Thomas Despin is one of the few entrepreneurs who wasn’t satisfied with what he did till he knew it was of real value, regardless of the revenue it generated. The 28 year old took several initiatives including freelance copywriting, event management, ecommerce drop shipping and more before embracing sustainability as the new direction. He founded Reconnect, a 100% sustainable island living experience that enables visitors to connect with themselves, nature, and one another.
Located on 2km wide Virgin Island in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia called Buka Buka, Reconnect uses sustainable technologies and high impact social programs to not just preserve its nature but also empower it. Thomas aims to install a solar powered desalination plant to ensure an abundant availability of water not just for the visitors of Reconnect but also for the rest of the island as it is a scarce resource. Currently, the locals have to climb for about an hour in search of water.
It also has environmental programs such as the Coconut Journey Workshops that are aimed to teach the locals and visitors how to creatively use coconut husks, thousands of which are otherwise wasted. Locals will get to learn how to set up small side businesses and visitors will learn how to craft their own products. Another social program that Thomas hopes to implement in Reconnect’s initial years of launch involves coral transplantation. He acknowledges the fact that Indonesia is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the world that have been damaged now. For this reason, he aims to work with specialized organizations to improve the reef resulting in healthier ecosystem and more marine life. The program will also generate a lot of educational content for locals and visitors. He also came to realize the fact that there was some negative environmental impact that went in building the structures of the resort which is why Thomas intends to plant twice the number of trees cut to offset the impact and give back more than he took.
Reconnect offers an authentic and immersive island experience to its visitors. It has the adventurous facilities for its visitors including living in the luxury bungalows or glamping tents, observing the marine life through snorkeling, or paddling around the island in traditional kayaks. However, it also allows visitors to experience the day to day life of the locals on the island by joining them in climbing through the forest to get fresh water, learning from the locals how to make coconut oil, growing food in permaculture garden, planting trees, transplanting corals and much more. The eco resort is set to officially open in early 2020 but the team is accepting selected guests who would like to contribute to its completion.
Thomas is also the founder of Hustler’s Villa, a coworking place in Ubud, Bali dedicated to a small scale community of entrepreneurs and freelancers who mostly work online. The place is tailored specifically to meet their needs. It also organizes free events where people can practice public speaking, network etc. Hustler’s Villa has hosted more than 250 entrepreneurs and 60 events.
Before adopting sustainability as his new direction, Thomas made a mark in the ecommerce industry through his drop shipping business. Though it made $750,000 worth of sales in 11 months, he was highly dissatisfied and demotivated as he just wasn’t up for pursuing something that wasn’t of any real value. He felt like he didn’t care about the product or the customer nor did he feel like he was learning something and felt he could use his skills for something more meaningful.
Thomas’ latest venture speaks a lot about the extent to which he cares about creating something of value. Despite the cultural and financial hurdles, he was adamant on his quest to not only preserve nature but to contribute in strengthening it. His mindset has completely changed and he hopes to inspire change amongst the locals and visitors and lead by example.