“A lot of my business meetings have been done sitting in these little huts on the beach, coffee in one hand cigarette in the other.”
In 2006, 24 year old Andy Taylor worked as a risk analyst at Bank of America in London, his first job out of UMIST where he earned degrees in chemistry and forensics. He was on a promising career path to a cushioned lifestyle working in London’s banking industry.
Seven years later, this is what Andy is up to…
Our Banana Pancake Trail Entrepreneur:
“One of my friends passed away prematurely and it was a catalyst to get me to move. Basically within two weeks of his funeral I had packed my bags and left England for Bangkok.”
Andy is the purveyor of Aquaddiction, a dive shop, hostel, bar, and classic ocean side bungalow with twenty employees located on Gili Trawangan. Here he is a full time resident living with his girlfriend and sharing the island with 800 locals and 250 other expats. He caters to the Banana Pancake Trail backpackers: primarily Europeans traveling through the popular destinations throughout South East Asia. There are no motorized vehicles allowed on the island. He doesn’t even have to wear shoes.
When Andy got to Bangkok he traveled throughout Thailand until he made it to Vietnam where he got a job as a dive instructor. Over the next few years he worked, basically beach to beach, at dive locations learning the ins and outs, networking, and ultimately building towards his current business. When the opportunity presented itself he got a manager position at a dive shop in Bali that was, in his words, “A war zone”. None of the employees were properly trained and few even knew the basics of safely maintaining the equipment. After sharpening his managerial skills he set off for Gili Trawangan where he managed a very small location from the ground up. Eventually he found himself thinking, “I can do this myself” and when his current building came up for rent he jumped on the opportunity.
“I put $20,000 to invest in a boat and some dive equipment. And in June 2009 opened Aquaddiction”
Andy has the great advantage of being an excellent communicator – something that is extremely valuable to tourists who, in this part of the world, sigh with relief when they run into someone who can provide concise, reliable, and accurate information.
“Gili’s just been blowing up over the last couple years. It’s constant.
There’s always something going on, which makes doing business here just so interesting. There’s no health and safety, there’s no planning, there’s no idea of what’s going to be next and opportunities arise all of the time.”
Aquaddiction has grown over 200% in the past year and went from about 300 certifications last year to around 800 certifications by the end of this year. A scuba diving certification costs $370… back of the envelope math puts a portion of his revenue at $300,000. He wouldn’t comment on revenue from the full range of his services. “Every time you have money in the bank, it’s time to invest in something else. Major costs are, for me, building right now. My overhead is investment, it’s building more rooms, upgrading my power, building new high end accommodation bungalows at about $7,000 each and there’s five of them.”
“It’s always good to have an envelope under the desk just in case something goes wrong or someone comes in, you can go, “well this says, this envelope with like a $50 or $100 in it, says that it didn’t happen, ya?”
“I’ve never before known much about corruption but from running my business, yeah, it is rife in this country. I never ever was exposed to this before. It’s just business operation here which is something that’s taken a real long time to get used to. Because, I’ve never offered a bribe before in my life!” Corruption has not hindered Aquaddiction but it has required Andy to adapt to an unfamiliar aspect of doing business in Indonesia.
“Even at the passport control in Jakarta main airport, I was trying to get through with a working visa, they were like, ‘Oh, no no no, you haven’t got the right paper, you’re going to have to pay me $250′. And they even blatantly said, ‘But, there is another way. Go put some money in your passport and come back.’ I went and put $50 in my passport, I came back, gave it to them, they were like, ‘oh no no no.’ Went back, put $100 in my passport, ok, ya, stamp stamp. Ya it’s that obvious. And these guys are stand up full on members of the system in one of the biggest international airports in Indonesia.”
Gili T’s harbor
“I’m just glad I came out when I did.” Andy aspires to turn Aquaddiction into a brand name with locations on different islands and wherever he finds a good spot.
“There’s lots more islands around here and Indonesia is huge. There’s 18,000 islands. If you spent a day on each island it’d take you 50 years to get through them all. Our next step is to get a manager in so we [girlfriend] can get focused on other things but it’s really hard to let go of the baby.”
On Andy’s favorite story or moment as a dive shop owner operator:
“The next day we found him handcuffed to a hut, still dressed as Shrek, and hungover as shit. They made him pay for it. $250 dollars.”
“The final test of the dive master is the snorkel test. We put a mask on so they can’t breath through their nose and it’s sealed. And we get a jug of whatever we can mix together, dress them up in stupid clothing, pour the jug down, and they’ve got to drink the whole lot. And then they’re welcomed into the world to be a dive professional. This one guy, we dressed him up as Shrek. And there was a big lobster sitting in the tank in front of the restaurant and it was way to big for the tank. And being eco-minded we were all yelling at the restaurant employees, “you can’t do this, you can’t do this”. When he got really drunk he said, “I’m going to do something about this, now!” So he gets up in his Shrek costume and sprints to the tank, grabs this lobster out and runs with it down the beach, security came and basically rugby tackled him, and at the very last breath he managed to throw lobster back into the ocean. And the next day we found him handcuffed to a hut, still dressed as Shrek, and hungover as shit. They made him pay for it. $250 dollars.”
And lastly, sage advice from the expert himself on avoiding financial pitfalls in Gili T:
“…..Watch your drink bill”
Scuba Diving Certification Classes and Trips with Aquaddiction
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+62(0)812 27 257 437