Bullish on Bermuda
Tour boat operator Mark Roberts is finding his gamble is paying off the ubiquitous Catch 22 for graduates entering the job market these days is they often need experience and a diploma.
The problem is: those with enough job experience did not have the time to attend college, while those who attended college did not have time to gain the required job experience.
It's a conundrum that has left many graduates frustrated.
On the other side of this paradoxical fence stands Mark Roberts: 22-years-old, owner and operator of his own charter and tour business, Winsome Ltd, and one of the most laid-back individuals one can find on an island chock full of laid-back individuals.
“It's rewarding, running your own business, but it gets a bit crazy,” Mark said. “I'm 22 and all of a sudden I'm the boss and I'm telling people older than me what to do, because I'm the one who is paying them and running the show.
“It's good. It matures you in a way you wouldn't think it would, because you're in control.
“You have to take care of everything, the money, the boat, the maintenance, the driving, the operation of the tours, everything, you're taking care of everything.”
But ask anyone who knows Mark, they'll tell you his drawl and chilled demeanour belies one heck of a work-ethic and an undying love for his job.
It is here, perhaps, Mark sets himself apart.
“When I was in high school, I had no clue what I wanted to do,” Mark said.
While some hope they will find the career of their dreams in college, Mark decided to bypass it altogether.
He was shy, unsure about what he wanted to do with his life, and for a while, bounced between random jobs and hustles.
“The one thing that stood out for me most — what made me want to get into this kind of business — was I found I like just interacting with people, and I love the ocean, and the environment. Just being a salty sea dog around the ocean, you know, it's an awesome thing.”
Armed with knowing what he wanted to do with his life — an increasing luxury for millennials — Mark began working toward the goal of becoming his own boss, while at the same time discovering that the shy, Mark Roberts of old, was slowly fading away.
“The job brought me out of my shell,” he said with a chuckle.
“Before I had this job, I wouldn't be doing this right now, I would have been too nervous to talk to you. People don't realise, I wasn't outgoing like I am now.”
After four years in the industry, Mark was ready.
“I was making decent money working for my uncle, but I wanted to move ahead. I got my captain's license and whatnot.
“The only real way to get ahead in life these days is just to start your own thing, create your own enterprise, create your own brand, and so I just kind of branched off there.”
“Basically I created in my mind what I wanted to have.
“I worked on the boat I eventually bought off my uncle for three and a half years, and so I had an idea with that boat to add some things to the tour.”
With two other stakeholders, Mark secured a loan which allowed him to purchase his uncle's boat, Excellence, in 2013.
A year and a half later, he's paid off 25-30 percent of his debt, and the business is beginning to take off.
“Not only are we paying off the loan with interest, we're also making equity.
“We have a boat that belongs to us, we're putting money into it and we're making the business stronger and better, so when we sell it we might be able to get more than we paid when we bought it.
Winsome Ltd now owns and operates two boats, Excellence and Under the Sea, offering home tours of Bermuda's high-end houses, snorkel trips, and charter excursions.
Less than two years in, Mark said money is still tight, and the work is still hard, but optimism is rife.
“Even though right now it doesn't seem like we're making money, you've just got to be able to go with it.
“When I started, I kept getting panicked, looking at the numbers and it's in the minus and thinking 'I've still got payments for two more years', but it's not really that bad.
“If you think about it, three and a half years and boom, things will get going.
“We'll be making money and everyone starts going home with a little more money in their pockets.”
“I'll tell you one thing about a job and a career, when you first start, you mess up a lot.
“After you get over that stage, once you make those mistakes, you generally don't make them again, which is the principal of all things I guess. Now I'm the guy teaching the younger people, and I'm only 22.”
To book a tour or charter with Winsome Ltd, call Mark on 536-6275.