California. It has inspired over 400 songs to date and yet they keep on coming. The place where the sun shines all year long and everyone is healthy and toned – like the cast from Baywatch.
Or so we like to imagine. Not only does Jersey girl Jessica Stokes uphold this image rather well though, she’s also discovered her Midas touch in ‘The Golden State’ – the nickname for California
in the USA.
During a particularly cold winter in Jersey five years ago, Jess decided to swap the view from the family’s home overlooking St Catherine’s Breakwater to one that’s slightly more exotic: The Pacific Ocean and beach from a condo in Encinitas, Southern California.
‘I bought a little condo with a small amount of cash down which became my home’ she says. It would prove to be the catalyst for a lucrative career as a property investor which she claims was purely accidental.
Currently the owner of some two dozen properties in San Diego with plans to expand into Las Vegas and beyond, how did she make the leap? ‘I read books on how to leverage money against real estate to buy more properties’, she describes, ‘I then bought a number of condominiums and single family homes and then sold them off for a profit until I got into my first commercial investment – a nine-unit apartment building in the city of San Diego – which I purchased with a condo conversion map accompanying it.’ (Basically, planning permission to divide up and sell off individually). She then sold this to a developer and bought an 18-unit apartment complex… you see the pattern emerging here… yet she makes it sound all rather easy.
Life has certainly not been easy for 45-year-old Jessica though. She was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at the age of nine and also suffers a thyroid disorder. Neither of these conditions has prevented her from leading a healthy lifestyle, however, and she says that health and nutrition sciences are her ‘true calling’ and her main priority in life. Her degree in Nutrition and ensuing credentials from Champneys led her to setting up and running her own health centre in Jersey for several years before moving to the USA.
Her extensive experience in nutrition, natural hormone balancing, massage, exercise and personal training are detailed in her new website www.jessicaschoice.com, a platform for her consulting business in health, nutrition and support in California. Jessica is affiliated with Sabre Sciences research laboratory where she is a part-time consultant and she also co-founded an innovative therapy for pain relief at the HBOT Center in Newport Beach, CA, among other successes. She is currently compiling a cookbook of nutritional recipes and is also penning a self-help book on Type 1 Diabetes and thyroid issues.
Jessica firmly believes in practising what she preaches: ‘I love to hike, cycle, jog, and swim and do other outdoor activities around beautiful San Diego county’, she enthuses. Whether it’s walking in the tranquil and aromatic Torrey Pines trails in La Jolla to rambling around Lake Murray in La Mesa or hiking up Cowles Mountain in San Carlos, there is plenty of unspoiled countryside to explore within a few hours’ driving distance.
How does she find time to juggle all of this with her extensive property portfolio? Well, she set up her own property management company to oversee the administration and rental incomes and so on. But then she realised there was a niche complementary market and created www.jessicastokes.acndirect.com as an ‘essential services broker’, (researching optimum choices for her tenants for their telephony, security, Internet, TV and energy services, etc.), which is fully international and even available to us in the Channel Islands!
What other aspects of the Californian lifestyle does she enjoy? Apart from the outdoor sports, she loves dining out, watching the live music scene and the culture… even the gun culture. Yes, guns.
A law enforcement officer she was dating told her it was ‘important to get comfortable with a gun’ and gave her lessons. At first, Jessica says she was nervous of handling a deadly weapon but it soon became a self-empowerment exercise. ‘I learned that mentally I control the gun, it does not control me and now I really enjoy it – it’s a thrilling skill and sport! I was taught to shoot with both hands plus my left and right single-handed’, she adds. ‘I usually shoot with a Glock 23 .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol but I have shot .38 caliber revolvers as well as a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.’ Not a girl to mess with then.
Despite her success overseas, Jess remains a Jersey girl at heart as borne out by her nickname in the USA, “Jerseygirl CI”. Her brother owns the successful Bean Around the World café/bakery in St Helier, so the entrepreneurial streak must run in the family. Yet the girl who travelled in order ‘to expand her horizons’ remains nostalgic for the Island and plans to spend more time here next year. She misses the sand dunes, ancient granite buildings, the Anglo-French architecture, castles… and good old Jersey Cream Teas (but presumably not the winter climate).
‘You could travel the world but nothing comes close to the Golden Coast’ sings Katy Perry in ‘California Gurls’. Except, proposes Jessica, the beautiful sunrises over St Catherine’s Breakwater and Normandy coastline in the spring time.