NASSAU, BAHAMAS – An island boy at heart, Smith grew up exploring the shores of his home island of Exuma.
When he became an adult, his love for the ocean led him to seek employment with a water tour company – that is – until the first wave of COVID -19 hits the shores of the Bahamas and sinks the tourism industry.
“During the lockdown, Coastline Adventures closed, but I continued to walk the beach every day,” Smith explained.
“It was part of my daily routine for years, and eventually I started collecting all the corals, rocks and shells that washed up on shore. I knew I could put them to good use instead of letting them go. on the shore. That’s where I got the idea to make memories.
Most of the time, Smith said he’ll leave the beach with a “backpack full” of things washing up on the beach. He said he quickly recognized that the treasures of the sea still had value and “did not have to be wasted” as they had the potential “to evolve into so much more”.
“I had all the corals and shells in place, so I started putting everything together during lockdown,” Smith explained.
“First I got some scrap plywood and cut it into different sizes; Then I used a hot glue gun to glue the corals, stones and seashell pieces before covering the base with sand. On my last stop, I placed the keepsakes in a transparent case and tied a ribbon with the colors of the Bahamian flag around it.
With the ultimate goal of showcasing the treasures of his home island, Smith said he wants the world to understand that the Bahamas is “so much more” than its capital, Nassau. He said he even launched a line of wet shirts, shoes and pants, which featured vibrant photos of Exuma’s coral reefs to further promote the beauty of his island.
“My wetsuit clothing line was well supported,” Smith continued.
“The welcome from the locals was particularly overwhelming as I mainly sold my clothes to tourists. I didn’t expect the Bahamians to jump on board like they did, but they were very supportive.
After researching ways to secure funding for his business, Smith heard about Access Accelerator and was encouraged to sign up by a “good friend” familiar with the program.
“I thought it would give me a good start, so I decided to give it a try,” Smith said.
“The course content was easy to understand and the information I learned was quite simple. I already had business management experience, but Access Accelerator gave me great insight into how to run a business effectively and efficiently. »
After the program ended, Smith received a grant of $50,595 to expand her fledgling business. He said the funding was a “big help” because he didn’t know where he would have gotten “that kind of money” from on his own.
“Honestly, without the Access Accelerator, the Exuma Underwater Store wouldn’t exist,” he said.
“When I found out I was a recipient, I almost jumped through the ceiling because I couldn’t believe it. I have thousands of dollars worth of inventory, and the funding I received has was the kickstarter that got me started, without Access Accelerator none of this would have been possible.
Smith said he is determined to put Exuma Underwater Store on the global map, and his first step is to revamp his packaging system.
“I’m working on changing my case concept to one where my underwater memories are placed in silicone molds that I can pour acrylic resin into to give them a hard marble finish,” he said. .
“Although the general reception has been good, some tourists are still reluctant to buy my products because customs officers may report corals and shells at the airport when they are placed in crates. If I seal and place my souvenirs in resin, that won’t be a problem.
Now that Smith has the “kick” he needed, he plans to go full speed ahead. He said he has over a thousand parts in inventory waiting to be repackaged in silicone resin. He also said he was planning his next big thing.
“I’m working on creating the first 3D underwater store in the Bahamas where people can walk into my business and have an immersive underwater experience,” Smith said. “I also plan to build a brick and mortar store in George Town near tourist hotspots and want to get into scuba diving tours and launch an underwater themed seafood restaurant. Exuma’s Underwater Store is the start of a big dream, and with the help of the Access Accelerator, everything is progressing beautifully. »