Four years ago Lucas (19) and Travis Boychuk (21) were like most young men, still living in their hometown and wondering what their future held.
One evening, and one amazingly inspiring hot tub conversation later, the two brothers decided to leave Kelowna and build a dream. Now they own a highly successful extreme sports vacation hot spot in Nicaragua, and they are opening their second even bigger location next year.
And it all started with session of brain storming in the hot tub.
“We sat that night and talked about buying an island, somewhere in the world, and on that island we would save up money and build a skateboard park and everything else we loved doing would be right there on the island,” remembers Travis.
The duo didn't let the dream get away, they never gave up and they made it happen, all with only $1,000.
Travis says he quit his stable, well-paying job at Flightcraft a few days later in order to follow his dream.
“The joke at work was that the owner of Flightcraft was never there cause he was out on his yacht every day; I wanted to know how he got to that position so I read up on him and his story was so inspiring,” shares Travis.
But it was one of his co-workers off the cuff comments that sealed the decision for him.
“I was talking to a colleague and said what would happen if I just got up and left right now? And his response was, 'I've been thinking about that for 20 years'. And those were the magic words,” says Travis.
He quit that morning and says he has never looked back.
They did a Google search and discovered that Nicaragua was one of the cheapest and most beautiful places in the world to buy your own island, and so off they went.
“We flew down and met up with real estate agents, pretending that we were high-end land shoppers and wanting them to show us the best of the best of land and islands, when all we had was $1,000 at most,” laughs Travis.
The reality quickly hit hard when they couldn’t find anything that piqued their interest or anything they could afford.
In their last few fleeting moments in the country before a defeating flight back to Canada, they met a man who introduced them to a land owner who was selling 2-acres for only $21,000.
The brothers convinced this land owner to believe in them and accept their $1,000 as a down payment for the property.
And thus the dream began, much more difficult than anticipated, but a beginning nonetheless.
“We flew back home super excited and started to plan different ideas…we brainstormed some great ideas and came up with an Action Sports Resort, where you wouldn't ever have to leave, everything you wanted to do was at your front door,” explains Travis.
And there they were, two brothers, young adults, with a chunk of land in a foreign country, a grand idea and nothing else.
They turned to the internet for help. In fact they went straight to the Castanet classifieds looking for an investor to believe in them and their project.
They found someone willing, a businessman who agreed to give the Boychuks $35,000 for 10 per cent in the company. They now had a running start towards building their dream resort.
It all sounds good, really good, but in reality this was a far off country, with a language they didn’t speak and full of corruption they weren’t prepared for.
“We arrived knowing nothing at all, the people, language, prices, everything. It was like we were dropped down onto another planet,” explains Travis.
They did have a plan though, to build 12 condos in the first three months, eight villas in the next three months, the pool, restaurant, bar in the remaining six months and then have it all completed and operational in one year.
“Well that definitely did not happen. We faced so many problems; loss of translation, a lot of corruption and a lot of "work tomorrow" attitude.”
In six months these difficulties had them on the ropes and they only had one small building to show for it. They were out of cash and they didn’t even have enough money to fly back home on.
So, they brainstormed again and back to the internet they went, this time online poker.
Lucas spent 12 hours one day playing in an online poker tournament, walking away with $3,500, just what they needed to stay afloat.
“With that money we needed to find a way to generate more money so we started up Jungle Paintball. We started promoting it in town and it became very successful.”
Now the ball was rolling, they managed to make enough money to build their first high-end Action Sports Resort villa and sold it for $25,000.
From there they built and sold and built and sold, adding more condos and villas and putting in a skate park, volleyball court, air pad drop, rock-climbing wall, swim-up pool bar, and a two storey restaurant.
“We had to cut out our contractor who was overcharging us gringos, and we started up our own construction crew. Recruiting people from all over, welders, carpenters, construction workers, electricians and we learnt quickly to personally deal with all the money for purchases and labour.”
And here they are, four years later and their first resort is now almost entirely sold out.
Now they are heading north to their second new resort project in a town called Popoyo, famous for its surf break, and where the brothers have purchased 25-acres of ocean view property.
“We will be naming it the Surf Ranch Mega Resort, which will include three-storey ocean view condos, waterslides, zip lines, skate park, zorb balls, wakeboard park, surf wave, everything!"
They are proud of their success, not only for the impact this has had on them, but also the community they’ve come to love in Nicaragua.
“We have built a strong crew together, watching them upgrade their lifestyles, from bicycles to motorcycles, working in new clothes, and seeing that they are happy, and they are very grateful, the resort has supported over 100 Nicaraguan families directly,” says Travis.
Long term, the brothers would like the ‘Surf Ranch’ to become a resort chain, just like Club Med, but geared towards the sport enthusiast.
The brothers attribute their success to their unwillingness to give up, but also to their mom and dad back in Kelowna.
“Our two biggest supporters were mom and dad. They were strong believers at the start and they still are,” smiles Travis.
And their message to other Kelowna and Okanagan kids who think this sort of dream is unreachable, impossible; unbelievable… you just have to do the work and never give up.
Travis also jokes that building a skate park, a rock climbing wall, a luxury resort was something neither brother knew anything about at the beginning, but Google and YouTube are endless sources of information.
To read all about the resort, the area, and maybe even book your next vacation check out www.surfranchnicarauga.com