Life-changing ideas inspired by a holiday usually fade with the suntan. Not for Gerrard Dennis, though. Having discovered scuba diving on holiday in the Cayman Islands, he chucked in his City job to become a diving instructor. By March 1995, he had set up Simply Scuba, a dive centre in Chestfield, Kent.
The centre stocked some gear to sell to students but focused on lessons.
So when Dennis launched www.simplyscuba.com the following year, he didn't have high hopes for online sales. 'I just expected it to provide a top-up.' However, the site now accounts for 70% of sales, with an estimated 15,000 visitors a day; annual turnover has doubled each year to more than pounds 1 million.
The colourful, award-winning site lets you buy scuba gear, book a course and check the weather. But it reaches new customers by offering holiday bookings via direct links to tour operators. Dennis plans to add an online game featuring the site's resident cartoon shark - 'It's something fun that encourages people to come back.'
Dennis now employs five staff and is trawling for two more. Newly acquired 4,000 sq ft offices have accommodated a growing demand in stock. Significant overseas sales from the site have also bolstered business in the winter months. 'The site has raised our profile. People drive from all over the country to try stuff on,' he says. Simply Scuba is coming up so fast, it could get the bends.