Phillip Hall ’09 gets paid to be on vacation. He spends his days surfing in Costa Rica, traveling the country and capturing it all in photos and video. He’s the owner of a Costa Rican surf/travel company.
When the hospitality and tourism management major graduated from the College of Charleston, he sold everything he owned, and moved 1,600 miles away to start a company – based on papers and plans he wrote in his business classes.
Q: How would you describe your job?
A: I’m the owner of Surf The Earth Costa Rica. My job is to give people the best vacation they can possibly have from the time I pick them to the time I drag them back to the airport wishing they had more time. I am a full service tour guide offering my guide to the best accommodations, transportation, tours, photography of your trip, and surfing of course.
A: I knew I wanted to live in Costa Rica because of their laid back way of life. I had visited Costa Rica every year since my first trip at the age of 18, and sometimes twice a year. In my mind I already knew that’s where I was going to live.
They have a saying here called “Pura Vida,” its kind of like Aloha. Costa Rica is also very safe compared to other countries and has better infrastructure as well as a constant tourism flow.
Q: Why Surf The Earth?
A: My company is an offshoot of a surf shop I worked for in Pawleys Island, S.C. I worked there since I was 14 and always planned to grow their name and their way of providing top-notch surf hospitality.
I wrote all of my college papers based on business ideas I had for Costa Rica. After college I sold everything I had and moved to Costa Rica to slowly start making my dreams come true.
Q: How did you get started in Costa Rica?
A: Once I finally made my plans for Costa Rica, my boss was very excited for me to start the CR side of the business. I built a website and started a large Facebook campaign for my business. Right when I got to Costa Rica I already had business flowing in.
Later, I bought a video camera and started capturing all of my adventures around Costa Rica and posted them on Facebook. This bloomed a whole new side of my business with photography and filming. Capturing my client’s vacation and posting them on Facebook just brought more and more business. So I guess I started small and it has just been slowly getting bigger.
A: I got the chance to provide a bucket list experience for someone who was dying of cancer. The trip had always been a dream for him and I felt honored to be able to give him some joy at the end of his days.
Q: How did the College prepare you for starting a business in Costa Rica?
A: Dr. (Robert) Frash’s final college essay (that was required to graduate) forced me to make a plan. I wrote a 30-page business plan on developing a hotel in the jungles of Costa Rica. The essay had to be good enough to give to a potential investor or bank for a loan. The essay taught me how much it really takes to start a business the right way and make a proper plan.
A: My big goal for Costa Rica is finally coming true right now. I just started building a 10-bedroom eco-container house 100-feet from the beach. I will use this to live out of and rent to clients and large groups. The structure will be completely made out of shipping containers but covered inside and out to hide the industrial look of the container. This is the final piece to my puzzle because I have not had my own place to accommodate people with the full hospitality that I would bring.
Q: What is your advice to current students?
A: FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, you never know where they will take you.