Travel broadens the mind they say, it may also shape your very purpose to exist on planet earth. That’s quite the strong opening statement, but very true in the story of Casey Russell.
It’s a story that will resonate with many but probably executed by very few. Like so many before him and equally as many after, Casey left school at 16 and well, didn’t really know what to do. This isn’t uncommon, with so many Manxies finding themselves in the same position.
Fast-forward 8 years and 24-year-old Casey is now a business owner…On the other side of the f*cking planet! Casey started up “Scubadoo” a scuba diving school on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand.
Casey’s story intrigued me more than most because it is such a transformation from the mop-haired teenager I once knew from our RGS school days. I don’t think he would mind me saying that I couldn’t picture the person back at 16 being this Master-Scuba-Diver-Trainer that above all is excelling in the competitive market that is Thailand’s diving scene.
I had to talk to him, I had to hear and share his story.
Take me back to start? How did you go from leaving school to leaving the island?
Casey – “Well after leaving school at 16, I went and did a two-year course in IT at the college before working as a gardener, labourer, painter and even a travel agent! I just couldn’t find a job that was truly right for me. It was that frustration that made me take a chance on going travelling, live a little you know, before settling down, getting married and having kids!”
So the diving..?
Casey – “I had a friend, working as a diving instructor near Bali, and I visited her in 2015 for two weeks. It is here where I did my first scuba dive. I am eternally grateful for that introduction to the sport.”
Casey described the experience as life-changing. It was Casey’s epiphany, he found his calling. He said to the instructor, “how can I do this as a job?!”
After working and volunteering in Australia for a year, Casey obtained some qualifications in scuba-diving and saved enough money from one of those long-ol slog’s on an Aussie farm in Northern Queensland to continue his qualifications elsewhere. The tsunami damage in Indonesia meant that Casey decided to one of the main diving spots in Thailand, Koh Tao.
“I got in contact with literally the ‘diving guru’ of Koh Tao, Marcel, and booked my remaining courses and completed them over the next 3 months.”
How did you go about starting your own Scuba Diving School?
Casey – “On the course with Marcel there were 9 other candidates. One person, in particular, I became very close to, a Thai girl named Luke, we became best friends. We both had similar ambitions, and also shared the same dream of having our own dive school. This dream wasn’t unrealistic but neither of us had any experience of running a business.”
Casey and Luke have since entered a personal and business relationship. Just from talking to Casey you can tell they share the same passions which has probably made their decision to go into business much easier.
Casey – “We didn’t just want to open a school, not knowing if it would work, so we took our time, gained experience working and undertook months of market research, education and training to be sure this business would work.”
In July 2018, Scubadoo was born. Casey and Luke bought all their equipment and started to rent their own shop. A tremendous feat for someone who 3 years earlier had only done their first dive.
With the diving scene so competitive how do you make yourselves different?
Casey – “Competition is so high so you have to be different to stand out. We have a great location, and our attitude is so positive and friendly in comparison to other schools. New equipment and new ideas with a young, fresh outlook on the market. We are trying to utilise social media as much as possible to reach more markets.”
With this highly competitive market, Casey faced many obstacles and heard all the nay-sayers, who spoke up saying they wouldn’t be able to do it and that they were too young. The reality of running your own business is a tough one but it’s a rewarding one, and so I am sure they’re thrilled that they have proved so many people wrong.
Casey was quick to praise family and friends for supporting him which made me think about the Isle of Man and its role in Casey’s new start-up.
“How much do you owe to the Isle of Man for your success and do you miss it?!”
Casey – “The Isle of Man was the perfect place to grow up and perhaps it has taught me more than I would know about running a business. It’s home to so many entrepreneurs, so maybe I have learnt something from that and how important that friendly environment is for my own business.
I’ve been absent from the Isle of Man for 2 and a half years now, I miss all my friends and family and of course TT, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am now!”
Casey’s enthusiasm for his business, Scubadoo, and his passion for the work that he is doing is refreshing.
Casey is definitely a homegrown talent from the Isle of Man because he embodies the entrepreneurial spirit that our island thrives off. He’s taken risks to get where he is and his story should be shared, for it not to show how great he is doing, but for the next generation of young manxies who may not know what their own calling is.
Casey is an example that when you find something you love, just do it!
Scubadoo offer diving courses, snorkelling tours and accommodation. I’ve personally been to Koh Tao so can vouch for this stunning island.
It seems wherever you go in the world, you’ll find a Manxie so if you’re in Koh Tao you know where to check out for some diving, Casey and Scubadoo.