Advice from PADI Dive Shop Owners
The decision to start your own dive shop requires some forethought, planning and passion to drive you until the doors actually open. A few dive center owners and operators shared their personal experiences and a little bit of advice:
“Growing up in South Florida, the diving lifestyle was hugely available to me. I started diving at the age of 14 which drove my career choice after high school. The option to become a professional diver was much more appealing traditional paths, so in 1996 I became an Open Water Scuba Instructor. I’ve been managing dive shops since ’99, currently at Ocean First Divers. As a highly environmentally conscience dive center, working here allows me to teach conservation and awareness while transforming lives through scuba diving. Knowing that my interaction with customers’ can make their day better is what makes my job meaningful to me.
The ability to embrace the diving lifestyle while in a professional atmosphere makes working in the scuba diving industry stand out from other careers. This profession has allowed me to travel all over the world, while watching students take their first breaths underwater.”
In my experience in managing dive shops and instructing, the one thing that can make the opening run smoothly is to ensure all your instructional logistics are in place:
- Who’s instructing
- What facilities are you using for classroom, pool and open water
- Where are you doing your air fills
- What courses and programs are you offering, including travel
- Start a Checklist
~ Sage Dalton, Manager, Ocean First Divers
Boulder, Colorado, USA
“If I have to summarise my career in diving in one sentence, it would be: “It all happened by accident”.
First accident: Thirty years ago when I was a student I wanted to do something adventurous. I had two options: diving or gliding. Both offered a sense of freedom. Since I could start diving with e club immediately, and gliding had a waiting list, I started diving -and never regretted it.
Second accident: Years later my girlfriend and I were in the final stages of building our own sailing boat, with plans to sail around the world. We decided it would be a good idea to get certified as diving instructors, so we would be able to work along the way.
Third accident: With our new instructor certificates we started teaching. More and more students joined our classes, and we had trouble storing all the scuba equipment. We soon found a place that suited our needs. In order to be able to pay the rent we decided we had to start a shop.
This is all a long time ago now. We have been full time dive professionals for fifteen years. I am not able to come up with any other occupation that would offer nearly as much rewards. We spend our days diving and teaching diving. We meet lots of new divers, and enjoy their enthousiasm. We had the chance to explore whole new areas in diving, like caves and trimix. The only regret is we never found the time for our sailing trip around the world. But instead we spend a large part of our time travelling around the world to teach diving."
After fifteen years running my own dive center, I can offer a couple pieces of advice to new dive shop owners:
- In offering quality you are able to ask a reasonable price for your products and services. And this is pertinent if you want to stay in business and keep having fun doing so.
- Think big! Diving changes lives, we introduce our customers to a completely new world. Keep in mind your first time underwater and you will better understand your diving students.
- Take care to have fun in diving. Mix work and play, find diving activities you enjoy besides teaching. For me it is caves, for others photography, or wrecks. If your enthousiasm about diving dies your business will die too.
~ Marteen van Baal, Owner, De Tuimelaar V.O.F
“I learned to dive in the military as part of a Special Forces exchange program between the Army and Navy. After training with the Navy Seals I went back to Key West to help build a curriculum for the Army’s Combat Diving School. Diving became a frequent part of my life, which led me down the path of opening my own dive shop after retiring from the military. PADI’s educational foundation was the perfect fit for me.”
After twelve years running my own dive center, I can offer a couple pieces of advice to new dive shop owners:
- Welcome your customers as if they are old friends or family. Friendliness and willingness to help can make a loyal customer for life.
- Know your market, don’t base your business solely off your competitors. Base it off the people you are offering your services to and their means to participate in this sport.
- Find your success in providing quality services and product to your customers.
~ Chris Mendoza, Owner, C&J Divers
Killeen, Texas, USA
“I started diving at the age of 18. While traveling in Australia, the diving lifestyle was something I related to straight away and soon realized that diving would be an important part of my life. This drove my career choice in 1989 and I’ve never looked back. The thing that appealed to me the most was the option to become a professional diver, and PADI was the obvious solution, even nearly 20 years ago, so in 1991 I became an Open Water Scuba Instructor. I’ve been managing (and loving every minute ) our dive Center “The European Dive in’ Center since 1994. The environment is very important to me and plays a huge our role as a Dive Center owner, working here allows me to teach conservation and environmental awareness as well as positively transforming life’s through scuba diving. The great thing about what I do is knowing that as we interact with our customers’ we have the possibility to really make their day, that much more special and this is what makes my job so fantastic!.
~ Miles Crookes, Manager, European Dive in’ Center
Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy