to publish Friday , March 11 , 2022
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"I don't know how capable you are," says Meyer, "but I certainly can't buy an island on my own!"
Mayer is a co-founder of Let's Buy an Island, an ambitious venture that in 2018 crowdfunded the purchase of an island.
By December 2019, the group's dream turned into a reality, when it raised more than $250,000 to complete the purchase of Coffee Cay, an uninhabited 4,856 square meter island off the coast of Belize.
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Not only were the investors buying a share of Belize's property, they were also investing in a one-of-a-kind nation-building project.
Coffee Cay has been reimagined as the Principality of Islandia, complete with its national flag, national anthem, and government.
It is also considered the world's newest "micro-state", an entity that claims independence but has not been recognized as such by the international community.
In early 2022, Meyer leads the inaugural tour to Coffee Cay, where a mixed group of interested investors and tourists arrive on the world's first crowdfunded island.
"It feels great to be stepping onto an island that you have invested in and owned," says Meyer, after a 15-minute boat trip from Belize.
It only takes a few minutes to walk the other end of Coffee Cay, but Meyer made sure to take the group of 13 on their first-ever walking tour of the island.
Earlier, Mayer and several other investors had visited Coffee Kay on excursions, but this was the first overnight tour anyone could join.
The initial idea for crowdfunding began about 15 years ago, when co-founder and CEO Gareth Johnson bought letsbuyanisland.com after deciding that it would be fun to buy an island and turn it into a microstate.
The founding members set the value of each share in the island, at $3,250.
Members have sold about 100 shares so far.
While investors can buy multiple shares, each person has only one vote in the democratic decision-making process.
Coffee Cay was purchased for $180,000, including taxes, and the sale was completed in December 2019, before COVID-19 halted any further plans.
Investors and visitors to Coffee Cay could become spontaneous citizens of the Principality of Islandia, and there would also be new passports, and anyone could support the micro-state by purchasing 'citizenship' or titles such as lord or lady of the island, for a small amount of fee. , without the need for investment.
Among Meyer's ideas for the island are renovating the surrounding reef, developing a camping site, and converting shipping containers into primary accommodation.
Mayer wants the island to become a "place to mingle" by setting up a bistro or pub, kayak and snorkelling, so that tourists and locals can also visit from Belize City.
However, potential investors will have questions to ask, including concerns about hurricanes and rising sea levels that could affect the island.
Although she liked the island's crowdfunding concept, Velvet D'Alessandro, who joined the round, was not in favor of investing because of the risks.
"The micro-state is a real novelty," she said. "But with climate change, it will be an ongoing battle to keep it above water."
Oscar de Romero, the real estate agent in Belize who found "Coffee Cay" for Let's Buy an Island, says the group needs to "balance the environment and economic growth".
Romero said they would need environmental and government permits for any development, with both the mangroves and the nearby barrier reef enjoying protected status.
Romero says that if the island can be developed sustainably, involve local Belizeans, and help regenerate the environment, then the project can be a sustainable force.