Well, June 1st came and June 1st went and I never really wrote anything about the significance of that particular day. Well, June 1st, 2012 was our four year anniversary of Chris and I purchasing Octopus Diving and getting the keys.
It is funny that when people come into the diving center to book diving or ask about snorkeling more often then not a conversation will ensue. It normally includes the following questions;
“Where are you from?”
“How did you get here?”
“How long have you been here?”
I remember that first year when people would ask the same questions (sorry, but the questions haven’t really changed in the last four years, although a lot of other things have….) it always felt so weird to say, “I’ve been here 2 months, 6 months, one year, and so on…” Felt like I hadn’t yet earned the right to claim St Martin or Octopus Diving in any way.
Now that I have answered that question a million times, “four years” just rolls off the tongue. “Four year, 2 months.” “Oh, we’ve been here for over four years now.” Although, sometimes 4 years feels like 2 months, and sometimes 4 years feels like 10 years. I guess it just depends on the day that you ask me. Thinking about it though, it feels like 2 months and 10 years at the same time, is that possible? I know you understand.
That first year was a real trial for us. So many hurdles were thrown our way. First of all there was the start of the economic meltdown in Sept / October of 2008. Then we had Hurricane Omar in September of that same year. Finally there was Swine Flu, remember that? Each day seemed to bring in new challenges for us, and it was literally sink or swim. So, we swam, and we swam and we swam and we swam all the way into four years of business.
I would say that for me, some of the biggest accomplishments would be receiving our 100th review on Tripadvisor.com . Now we have over 370 reviews, but making it to 100 was a major goal for us. Also, receiving an award from PADI for the amount of divers that not only do one certification with us, but keep coming back for more courses is also something we are really proud of. There are thousands of diving centers in America, Canada and the Caribbean, and PADI picked Octopus Diving because of our great statistics. (That reminds me of my 7th grade math teacher, Mrs. Peterson, who made each student say “statistics, statistics, statistics” until we had the pronunciation correct!)
Then there are all the renovations that we undertook. I mean, I don’t even know how we ran everything from the tiny shop on the street, but we managed. You see, we used to just have the dive shop on the street. Many of you have visited it, it is pretty small. We had the compressor in the bathroom, the rinse tank outside, all the equipment including tanks inside the shop, and two times a day we would load the tanks into a trolley and wheel them down the road, lug the tanks off the trolley, then into the water, and then onto the boat. I am tired just thinking about it! Then all the customers equipment, and finally the reverse when we came back. Chris and I were certainly in great shape. There were about 2 months in 2008 when it was just Chris and myself. One would be in the shop while the other was on the boat. Sometimes this would mean loading 14 tanks all by yourself! We managed though, and for us it was important to stay small and work out the kinks before going crazy expanding. What can we afford at the moment? What is really necessary? As I’m sure any of you that are small business owners can understand, those first few years are really crucial. Sure we made a lot of mistakes… a lot! The great things about mistakes though, is that each one teaches you something, and makes you stronger and wiser.
However, each year it got a little easier. We hired more staff, we streamlined everything. We started maintaining instead of firefighting. Then in 2010 we moved the whole operational side of things down the road. So much better. The tanks get filled just steps away from the water, there is HUGE equipment room, picnic tables, shower, lockers, plus you get to visit with lil’ Roger and also Billy! There are some things that I miss about the old set up. For example, even if I was in the shop I would see all the divers when they first came off the boat, saying “Wow, did you see the size of that lobster?” Or “Those dolphins were amazing!” Or sometimes “It’s rough out there, but that wreck was awesome!” Now that I am stuck in the shop because I can’t dive (won’t rant and rave about that anymore!!!) I don’t always see them when they come back. I see them before the dives, but not after 🙁 I miss being involved in the after dive excitement. So, maybe next time you are diving with us you can come back to the shop afterwards to share with the pregnant lady!!!
Also, a huge accomplishment was buying Octopussy and she really is a great dive boat. It is so nice having a boat that is customized especially for diving. Chris would say “She isn’t just a great dive boat, Sally, she is THE best dive boat in all of the Caribbean!” And I would have to say that a lot of people agree with him on that, including me!
So, these are just some small snippets of some of our accomplishments in the last 4 years. For me, I feel that I have really grown as a business owner. Four years ago people would come in and ask to speak to the owner. I would say “That’s me.” And then they would cock their head to the side and say “Oh, well I wanted to ask….” Or “I want to sell…” Etc. A few of them even laughed at me! A sort of chuckle, like “how cute is this little girl that says she owns a diving center!” (They didn’t do well with whatever advertising or product they were selling!!!) Now when people come in, they say “Are you the owner?” Feels good, although it may have to do with the fact that I am 4 years older now…
This is us four years ago.
Look at my hair, and no bump! Now I def have a big bump!!!
What I must of course mention is all of the thousands of divers that we have met over the last 4 years, and how many of them we now consider friends, not just customers!
(Sally wrote this blog! 🙂 )