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Fredericksburg-born Cortney Lebens: Transforming Belize

As Muy ‘Ono CEO, the Austin-area native is making Belize better with Travel with a Purpose programs, philanthropic initiatives, sustainability efforts and more

If you’ve been to Belize you’ve probably been to a property covered in Cortney’s fingerprints. As CEO of Muy ‘Ono, she is responsible for much of what guests experience and programs to make the properties and Belize better behind-the-scenes. She’s also the founder and CEO of Delicious Digital, a female-led marketing agency specializing in hospitality and lifestyle brands and of Blurred-Vines. She became CEO of the three companies before turning 30-years-old – and didn’t even set out to be an entrepreneur.

What made you open a resort in Belize?

I ended up in hospitality and Belize because while I was working with my business partner at his consulting firm as his Chief-of-Staff I created a lot of capacity for him to tap into his entrepreneurial visions. He was heavily involved in real estate, he really loved Belize, he loved traveling to Belize and was presented with an opportunity to purchase an island in Belize. Our business started with the purchase of one property as an investment property.

Shortly after we were presented with another opportunity to buy an island that was nearby that had 15 bungalows. It went under because the owners didn't realize how hard and costly it is to manage an island. That’s Thatch Caye now. It ended up being a really awesome opportunity because with it we started realizing we could do this for owners. People purchase islands in Belize because land is cheap and realize they don't know how to manage costs, they don't know how to manage the local culture or local workforce and they don't know how to market or drive demand. We were learning how to do all of that internally for our own properties, and that's how Muy ‘Ono was born. We started marketing ourselves to other hotel owners as a professional management and marketing company, because nothing like that existed in Belize. Now we’re the largest and only real professional management company in the country.

Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?

I have not. I I majored in Fashion Merchandising, but was lucky to have met some very successful people during my education at Texas State. During my early career they  became mentors to me, and all of them are very entrepreneurial. They continued to push me to do bigger and better things, putting me in roles before I was ready and letting me fail or succeed.

What do you love about Belize?

Belize is still a very untapped and untouched destination. You get to experience an overwater bungalows without having to fly 17 hours, it’s an easy trip from Austin and you really get to experience the culture and what makes the country so unique. Belize is doing a really good job of promoting sustainable tourism to preserve the natural beauty of Belize, which is what we try to do too.

Do you plan on expanding to other countries?

No. It’s hard to learn the government politics and economic intricacies of international countries. We've got all the bruises that we possibly can in Belize and I look forward to continuing to expand there.

Philanthropy is the core of our identity. We knew that by enriching ourselves in the community we could really elevate our organization's impact for the greater good