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View Full Version : I need Thoughts on starting a dive shop



Darthwader
04-25-2008, 06:36
My LDS is going under which will leave my community without a reliable Dive center (if I'm allowed to use that term); I'd like to step in and fill the void.
I fully understand the argument against this endeavor, but I'm thinking of starting small. Is it feasible to have an independant, limited service dive shop (essentially a fillling station and rental facility)? I figure this would fit my experience level, and if I keep my overhead low then the shop could expand with my experience level.

FishFood
04-25-2008, 07:06
Filling tanks makes very little money (if any). Dont count on that for profit.

Start a busniess plan. Find a place where you would start this dive shop, figure out all your monthly expenses and figure up how much money you'd need to bring in. Is that amount feasible?

What did this last dive shop do wrong that forced them to close?

fireflock
04-25-2008, 07:21
I know a couple of folks around here that are trying something similar. They are focusing on fills, service, and odd items that advanced divers want but aren't stocked by regular shops.

They're starting very small, and may well stay that way. I'm sure they're not interested in loosing money, but I don't think it's a real job (in terms of money) for them either. It started because some felt that local shops were not doing a good job of meeting needs for avid divers.

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 07:21
What did this last dive shop do wrong that forced them to close?
It was almost a "hobby" shop and was only open three days a week for 2 1/2 hours a day, if he even showed for those hours; he's acquired a reputation as unreliable in the community.
I have nowhere near the experience needed for an involved shop, and I know that if he sold the shop, I couldn't bring in enough to cover the overhead, so buying him out isn't feasible.
I've drawn up a very rough business plan already, but that wasn't very encouraging. Hell, the cost of a commercial compressor alone almost shoots this idea down. I just hate to see our community lose an LDS to lazy business practices!
I was thinking that if I cater to recreational/competitive swimmers, snorkelers as well as divers i might have a chance. Unfortunately, because we're a small northern community, aquatic sports is terribly seasonal.

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 07:40
I know a couple of folks around here that are trying something similar. They are focusing on fills, service, and odd items that advanced divers want but aren't stocked by regular shops.

They're starting very small, and may well stay that way. I'm sure they're not interested in loosing money, but I don't think it's a real job (in terms of money) for them either. It started because some felt that local shops were not doing a good job of meeting needs for avid divers.

That sound just like what I had in mind. without this guy, then we have no service center within probably 50 miles! My concern though is that I've heard that shops that carry brand inventories are pressured to carry latest models, and minimum orders, etc.

fireflock
04-25-2008, 08:09
The place I'm thinking of was able to get an established compressor system cheap from a failing shop. Plus, they have the expertise to move it, set it up, and run it.

I'll be honest. If you are just starting out in diving than it might not be a good idea for you. It might be better handled by a local club, or some divers who are well known on the local dive scene and already know about filing, blending, VIPs, etc....

frogman159
04-25-2008, 08:12
Being creative is key.

Here's and idea, form a dive club and charge $150 anual dues. Plan weekly local dives. As a key perk to joining your club, throw in 10 free airfills.

Now even if all club members don't use all thier airfills, you've already collected. If you run a great club, Its likely all your members will get annual service with you as well and additional airfills and they'll buy the limited supplies you'll sell.

Anyone who is not a member, charge them a bit more for services to entice them to become members. As your membership grows, your all but guareneeing your customer base and a minimuium revanue stream.. Then you can offer a 2 year membership for $275...etc

Foo2
04-25-2008, 08:35
I don't know anything about owning a dive shop. But I will say, and I could be wrong, it sounds as if you want to do this because there won't be anywhere to go vs. because you really want to. It just sounds like your heart may not be 100% into it. I sure wouldn't start a business just to help everyone out so they don't have to drive far. For a business like that to make it, you have to be completely on board. On the other hand, if you really want this business...I say go for it! Just my 2psi.

fisheater
04-25-2008, 08:36
Another idea.

If your local diving is so seasonal, find something that is compatible, but counter-seasonal.

E.g., diving in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.

Also, you could get into the dive travel business. Entice your locals with warm water destinations during your winter months.

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 08:44
The place I'm thinking of was able to get an established compressor system cheap from a failing shop. Plus, they have the expertise to move it, set it up, and run it.

I'll be honest. If you are just starting out in diving than it might not be a good idea for you. It might be better handled by a local club, or some divers who are well known on the local dive scene and already know about filing, blending, VIPs, etc....
you're absolutely right, and I agree 100%, however. . . the established divers in the community are all engaged, and can't commit to a project like this. I admit the technocal side is new to me, and that alone would be a monumental hurdle, getting the requisite training, and maintenence certs. MY lds is an ANDI center, so they offer "SAFE AIR", I don't want to get into this debate here, but I would want that affiliation.
right now this is all theoretical, kind of a feasibility check on the capabilities of a limited use shop.
I really like the idea of a dive club though, I think that is the most practical way to go since I just don't have enough experience yet to be knowledgeable enough to help customers.
Safety, money, and practicality are the three biggest barriers I've noticed so far.

frogman159
04-25-2008, 09:16
E.g., diving in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.

Also, you could get into the dive travel business. Entice your locals with warm water destinations during your winter months.

Right-on :smiley20:

Do Larry and Joe sell paintball too? It is air related...
Paintball Equipment now available from ScubaToys (http://www.scubatoys.com/paintball.asp)

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 09:33
I don't know anything about owning a dive shop. But I will say, and I could be wrong, it sounds as if you want to do this because there won't be anywhere to go vs. because you really want to. It just sounds like your heart may not be 100% into it. I sure wouldn't start a business just to help everyone out so they don't have to drive far. For a business like that to make it, you have to be completely on board. On the other hand, if you really want this business...I say go for it! Just my 2psi.
I do feel more of sense of duty of filling the void than any overwhelming entreprenurial passion, but there is personal interest here as well. We just lost our goodyear dealer, but I never felt the need to step in and start a tire dealership.:smiley2: This seemed like a good opportunity to get more involved in something I'm genuinely interested. Thus far, I've recieved what I consider to be really exellent and earnest advice, which was I sought out the advice of the comunity. I doubt seriously I'll move on this. Even for such a small endeavor, the start-up cost is a gamble that I'm reluctant to make, but I'll continue making inquiries to see better what the pros/cons may be.

b1draper
04-25-2008, 09:49
What you may look at doing is sitting down with the LDS owner and come up with a plan to help him turn the business around. For instance.... he's got the building, inventory and compressor volunteer to work there in the afternoons which would add stability to the shops hours. And in exchange you'll get free air and maybe some gear. If the shop has been a hobby for him I don't think that he'd be opposed to you helping him make money.

You might explore things along that line and you may also get some free training to do things like fill tanks and some gear service. This way your not really buying him out or you could also offer up a partnership type of arrangement. It would be a really good way of getting your name out in the community.

h2odragon1
04-25-2008, 10:33
You stated that the 'shop' was more of a hobby shop, open only a few hours a week. If you are going to cary this on, you will need to be more reliable than the shop closing. this may mean sitting in the shop for hours, if not days alone.
What services were offered? If it was only gas fills, then a small compressor may be viable, if you form a club with anual dues, and organise dive trips out of town.
Start with local trips to your closest dive site, then some to nearby out-of-state dive sites.
If you expand to servicing reg's and other equipt. then you will have to get the training todo so, and carry liability insurance.
If you star to cary inventory, then you have to deal with the manufacturer's rep's mandating a minimum inventory, of the lastest product.
Remember the closing shop closed because of unreliable servicing, and unreliable hours, the 'hobby' idea may be the best route for yuo and your buddies to take.
Good luck with this majoe decision.:smiley20:

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 10:56
What you may look at doing is sitting down with the LDS owner and come up with a plan to help him turn the business around. For instance.... he's got the building, inventory and compressor volunteer to work there in the afternoons which would add stability to the shops hours. And in exchange you'll get free air and maybe some gear. If the shop has been a hobby for him I don't think that he'd be opposed to you helping him make money.

You might explore things along that line and you may also get some free training to do things like fill tanks and some gear service. This way your not really buying him out or you could also offer up a partnership type of arrangement. It would be a really good way of getting your name out in the community.
that's the best idea yet given my inexperience. The guy's not leaving town so the experience, equipment and services are still there. it could bea a win/win situation. I'll give him a call, don't know why I didn't think about it myself. (guess I just secretly wanted to be a dive shop guy):icon_redface:

b1draper
04-25-2008, 13:10
What you may look at doing is sitting down with the LDS owner and come up with a plan to help him turn the business around. For instance.... he's got the building, inventory and compressor volunteer to work there in the afternoons which would add stability to the shops hours. And in exchange you'll get free air and maybe some gear. If the shop has been a hobby for him I don't think that he'd be opposed to you helping him make money.

You might explore things along that line and you may also get some free training to do things like fill tanks and some gear service. This way your not really buying him out or you could also offer up a partnership type of arrangement. It would be a really good way of getting your name out in the community.
that's the best idea yet given my inexperience. The guy's not leaving town so the experience, equipment and services are still there. it could bea a win/win situation. I'll give him a call, don't know why I didn't think about it myself. (guess I just secretly wanted to be a dive shop guy):icon_redface:


You'll still be a "dive shop guy". I would suggest seeing if the guy will let you help him turn then business around because not only does he already have the equiptment the local divers know about the shop. If you are able to strike a deal with him just get the word out and people will come.

It's not really that hard, the only thing that you need to do is get the owner to agree to let you help and swap time for air fills and gear then as things get better turn that goods exchange into a pay check.

He may even allow you to run the company or to help you run it and just give him his cut of the profits. I see some good possibilities. If one of the shops here started to close I'd offer the same thing I'm suggesting.

It could work...

Largo
04-25-2008, 15:22
Some of the certifying agencies have consultants who can give you advice about running a dive shop.

Darthwader
04-25-2008, 19:11
Some of the certifying agencies have consultants who can give you advice about running a dive shop.
I suspected they might. I toyed with the idea of approaching ANDI for advice.

Largo
04-26-2008, 22:19
The last time I was in FLA, I stopped in to a brand new dive shop. The owner was a veteran, and financed his shop through the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov (http://www.sba.gov)). He used the Patriot Express Loan, for vets. He also elected to sell ScubaPro. That way, he didn't have to compete with other shops in the area, or internet dealers.


If you can somehow purchase a diveable quarry, you might be able to let divers use it for a small fee.

Just some ideas, not all of them good ones.

Darthwader
04-28-2008, 06:34
The last time I was in FLA, I stopped in to a brand new dive shop. The owner was a veteran, and financed his shop through the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov (http://www.sba.gov)). He used the Patriot Express Loan, for vets. He also elected to sell ScubaPro. That way, he didn't have to compete with other shops in the area, or internet dealers.


If you can somehow purchase a diveable quarry, you might be able to let divers use it for a small fee.

Just some ideas, not all of them good ones.
Appreciate the thoughts. Mi. has a good entreprenur resource at their employment centers, I will need to do my homework if I decide to go farther. BTW, I just talked with the owner, he's definately closing, and he is leaving the community. the compressor is being sold to the Co. Dive team, and he's selling off his inventory and building as well. sounds as if I could just step in with a business loan and pick up where he left off, but I'm not poised for this step yet.
I sure wish I had the funds to buy that quarry that was for sale down near Gadsden Al that I saw posted on the Scubaboard Last year, now that would be an enterprise!

elijahb
05-02-2008, 20:19
To me it sounds like you want a place to fill your tanks service your regs and buy new gear. you don't need a dive shop to do that. There are many portable compressors (around 100lbs) that have decent fill times. You could take an equipment repair course to learn how to service your gear. It is really nice to be able to fix all your own stuff. Talk to the other divers in the area and maybe you can pool your money to buy things like a compressor. To purchase gear at a good cost try contacting the manufacturer directly. I know a guy who sells new gear out of his garage for less than any of my three local shops. If you sell privately you have less overhead cost. The reason the local shop shut down could be because the overhead cost were to high.

MicahEW
05-03-2008, 08:47
[quote=Darthwader;163289]My LDS is going under which will leave my community without a reliable Dive center (if I'm allowed to use that term); I'd like to step in and fill the void.
I fully understand the argument against this endeavor, but I'm thinking of starting small. Is it feasible to have an independant, limited service dive shop (essentially a fillling station and rental facility)? I figure this would fit my experience level, and if I keep my overhead low then the shop could expand with my experience level.[/quote

if you do im in all day long ill be like the guy who is not employeed by the shop but spends all his time there.

huvrr
05-13-2008, 11:04
how much equipment/gear is available from the current owner? it should be easy to find some pretty knowledgeable folks to help you. you don't have to hold all kinds of certs. to surround yourself with folks that do.

Rcontrera
05-20-2008, 11:22
Buying equipment for a store is really simple. Times are tough and LOTS of people deal with newcomers that have cash. You may not get the big names that you are looking for to start, but give it s few years and they will be knocking at your door. But don't bother buying the left over stuff from the old guy unless he is going to offer you a gigantic discount. If you gotta spend money for dive stuff to sell, it might as well be new and not shopworn.

A compressor is the real kicker here. To get one of the small $3000 ones might be more expensive in the long run since they aren't designed to operate as a dive shop needs it to. There is a dive shop out here in WA that has two of them that seem to be constantly in one state of repair or another.

My suggestion is to go with one of the single phase continuous duty 5cfm or larger models that can be powered off your home 220VAC. The addition of a motor starter will allow you to install an automatic shut down and keep the compressor from cycling should you have power interruptions (our power goes out here at least every other month). Plus, I would definitely spring for the automatic condensate drains. All this will run around $8500 and you are still filling two tanks at a time right off the compressor! Now let's build you a top notch air filtration system and there is another $1000. Add another $2000+ for bulk tanks and a fill manifold and you are at around $12,000 just for your air system alone.

However, if you design it to run off your home power, then you are not locked into running it in a commercial location.

Now ... all that said ... you really need to determine just what "void" is being created by this guy's departure. You said yourself that he is almost never there. If this is just an emotional response, then get over it and just get yourself a personal compressor so you can fill your own tanks. But if you can put together a plan to make a real business work, then go for it!

Just my $.02

Geoff_T
05-20-2008, 15:55
do you have an active local dive club. I have heard of rural dive clubs owning compressers and rental equiptment. Maby you could try going in with them to make this happen, in terms of manpower. Then you just have to find somewhere to keep everything.

mrbheagney
09-06-2008, 02:07
How did this turn out? Did you go for it?

tndiverdude
09-10-2008, 01:07
I am still interested in starting a dive shop. I am just not sio sure how ell it woudl go over. The information supplied was very helpful and I found thats oe dive companies ahve beginner packages for thsoe just starting out, so its often affrodable. especialy US divers with their variety of materials. Though after my wifes problem I am not sure that is a way to go but when you think about it 3 years for constant use fins is not bad.

Rcontrera
09-10-2008, 01:32
A man owned a small beach side resort dive shop.

The Department of Labor claimed he was not paying proper wages to his staff and sent an representative out to interview him.

'I need a list of your employees and how much you pay them,' demanded the rep.

"Well," replied the shop owner, "there's my service tech who's been with me for 3 years. I pay him $300 a week plus free room and board. The instructor has been here for 18 months, and I pay her $450 per week plus free room and board. Then there's the half-wit. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about $10 per week, pays his own room and board, and I buy him a bottle of whiskey every Saturday night. He also sleeps with my wife occasionally."

"That's the guy I want to talk to ... the half-wit," says the agent.

"That would be me," replied the dive shop owner.

:smiley20::smiley20::smiley20::smiley20::smiley20: :smiley20::smiley20::smiley20::smiley20::smiley20:

zahgurim
09-10-2008, 21:57
:D ^

Sounds the same as working in a bike shop...