Years in Tampa Bay
Founder of Tampa Bay Water Bikes Company
What do you do?
I really wear multiple hats. I created the business model, problem-solved an operating space by building a floating office, negotiated contracts and purchases, and worked all shifts when I first opened until I was able to make hires. Now, I spend a lot of time working with customers, helping them coordinate exceptional experiences on the water with their family, friends and co-workers. We've had everything from fundraisers to high school team building, even bachelorette parties.
Why do you do it?
The Air Force brought me to Tampa and gave me the opportunity to spend my days on the water in Marine Patrol. In 2014, I was sitting in my cubical looking out over the water, dying to get back to it. One day I saw an article about a guy who was biking across the San Francisco Bay to work and thought water bikes would be perfect for tourists and locals alike right here in Tampa. I noticed an explosion of growth in downtown and a huge push from the City of Tampa in building out the Riverwalk. Activities were lacking, and felt a fun activity on the water near the River Walk is just what Tampa needed. So I went for it!
What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)
Back in 2014 I was halfway through my master's in entrepreneurship at the University of South Florida. I was also working in a Harbor Island office building overlooking the water. The docks at the time were sparse, but the news about the Riverwalk was nonstop. That's when I saw the article about a water biker in San Francisco. After a few hours on Google, I had my first draft of a business plan on a poorly-torn sheet of a yellow legal pad. My wife chuckled when I brought it home, but couldn't help but be as excited as I was about the potential. Three months later, I was open for business!
What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?
People think my tan comes from "working" down at the docks, but it really comes from my time in the military being out on marine patrol. Everyone thinks I get to lay out in the sun all day! I actually do spend a lot of time indoors working behind the scenes, building our online reputation, managing operations, connecting with the community through meetings and events and spending time with my team during outings.
What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?
I wouldn’t say challenging, but I have done a lot of problem solving. When I opened the business I had a different storage method in mind for the bikes. It wasn’t operationally feasible so I had to pivot and come up with a solution. Throughout the past four years, I have had to come up with a number of solutions that would help increase business, reduce maintenance and cost, all while keeping customers and employees happy. Dealing with Florida weather and salt water is no joke!
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?
Ask for help and advice, business ownership isn't all about doing everything yourself. You may have an attorney friend that could help with a contract negotiation, a web developer with help on a website or a photographer to do a photo shoot. People are eager to help, just ask! And be willing to return the favor.
What do you rent and what are the costs?
We rent single and tandem Water Bikes and Biyaks. The water bikes are a bike frame attached to two pontoons and is propelled by a propeller. The Biyak is a Kayak with a fin-like pedal system. We charge $30 per person and always offer $5 off for teachers, students, military, law enforcement and seniors 65 and older.
What type of growth have you seen in your business and in the Riverwalk?
Since we started we added Biyaks and some additional water bikes. Some of the water bikes were converted into tandem bikes. Overall we have more than doubled our equipment and have seen a huge increase in our business. When we started, the only other business was an electric boat rental and they had only 3 boats. Now they more than doubled their boats and five other businesses have opened up around us. New restaurants and parks have opened up on the Riverwalk. Days of the Riverwalk being a weekend the only spot is over.