love whatever business you choose to pursue. Tourism is a 24/7 business and if you do not love it will be a chore. Hone in on what you love and learn to do everything better. If you want to succeed you must be able to accept criticism. Do ask clients for advice and learn from your competitors.

If you have staff empower them –give your staff wings and the tools to fly. Allow them to make mistakes because everyone likes to work for a bigger reason than just money. Find out what makes them tick.

You must take a holistic approach to your business and continue to add value to clients and even competitors as cooperation is important. For example, if we have an enquiry for a villa stay and we do not have a property which is a good match, we will refer the prospective client to another villa in Anguilla. What is most important is that the business stays in Anguilla.

What can we expect next from Sunset Homes?

Janine: Ian is always looking at new ways to top his most recent creation and create excellent architecture which persons can enjoy. We also like to ensure that the overall, the company is excelling and innovating in all areas:  marketing, administration, customer care, employee training and development and community support. In summary we are always working on doing what we do better which will bring pride to the company and Anguilla.

I had a fantastic time talking to Janine and would like to thanks Sunset Homes for being one of the first sponsors of My Anguilla Experience. I do hope you were inspired by reading this blog. Leave a comment below and share this inspirational interview with others. Thanks for reading everyone!

For more information on Sunset Homes

Contact:

Ian ‘Sugar George’ Edwards or Janine Edwards

Visit their websites at

www.sunsethomesanguilla.com/

www.anguillabeachhouse.com

www.spyglasshillanguilla.com

www.littlebutterflyanguilla.com

2015 Sunset Homes Magazine

www.tranquilitybeachanguilla.com

Office Tel: (264) 497-3666

Cell Tel.: (264) 235-3666

Email:sunsethomes@anguillanet.com