Becoming Chris Burch: A Winding Path to Success

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For those who wish to pursue a path toward financial and personal fulfillment, the examples set by American investor and entrepreneur Chris Burch are ones from which to behold and learn.  Burch, founder and CEO of Burch Creative Capital, a company that invests internationally across a variety of industries, admits that although as a child he suffered from ADHD and was never a good student, his keenest talent is the ability to observe and understand human behavior, combined with an instinct for recognizing entrepreneurial talent. Over the course of his career as an entrepreneur and investor, Burch has been involved in the founding and launching of over 50 companies, all focused on disruptive innovation, creativity, passion, and lasting impact.

Burch’s assets hit the billion-dollar mark in 2013, and he was first listed among Forbes’ list of world billionaires that same year. His most sentimental projects in recent years include the purchase, renovation, and relaunch Nihi Sumba, one of the world’s top luxury resorts located on the remote island of Sumba in Indonesia, and the acquisition of a 17th century Hotel Particulier in Senlis, France, which he has transformed into a luxurious residential respite for the enjoyment of his family and guests.

 

Burch Creative Capital

Burch owns and manages Burch Creative Capital, a private investment firm that develops innovative ideas and supports emerging start-ups that exhibit a potential to create a lasting and positive impact in the global marketplace. He leads a team that is invigorated by his personal passion for innovation, his creative vision, and his 40+ years of experience in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures.

Building on the success of past ventures, such as his involvement on the Board of the popular Tory Burch apparel line designed by his former spouse, Burch invests in various industries including fashion, retail, home furnishings, organic foods, technology, and hospitality. His current investments include the ED by Ellen DeGeneres apparel and home accessories line, as well as Bauble Bar, Solid & Striped, Soludos, Poppin, Blink Health, Dirty Lemon, and others. His famed Nihi Sumba resort in Indonesia has been named the #1 Hotel in the World by Travel & Leisure magazine for two consecutive years and regularly receives rave reviews.  He is also a former member of the board at Guggenheim Capital and The Continuum Group.

Burch explains that his greatest satisfaction in running Burch Creative Capital comes from the fulfillment of his desire to apply his knowledge, vision, experience, and resources to assist emerging entrepreneurs with great ideas that enhance the consumer experience and have the potential to improve the lives of consumers over the long term. When describing the mission of his company, Burch affirms simply, “We match ideas with funding to bring extraordinary possibilities to the world.”

 

Signature Projects

Burch is particularly interested in projects that break new ground and take advantage of existing resources, engage the local community, and create a visionary transformation of physical and social space. His Senlis, France project involved the restoration of a small hotel particulier built in 1608 into a relaxing residential guesthouse with an entrance court and rear garden that serves as a calming escape for his guests and family. At Nihi Sumba, a project he developed with CEO and managing partner James McBride after purchasing a small shoreline hotel in 2012, Burch has successfully created an idyllic tropical paradise that at once nurtures elite guests as well as the local community.  The Nihi resort partners with the local Sumba Foundation to provide crucial humanitarian support to local villages, such as health care, clean water, and school lunches, as well as lucrative employment opportunities for locals. In both of these cases, project goals included providing a contemporary experience of luxury and comfort, while retaining the purity, authenticity, and slow pace associated with the local traditions of each location.

 

Background

Chris Burch was born and raised in Pennsylvania. As a child, his teachers proclaimed that he had a wandering mind that diminished his likelihood of ever becoming successful. In his teens, he began working after school and during the summers at his father’s mining equipment and supplies company, as well as doing construction work. Burch describes his father as his personal hero and a powerful influence on his character. “He was 100% about integrity and the truth,” he states.  These values have always guided his personal approach to both business and life, and continue to influence his work ethic to this day.

His father’s example of an independent entrepreneurial spirit, as well as perseverance and hard work, inspired Burch and his brother to start their own business while still in college. In 1976, the brothers founded an apparel company called Eagle’s Eye (a name derived from his dad’s nickname “Eagle”) while studying at Ithaca College. With an initial investment of $2000, they began selling ladies’ sweaters to campus residents by going door to door. The business continued to grow for over 20 years, until the Burch brothers sold it to the UK-based Swire Group in 1998 for $60 million.

 

Personal Interests

Burch also pays tribute to the values he learned from his father by remaining active in his community. A former board member of the Rothman Institute Orthopedic Foundation and former president of The Pierre Hotel Co-op Board, Burch has also contributed to funding research and philanthropic activities at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York. He also maintains active philanthropic ties to NYU Langone, The China Association of Social Work, The Child Welfare League of China, and The Henry Street Settlement, as well as the Sumba Foundation in Indonesia, where his Nihi Sumba resort is located.

Burch sums up his development as a successful entrepreneur with honesty and candor, admitting, “Early on, I just went with gut instinct and creativity. I didn’t really realize that I had any talent, but was fortunately very successful because I came up with good ideas. It wasn’t until I got older that I became more reflective on who I am and who others are.”  He goes on, emphasizing his belief that an understanding of human behavior is the key to success in business. “That kind of metamorphosis comes a lot from being hurt by other people, from when you are wrong, and the pain of disappointment, as well as from the joy when people surprise you. So hopefully the older I get, the better I get at having a clear understanding about why we as people do what we do.” It is this kind of sincere reflection that he claims has nurtured his successful journey and ability to achieve far more than he ever dreamed of.

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