Sept. 7, 2005 Viva! Villas prides itself on its flexibility. Owner Angie Smith-Liburd said that, for example, some of St. John's vacation villa management companies impose restrictions on when and how much the owners can use the property, but Viva! Villas allows them to visit anytime, even though it takes the villa out of the rental market.
"It's their house," she said.
Viva! Villas opened in 1998 with Smith-Liburd and her mother, Allison Smith, running the show. When her mother wanted to move on to other endeavors, Smith-Liburd took over.
The company started out in a tiny 10-foot-by-10-foot office, but now it occupies generous space on the upper level of the Boulon Center.
The flexibility Smith-Liburd affords the villa owners extends to Smith-Liburd's day. With a family to care for, she melds motherhood and running Viva! Villas. Mother of two Jabai, 14, and Lionel, eight months — she's also stepmother to husband Levi Liburd's two other children, Lincoln, 14, and Monique, 19. Lincoln lives with them, and Monique is at the University of California – Berkeley Law School.
"With the baby, it's a challenge," she said.
A former "control freak," she said she's learned to delegate. She no longer picks guests up at the ferry dock and lets others deal with the details so she can concentrate on the bigger picture.
The company grew from five villas to its current stable of 16. The company can also book 40 others.
Viva! Villas has properties all over St. John, but Smith-Liburd said she's selective. She said she likes to limit the number of properties she has in any one location.
She said she enjoys looking at new properties to add to her roster.
"I hear stories about how the owners expected their house to be built in a year, but it took longer," she said.
She said she also gets an earful about the drama involved with shipping furniture to the Virgin Islands and other aspects of getting a villa ready for the rental market.
She said she especially likes the contact with the owners and guests, particularly those that repeatedly book with Viva! Villas.
"They're like our friends," she said, adding that she likes to help plan people's vacations.
She said she learned a lot from the people who serve on the St. John Accommodations Council, an organization whose members have companies similar to Viva! Villas.
Liburd, who is now 30, was only 23 and fresh from the University of the Virgin Islands with a bachelor's degree in business/marketing when she took over the Viva! Villas reins. "At first it was intimidating," she said.
She said that the Accommodations Council is important because it gives those in the business one voice. She said that when St. John villas were hit with a plague of burglaries, only a few people dealt with the police instead of individual members.
Smith-Liburd said she also likes working with her staff of seven people in the office and 30 out in the field. Most of them are women.
"I hire really good people. The staff is genuinely friendly and helpful," she said.
Viva! Villas can be reached at (340) 779-4250 or on the Internet at www.vivactions.com.
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