Lessons from a Fair Harbor Father

Having an amazing dad can make all the difference in a child's life, and there's no better example than Fair Harbor's own Kevin Danehy. Father to co-founders Jake, Caroline, and their sister Paige, Kevin's patience, guidance, and unconditional love have helped shape his kids into who they are today.

Father's Day offered us a chance to sit down with the proud dad to discover the secret to raising independent kids, the collection he wishes Fair Harbor would introduce, and the ways his children continue to inspire him.

Jake and Caroline always talk about their favorite summer memories in Fair Harbor. What are yours?

There are so many. Our kids and neighbors, the Robinsons, would wake up every morning at 6:00 AM and go fishing for snappers down at the dock. The kids just loved doing it, and it was just one of those rituals that turned into a lasting impression. It gave each of them a reasonable degree of independence, baiting their own hooks, taking the fish off the hooks, and dropping them in a little bucket. They could be very self-sufficient, and I could sit there, drink my coffee, read the paper, and keep an eye on them. The environment in Fair Harbor supported a level of independence for young kids. Over the course of the day, the kids could wander on their bikes because there were no cars. The nature of the island allowed young kids to grow into themselves in a way that inspired self-confidence.

Did that environment complement your own parenting philosophy?

Fair Harbor is a beautiful place and healthy place, but it's also a place that fosters independence, creativity, and self-reliance. That's a personal and family ethos. You need to share, support, and serve each other instead of prescribing what they should do or providing them an answer to a question. My view on answering questions is to help pull the answer out of them. So that the answer really is theirs. Throughout their lives, my approach to parenting has been to teach my kids how to fish rather than to give them a fish. And it's worked. 

Did you ever notice an entrepreneurial spirit in your kids when they were young?

Yes. All three of our kids have a very strong sense of identity and have respected and encouraged one another to be their best selves. It's been a privilege to be able to watch them evolve. When Caroline was in middle school, she created this blog about fashion and cooking with no parental oversight or guidance. She just started getting advertising revenue from a blog she was posting. Jake had a couple of opportunities for internships that were more traditional roles. He went to Hong Kong for a summer internship between his freshman and sophomore year, before Fair Harbor had even been thought of. That was back when everyone still wore suits and ties to the office. Jake came home and said, "Well, dad it was a great experience. I'm really glad I did it. I now know I never want to work in an office or wear a suit." I said, "That's great, Jake. I don't know how you're gonna pull that off, but Godspeed."

But it was an excellent decision to give him the freedom to figure it out. Jake changed his major from economics to geography and turns out that he was a terrific student. He learned a ton, and that ended up serving as the inspiration for what became Fair Harbor. The decision to encourage the kids to follow their own paths was sometimes a little challenging. But keeping a light hand on the wheel has worked out. The results have been extraordinary because each of them has found their calling.

Do you have any advice for parents of aspiring entrepreneurs?

From my experience, the best way for kids to find their true gift –what gives them purpose and energizes them– is to let them find their own way. The only person who can truly understand what's best is the person who's trying to figure out what it is that makes them tick. I usually refrain from saying "you have to love what you do" because that's an unrealistic expectation. A better aspiration is to find what fulfills you, energizes you, and gives you a sense of purpose. It isn't easy to achieve, but what ultimately helps people find their greatest power.

You have been a literal inspiration for Fair Harbor—the Saltaire Collection is based on your old Mount Gay Rum sweatshirt. How have your kids inspired you?

So much of what I've done over the course of my life and career is because I just believed it was the right thing to do. Caroline, Jake, and Paige have spent time considering what is really important to them and letting that guide them –as opposed to choosing what is more broadly viewed as valuable. My initial ambition was to be an investment banker, which didn't end up being an option for me. I'm really happy that I went the route that I did, but mine was less intentional and deliberate and was more kind of an accidental pathway. Whereas Caroline, Jake, and Paige have been very focused and thoughtful in how they've put themselves in a position to meet people and have experiences that help them leave the world a better place.

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Speaking of favorites, is there a particular family phrase that your kids always attribute to you?

Well, since the kids could walk, the family slogan has been a question and answer. Particularly when I was coaching, it's always been, "Who has more fun than us?" And the answer is, "Nobody!" I think it's held up pretty well.


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