When I was a kid, I could almost always be found knee deep in a river, creek, or pond (at least between the months of March and October, anyway). I always had an aquarium even when times were tough, and it always contained an array of animals native to the Midwest. I never grew out of my fascination with aquatic life, and that eventually led me to do what I do now. I had a lot of other jobs and business ventures, but my heart was never really in any of them. Everyone tells you do do what you love, but what if what you love is catching fish, crawdads, and turtles so you can watch them in your aquarium? Unfortunately, “aquarium enthusiast” isn’t really something you can list on your resume. So, I finally settled with a job at UPS as a bulk package handler. My plan was to become a UPS truck driver and work 60 hours per week until retirement because the pay was good. However, life had other plans for me.
I started my business by selling Red Cherry Shrimp after being forced to quit my job at UPS due to a degenerative spinal disc condition. I had a 55 gallon tank full of Red Cherry Shrimp that I had bred as a hobbyist, a pile of bills, no money, and no other ideas. I didn’t want to sell my Cherry Shrimp (even though I had about 1,000 of them), but it was my only idea to make ends meet. Miraculously, my shrimp sold extremely well and my customers kept coming back for more. At that point I lived in a tiny apartment of about 300 square feet with my 100 lb dog and three cats, but I still somehow managed to keep a 55 and 30 gallon aquarium within it. After having a surprising amount of success selling the Red Cherry Shrimp I raised, I started breeding Neon Yellow Shrimp in the 30 gallon tank. Crystal (my fiance/partner) started helping me after being laid off from her research job, and I started thinking of this as having real potential to build our future. 2 years later, Aquatic Arts has grown from me and those two aquariums into a company employing 7 people and housing thousands of animals and aquarium plants across over 100 holding tanks. We are still expanding faster than we can keep up with. Sitting here and writing this, I almost can’t believe it.
I know it doesn’t sound like much compared to a lot of success stories, but it is one that I am proud of. I have a job doing what I love, and I get to work every day with my best friends and my fiance/partner, Crystal. My company is small enough that I can still be personally involved in every aspect of it, and I am and always will be. I am continually surprised that what I do is a possibility for me, and I work hard to make sure people come back again and again. After all, you can’t have much of a business without loyal customers, right? If you are a past, present, or future customer, you have my sincere thanks for giving Crystal and I our dream job, and supporting the jobs of 5 other people as well. Aquatic Arts wouldn’t exist without people like you, and that is something that we never forget.