Whatever Floats Your Boat: Entrepreneurs of Pinellas

Three people sit on jet skis in the middle of Tampa Bay.

From Student to Successful Business Owner

For many college students, the desire to be an entrepreneur and create your own business is becoming increasingly popular. From restaurants to shops to nonprofits, individuals can channel their education and experience into a meaningful passion, fulfilling their life goals.

Dante Clarke, 25, co-owner of Bada Bing Water Sports, is a St. Petersburg native and Titan alumni. Growing up to love the water, he worked for years at various hotels and companies renting out water sports equipment while obtaining his Captain’s license. Dante stated that he had three good managers that molded him, pushed him to work harder, and kept him accountable. Now an operations manager, Dante is able to understand how their sternness made him into the businessman he is today.

Getting Started

A small yacht sits in a harbor on a sunny day.
One of the yachts in the Bada Bing Water Sports fleet.

A venture like Dante’s requires capital, resources, time, and expertise. While he was working and attending St. Petersburg College, he put money away in order to start his own company.

What really made the difference in his endeavor was the networking relationship he made with a longtime role model, Doug Byrd, and his wife Sue. The Byrds have owned various businesses over the years, and Dante approached Doug with his ideas for a water sports business. Doug knew that Dante had a great idea and the experience in the industry, so when five slips and three boats by the same owner at the St. Petersburg marina went up for sale, Doug and Dante took a leap of faith and Bada Bing Water Sports became a reality.

Having What it Takes

For Dante, working anywhere from 60 to 100 hours a week is typical. But he loves what he does, so it doesn’t really feel like a job. He gets up at 7:30 am and typically works until sunset, which makes for long summers. Some of the challenges he faces include day-to-day operations, staffing, and creating his own schedule.

What gave him the push to take this risk? Along with his partner wanting to move forward, Dante met with an SPC advisor in 2016 who encouraged him to pursue his passions, and he has never looked back since.

To learn more about Bada Bing Water Sports, be sure to visit their website at www.badabingwatersports.com.

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