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Entrepreneurship Lessons from James McBride

Tuesday Dec 11,2018 | IIE News

Notes from Find out how to take a hotel nobody ever heard of, in a place nobody ever heard of, and turn it into the #1 Hotel in The World


Recognised in 2017 as “One to Watch” by Bloomberg Businessweek’s Bloomberg 50 and awarded Independent Hotelier of the Year by Hotels magazine, James McBride is a global hotelier who has led some of the world’s leading hotels during his twenty-five year professional career. Known for his limitless creativity, clever marketing techniques, and exceptional hotel experiences, James has raised the bar in the hospitality industry, paving the way for inventive ideas and competitive spirit.


On the early morning of 5 November 2018, SMU had the opportunity to invite James McBride to speak and share about his experience in starting Nihi and the journey to making it the #1 Best Hotel in the World.


When Prof Reddi asked James McBride on how much of his business plan was actually implemented, this was his reply…

“The truth is: there was no business plan. I was (just) a corporate guy that went astray and became successful. People thought I lost my mind - I had an amazing job and family, why would I want to leave home and do this? I  questioned myself every day about it and sometimes thought I’d lost my mind.

Leadership - every action you make impedes you, you are ultimately accountable for every decision you make. If you’re running a company and paid a salary, you are always an employee.

A full house event at SMU! In conversation with James McBride

A full house event at SMU! In conversation with James McBride

9 out of 10 will not try explore entrepreneurship. Everyone wants to do but when after assessing family and financial commitment, most people end up not diving into entrepreneurship. There will always a risk element attached to starting something new. You can’t have your cake and eat it. 

“Never, ever chase money. If you chase money, you will always fail.”

Back in 2007, James was offered a big sum and an opportunity to start something new. He rejected it. Late 2011, he received another opportunity to visit Sumba island.

The tipping point came in 2012 when he left YTL Hotels, a group developing prestigious, award-winning resorts in exotic locations. Followed on was a series of fortunate events. He was an early investor in Kensington’s, an organic ketchup brand that he personally liked and helped to use his global network to sell to major hotels around the world. The company was eventually sold to Unilever. 

In the middle of 2013, James had an epiphany to do something incredible. Coincidentally, Chris Burch called him. Chris is an entrepreneur best known for founding or co-founding several internationally known retail brands – C. Wonder and Tory Burch. James took the plunge and moved to Sumba to start growing the hotel business. Burch, together with hotelier James McBride, bought a beach hostel on the Indonesian island of Sumba in 2012. The duo spent $30 million renovating the hostel, then reopened it as a five-star resort in 2015.

While he attributes his success to his team, he recognises that it is a lot of small details that mattered that brought him to the success Nihi Hotel enjoys today.

As they say, the rest is history. So, there you go, Nihi is nominated as "#1 Hotel in the World" in 2018. Watch the video below to find out why:


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