Photos by Steve Smith, VisionFire Studios
Sam Thompson’s new entrepreneurial adventure
Serial entrepreneur Sam Thompson came up with the
idea for his latest venture while on a beach down south over Christmas.
“People were renting paddleboards. They were renting sailboats. It was busy. I thought, ‘Why isn’t this available at home?’” the 21-year-old Pictou County native recalls.
Thompson decided to take the plunge, and exercise his entrepreneurial spirit, with the launch this spring of Melmerby Adventures. He’s renting paddleboards, kayaks and a pedal boat from the shore off his grandmother Della Curtis’s property, nestled on the inner bay at Melmerby Beach Provincial Park.
“We have a gorgeous beach in the summer, just as nice as those beaches down south, and there’s not much more for people to do than go and lay on the beach for the afternoon,” he says. “I thought it would be great for people who don’t have trucks or a way to lug a kayak or paddleboard down to the Merb.”
Thompson already has a solid track record with earlier entrepreneurial ventures. He started out at age 10 picking plums from fruit-laden trees in his grandparents’ yard, packing them in strawberry containers, loading them in a wagon and selling them door to door, making a few hundred dollars.
“I was shocked,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘Geeze, this is so much money.’” A few years later, he made Christmas ornaments to sell at the farmers market and they sold out in two hours. With his newly created Sam Co. Creations, he realized a year-round product might be a better business and built birdhouses. He branched out at age 14 with a product he calls “Surprise Soap” that has Lego figures inside each bar.
“That’s my biggest hit,” he says. “The birdhouses, I think everyone in Pictou County who wanted one has one. Right now, I’m sold out and I don’t have immediate plans to make more.”
He had a bit of a head start with the boat-rental business, having spent childhood summers at the Merb and paddling on the calm, warm waters of the back bay. Before deciding to set up shop, he already owned two paddle boards, two sit-in kayaks and a pedal boat, which he will rent out for hour-long slots. He’s also got a 16-foot, 1978-era Finn Vanguard sailboat available to book for guided tours on weekends.
With a flock of inflatable jumbo swans anchored in the water in front of his grandmother’s place, Melmerby Adventures is easy to spot and a short walk along the shoreline from the Melmerby Beach parking lot.
Thompson will see how things shape up in mid-to-late June before he considers adding more to his flotilla. “I want to build some momentum first, but I’d certainly like to buy more.”
The main start-up cost for the third-year Dalhousie University business student has been building the booking platform for the business’s website.
“I’m not too concerned. For me this is a summer job. I’m still a student,” he says. “I need it to go decently well. If it doesn’t take off, I won’t do it again next year. If it does well this year, I will do something again next year and I’ll have to hire some help because I’ll likely be graduated and working.”