Juan Carlos Solís, affectionately known as Johnny, has been part of the Playa Viva team almost since inception in 2009. Known for his big smile and infectious laugh, Johnny always seems to be on the move, whether at Playa Viva or in his hometown of Juluchuca. From creative mixologist to excursions leader extraordinaire to budding entrepreneur, Johnny somehow finds time for it all – work, community, family and friends.
The story of how Johnny first got his job at Playa Viva is iconic. “When I first got back to Mexico, I wasn’t sure where I was going to get a job,” explains Johnny. “I had been bugging a friend who worked at Playa Viva to see if he could get me a job there. He said there were no openings. Then one day I was outside working on my truck, covered in sweat and grease, when I saw David, the owner of Playa Viva driving by on his way to Playa Viva. I stopped him and said, “Hey! When are you going to give me a job?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Who are you?’ I told him I was Johnny and I wanted to work for him. A few days later, I came in for an interview and started part time at Playa Viva and then full time and it’s been 10 years.”
As of April of 2019, Johnny is no longer working for Playa Viva. He is working for himself.
Playa Viva sees its support of Johnny as part of its core values and mission to promote economic development in the community. “The goal of Playa Viva has never been to own the horses for horseback riding excursion but to partner with local entrepreneurs who can make more money renting horses for an hour than they can in a day of farming or ranching, thus proving how sustainable tourism can be lucrative for the local community and economy,” said David Leventhal, founder of Playa Viva, “by supporting Johnny in spinning off his own excursions and transportation company, we are accomplishing that mission for Playa Viva.”
He founded Johnny Adventure as a travel, tours and transportation business. Playa Viva hires Johnny who is now in charge of all Excursions for Playa Viva. He is also in charge of airport ground transport (currently just to the airport but as he grows, he will handle more of our transportation needs and those of the local community).
Spinning off his own company solved a few problems that Playa Viva and Johnny were having. Playa Viva was not able to obtain tour guide license due to the ownership and business charter of the hotel, this meant that we were having a hard time with regulations related to transporting guests and leading excursions. Johnny was not able to expand to meet his demand to create more value for himself and his family. Creating Johnny Adventures was a stroke of genius for all.
As more hospitality ventures come to the area (we know of a surf hotel that will break ground soon), Johnny can expand to offer his services to hotels beyond just Playa Viva. Johnny is also excited about bringing guests from Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, more traditional tourism destinations, to come visit Playa Viva and his town of Juluchuca, by offering local tours, which are becoming more and more popular with tourists. As ever, Johnny, the entrepreneur, hard working, creative family man, we wish you well in this new endeavor!
You’ve just started your own tour business. Tell me about it.
“David has always helped me from the very beginning. This time around, he came to me and told me it was time to start a new company. He offered to help with paperwork, orientation to the business world, and accounting in order to make this new business a reality. Thanks to God, it has become a reality. Right now Johnny Adventure Community Tours is an eco-tourism and transport company. I’m focused on tours in the municipalities of Zihuatanejo and Petatlan. I talk a lot about communities because I want people to get to know my hometown and all the beautiful places nearby. We have beaches, mountains, history and culture. I also want people to get to know the schools, meet the kids, and find ways to give back.”
When you’re not working, where can we find you?
“Apart from fishing, which is my main hobby, you can find me on my dad’s land. It’s a little over 2 hectares, right outside Juluchuca, and there we have cocos and mangos. I spent a lot of time there. Besides that, I’m also often with my family just spending time together or running errands around town.”
I always see you doing things in Juluchuca. What projects are you involved in? How do you give back?
“I think it’s important to be involved in town. I play on the adult soccer team and help organize it. I’m also helping to coach the youth soccer team with kids ages 7-11. Apart from soccer, I organize meetings with local landowners to talk about land management and how to resolve any conflicts that come up. Right now I’m also working with Ariel and some local Juluchucans to fix the lower basketball court. It’s fallen into disrepair and we are finally getting it fixed up. We’re all doing our part to make the community great.”