An island boy at heart, Glenroy Smith grew up exploring the shores of his native island of Exuma. It was his love for the ocean led him to seek employment at a water tour company – that is – until COVID-19 hit Bahamian shores. And the company that he worked for, shuttered during the lockdown.
Smith continued his daily habit of walking on the beach, which inspired him to give a second life to corals, sponges, and seashells that washed ashore with underwater souvenirs and offer them through his Exuma Underwater Store.
He recognized that the sea treasures still had value and did not have to go to waste.
“I knew that I could make good use of them instead of leaving them on the shoreline. That’s when I got the idea to make souvenirs. First, I got scrap plywood and cut it into different sizes, then I used a hot glue gun to stick the corals, stones, and shell pieces on before covering the base with sand. During my final step, I placed the souvenirs in a clear case and tied a ribbon with the colors of the Bahamian flag around it.”
He also launched a line of wet shirts, shoes, and pants, that feature vibrant photos of Exuma’s coral reefs, with the goal of highlighting the treasures of his island home.
“My wet suit clothing line was well supported. The reception from locals was especially mind-boggling because I was mainly marketing my clothes to tourists. I didn’t expect Bahamians to jump on board as they did, but they gave me their full support.”
After researching ways that he could get fund his business, Smith learned about Access Accelerator and was encouraged to sign-up by a friend.
“I thought it would give me a good jump start, so I decided to try. The content of the courses was easy to understand, and the information I learned was pretty straightforward. I already had experience with business management, but Access Accelerator gave me a good refresher of how to run a business effectively and efficiently.”
At the end of the program, Smith received a $50,595 grant to develop his enterprise.
“Honestly, without the Access Accelerator, the Exuma Underwater Store would not exist.”
He is determined to put Exuma Underwater Store on the global map, and his first step is revamping his packaging system.
“I’m working on changing my case concept to one where my underwater souvenirs are placed in silicone molds that I can pour acrylic resin in to give them a hard marble finish. While the general reception has been good, some tourists still hold off from purchasing my products because customs officers can red flag coral and shells at the airport when placed in cases. If I seal and place my souvenirs in resin, that won’t be an issue.”
He said he has over 1,000 pieces of inventory that are waiting to be repackaged and is in the process of planning his next project – a 3D underwater store that people can walk into and get an immersive underwater experience.
“I’m also planning to get a brick-and-mortar store built in George Town [Exuma] near tourist hotspots, and [I] want to branch into underwater snorkeling tours and launch an underwater-themed seafood restaurant. The Exuma Underwater Store is the beginning of a big dream.”