Our Community - Marie Carroll and Phil Rigby - "Making an imprint in Paradise"

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 13, No. 14            April 17, 2003

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Phil Rigby and Marie Carroll

San Pedro has a wealth of different types of businesses that keep the community alive; restaurants, bars, dive and gift shops all play a part in the economy. But who are the people behind the scenes that print the menus for the restaurants and business cards for the owners, or create advertising for all the shops, so that island enterprises continue to thrive? Marie Carroll and Phil Rigby are two of these behind-the-scenes people who, through their business Gecko Graphics, provide the means to promote the many services available on Ambergris Caye.

    Marie was born in 1962 to Maureen and P.J. Carroll in East London, England, where her parents owned a local convenience store. She attended Our Lady's Convent Primary School until the age of 10 when her father decided to semi-retire and the family moved to Essex.

    After eight years in Essex, Marie graduated from Trinity High School and returned to central London. There she enrolled at Central London Polytechnic to study math and computer science and graduated with a first class honors degree in June 1984. During the three years that she attended college, Marie was also employed at Dickins and Jones, a department store in the West End of London, as an assistant, store supervisor and auditor.

    In 1984, having completed college, Marie accepted a job at Cable and Wireless, a global telecommunications company based in London. She traveled throughout Europe, the United States, Hong Kong and the Caribbean working as a computer programmer, systems analyst and project manager. Ten years with the company saw Marie promoted to Director of Information Technology for the European division.

    Phil was also born in East London, but after just a few years, moved with his family to Hitchin, in Hertfordshire. Following a regular English schooling, Phil was keen to explore the world, and so in 1989, he left his home to take a trip (around-the-world) that lasted over five years. Traveling and working in the US, Australia and the Far East, he experienced a wide variety of cultures and lifestyles.

    While in Australia, Phil learned to dive on The Great Barrier Reef and was immediately hooked on the fascinating underwater world, describing it as, "the closest I will get to another planet."

    Returning to London in 1994, Phil worked initially as a project manager before setting up his own company with one of his fellow work colleagues, designing and installing state-of-the-art video conferencing, audio systems and "TV-walls".It was on one such project that Phil and Marie met.

    Both working long and inconvenient hours, Phil and Marie eagerly looked forward to their vacation time, traveling to the US, the Maldives Islands, Mexico and Egypt. This kept Phil's love for the ocean alive, while Marie, much happier on solid ground would use the time to unwind in the sun.Ever the football fan, Phil is still an avid follower of "the greatest team in the world!" - Luton Town. 1998 saw World Cup fever running high in England and the pair decided to take an extended vacation to France.They spent two months renting a farmhouse in a small village in central France, living a less hurried lifestyle, but more importantly traveling all over the country to watch the football matches.

    Upon their return to London, Phil continued with his business while Marie was offered a consulting role with the investment bank, Morgan Stanley.Work consumed their time once more, but in May of 2000, while on holiday in Italy they decided to make their dream of living in the tropics a reality.

    After much research on the Internet, Marie and Phil booked tickets for a trip to Belize, and arrived for the first time in December of 2000. Traveling around the country, they found they envied the relaxed atmosphere and quiet lifestyle that the people enjoyed so much. In particular, they loved San Pedro and so as they returned to England they knew they would soon be back.It took them only three months to set their affairs in order, returning to San Pedro to take up residence in April 2001.

    Once Marie and Phil had settled into island life, they made their next big move and purchased the existing Gecko Graphics shop from Mary Stephenson. This business was already well established and had an excellent list of clients who were provided with all types of printing, such as business cards, brochures, flyers, menus, greeting cards, etc. With Marie's knowledge of computers they were able to develop the business further. However, this was not to be the end of their business expansion.

    In February of 2002, they created a new enterprise called Artesano, a branch of Gecko Graphics, which imprints logos, designs, pictures or photographs on items such as mugs, key chains, clocks and T-shirts. These items provide useful marketing tools for San Pedro's businesses and unique gifts for its residents.One of Artesano's specialties is recreating pieces of local art or photographs on ceramic tiles.

    While Marie and Phil are kept very busy taking care of business, they have not totally lost the peaceful flavor of island life. Phil continues to enjoy his diving time and has helped Marie to overcome her fear of the water so that she may now accompany him on an occasional snorkeling trip. Back on land, Marie likes to spend time in the kitchen, developing and testing out new recipes- something Phil also enjoys!

    Marie is also on the board of directors for the local Saga Humane Society, so she and Phil volunteer as much time as possible to this worthy cause. And, their own menagerie continues to grow- they brought two cats with them from England but have now added a Belizean "potlicker," Ella, and a kitten that was abandoned in their garden.

    While they have no immediate plans to extend their business, they continue to keep abreast of new technologies, which may be of value to their customers, but prefer to keep their business "personalized" for the simple reason that the busy, stress-filled way of life was why they left England. They also want to explore other areas of Belize in more depth and visit the neighboring countries and islands that make up this part of the world.

    For now, this tropical paradise is where the couple will reside and enjoy a quiet life. Phil and Marie are not alone; they are joined by many people from other busy centers around the world who visit San Pedro and fall in love with the beautiful, friendly environment and then return to become happy marketers of "Our Community".

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