By About Her Culture Team
Only in her mid-20s, with bouncing twin toddlers in tow, Emma Watson is blazing new trails for a whole segment of Jamaica.
Emma is the young, pioneering, founder of South Coast Villas JA – a luxury villa rental company that represents a handful of stunning villas on Jamaica’s South Coast, an area that has long been relatively under-developed as a tourist destination.
Even though she launched the business in late 2019, right before the start of the horrendous global pandemic, within her first year of operations Emma quickly secured a large portfolio of 13 ultra-modern, beautiful and exquisitely chill villas.
Her strong commitment to uplifting the communities that surround each property, is another trailblazing element of South Coast Villas JA.
This dedication to community-building is something Emma told us more about when we caught up with her recently. She also gave us some insight on her personal journey, and what South Coast Villas Jamaica means to her.
Tell us about your connection to Jamaica in general, and the South Coast, specifically.
Emma: My Jamaican heritage comes from my father’s lineage. He was born in Portland, Jamaica and spent most of his years in Kingston, before moving to Boston, USA at the age of 18. It wasn’t long after that he would start his own travel agency and meet my mother, a young bubbly Boston girl of Irish descent. The stars aligned and the result was me – in my sister Sydney’s words, “An Irish potato soaked in oxtail gravy – an Afro-Jamaican born Irish American.”
I spent my early years in Milton, Massachusetts. The schools I went to were predominantly Caucasian and I can remember very early on feeling the effects of racism in my environment. I don’t recall the story fully, but there was one last straw with an incident of racism at my school and my mother decided we would move to Jamaica. At the time I actually hated the idea. Going from a first-world country to a third-world island is a big change when you’re 10 years old. I know now that when the most uncomfortable situations arise, your wildest dream is usually on the horizon. For some reason, my parents chose to move to Jamaica’s untapped South Coast and more specifically, South Sea Park, one of the first gated communities in the area. I spent seven years there after moving in 2007. I watched every villa go up, and ate dinners at their dining room tables, not knowing that this would one day be my future.
We see you’ve also lived in Europe and the United States. What is it about Jamaica’s culture, values and way of life that made you choose it as the place to raise your twins?
Emma: I loved living in the U.S. and France will forever be on my revisit list, but there is nowhere on this Earth like Jamaica. Out of many one people. There are so many reasons why I chose Jamaica. Jamaica is the reason I am who I am today. Jamaica is resilient, this runs through my veins. She will harden you, but show you the most genuine, effortless love. A rose petal with thorns. Jamaica is balance.
When I was in Atlanta, already a single mother before having my boys, I wrote that I needed a job where I could make money from home so that I could spend as much time as I could with the babies. After setting that intention, I knew Jamaica was the best place to do that, without even knowing how I was going to make it happen. I had worked for a boutique marketing agency in Atlanta doing event planning, landing new clients, and basically learning the ins and outs of operating a small business. I took this knowledge and applied it to a new project my mother just completed, a beachfront condo known as Ivy’s Cove. The word spread fast and I ended up birthing South Coast Villas JA, a luxury villa rental agency.
Among the wide selection of villas across the island, what makes South Coast Villas special?
Emma: What makes us special is the beauty of our little hidden gem known as the South Coast. We’re also still a boutique agency, so the one-on-one service we are able to offer our guests is unmatched. Being well-traveled, I am able to have an idea of what everyone is looking for when renting a villa, and can meet them where they are. I take pride in what I do and that is reflected in the company values.
How do you actualize your commitment to sustainability and community-building?
Emma: South Coast Villas exercises its commitment to sustainability by providing jobs to locals during a time where everyone is being laid off and work is increasingly difficult to come by. All of our meat and produce is also purchased locally and our external partnerships are all Jamaican-owned. We are also committed to increasing the education of our communities through our internship program. We hope to increase our presence in the community as our business continues to grow.
What do you envision for the future of South Coast Villas?
Emma: Our future is greater than I could have ever dreamt. I see us acquiring properties all over the world, while still maintaining the same values and commitment to growing the communities surrounding our business. We have some really great additions to our portfolio already, so look out for us soon!