Meet Your Merchant: Tahoe Dive Center
December 9, 2012
What is the history of your business?Who would ever have thought that a dive shop could exist in the desert? After all, we do have tumble weed blowing through town on those “infrequent” windy days. Summers are hot, winters are cold, a dive shop? This is supposed to be part of the old west with the ocean five hours away.But wait.There is a major body of pristine, clear water, not too far away. A body of water nestled in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with beautiful granite shorelines, majestic peaks, and forests galore: Lake Tahoe.Turns out, Carson City has had a scuba shop in town dating back to the ’80s if not earlier.Strictly Scuba was a Professional Association of Dive Instructors Five Star Instructor Development facility that had the longest tenure in the community, from 1993 to 2011. The business thrived, endured economic downturns, upturns, and was a viable business. Over an 18 year time span, she changed hands three times.In September 2011, the owners were going to sell or close the business. I was working as an instructor for the shop at that time. Having taught scuba since 1991, certifying well over 600 divers, having been in high tech sales (my real job) in Silicon Valley for 20 plus years, and seeing that Strictly Scuba was a business with potential, I decided to purchase the assets from the owners and attempt to turn the shop around.First thing we rebranded the company. The Internet search engines use key words to find businesses. “Tahoe” and “diving” are key words, hence the name “Tahoe Dive Center.” We thought it would be a good fit, and it has paid off.Then we brought in major suppliers; Scuba Pro for one dominates the industry as does Aqualung which we recently brought on board. Both these companies manufacture quality equipment designed to last a lifetime. Other major suppliers include Hollis, Atomic Aquatics, Oceanic and Xcel Wetsuits.Scuba diving is an addicting sport, not unlike other outdoor activities such as snowboarding, kayaking, biking and golf, to name a few. Investment to learn and get geared up is similar to these sports. And teaching scuba is also addictive. Watching people learn, get excited, being appreciative of their dive masters and instructors is rewarding.Our staff includes an excellent team of passionate, dedicated instructors, dive masters, and sales staff. One of our prerequisites to work is to be a certified diver preferably with some experience. We are fortunate to have a great team.We are also fortunate to have a great landlord and excellent location at Carson Mall behind Carl’s Jr. Often people hop out of their cars waiting for food and inquire about scuba diving.And the people in the region are very friendly. The business is doing well and we hope to continue our trend of growth and provide the best training in Northern Nevada. What do you sell? Scuba diving equipment and accessories, snorkeling equipment, education (classes from beginning through instructor), service of scuba equipment, rental of scuba equipment.Major suppliers include Scuba Pro, Aqualung, Atomic Aquatics, Hollis, Oceanic, Xcel wetsuits, Trident and Innovative. We have one full time manager/sales/instructor, three part time sales staff, nine instructors, six dive masters, two authorized service technicians, one accountant. What strategy do you use to hire good people?I look for honest, enthusiastic and knowledgeable people. Part-time sales staff are instructors or dive masters. Sales training is an ongoing process. Prerequisite is to be a certified diver preferably with experience. What is your strategy for growth in the next year?Launch e-commerce on the web site, work with amazon.com, have plenty of inventory for customers, and maintain a passionate crew of instructors and dive masters.I purchased a home in town so as to avoid the daily commute to Reno, thereby being able to devote more time to the business. What is the best thing about running a business here?Friendly community, close to the lake, and great landlord with Carson Mall.