My name is Steve Anonby. In 1997 I was serving on pastoral staff at a multi-denominational church on the UBC campus. During that time, I began my used hot tub venture on the side as a money-making hobby (to support my ministry habit).
Being raised as a missionary’s kid and having traveled all over the world, it has always bothered me how people in North America throw things away instead of repairing them, so I found it fun and satisfying to salvage and recycle unwanted hot tubs in my spare time.
As my knowledge grew, and as my contacts increased and my reputation improved, my hobby gradually developed into a respectable little business. Eventually I ended up working full time for my company and serving part time as a prison chaplain, and now it’s my full time job.
But let’s start at the beginning. I remember shopping for my first hot tub before I got into the business. I wanted to shop intelligently and make a wise choice, but the more research I did, the
more confused I became because every place I went seemed to have a different spin on what makes a hot tub “good”. I became
frustrated and put the whole hot tub thing on hold.
Some time later I met someone who was in the business of repairing hot tubs. He spoke candidly about his experience with the different brand names. He gave me the kind of “inside information” that’s not readily available to the general public, and gave me excellent advice about what to look for and what to avoid.
He explained that since most consumers don’t know much about hot tubs, they usually make their choice based soley on advertising, cosmetics, price, and showroom sales pitch, and explained how each of those things can be very misleading.
He helped me understand why certain hot tubs were overrated while others were “hidden gems”. He told me that the most important things about a hot tub aren’t usually even mentioned on the showroom floor.
I thought, “wow, this is gold for hot tub shoppers!” Based on what I learned from this person who worked with used spas every day, I was able to make an informed decision when it came to buying myself a hot tub.
Armed with reliable information and practical knowledge, I was then able to help a friend of mine make an excellent choice when he was in the market for a used tub.
While we were shopping around, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to start a used hot tub business. I saw the need for a place where people could buy used hot tubs with confidence.
It seemed that very few people were doing it anywhere in North America, and with good reason – used hot tubs are a pain in the… neck to deal with. They are hard to find, dreadful to handle and tend to break down and/or spring leaks if they are moved.
But I thought that “used hot tubs” would be an interesting niche market, so I began buying, fixing up and reselling hot tubs as a hobby. The venture was really shaky at first. Sometimes I came out ahead, and other times I lost money. The first couple years it cost me more than it made me. My friends and family called me a “sucker for punishment”, but as I kept doing it, I began to gain experience, refine my skills and acquire equipment that made the job faster, easier and eventually, profitable.
As business increased, I had to move twice to larger facilities. I could no longer handle the volume so I had to hire staff (that’s a fancy way of saying I offered to pay my friends and family for help).
I decided to take formal training on hot tub repair and was fortunate to be able to find a couple hot tub repair specialists that I liked and trusted who were willing to work for me. Since we had all the tools, parts, equipment & expertise necessary, it only made sense to start a repair shop. So we did.
In the beginning, we used to pick up cheap “fixer-uppers” from the classified ads (remember the Buy & Sell newspaper?), and refurbish them when things got slow at the repair shop. But through trial and error, we slowly came to the conclusion that if a hot tub needed major work, it was probably best to retire them with dignity rather than trying to unnaturally extend their life.
As the business evolved, we decided that rather than reviving the dead and dying, we would focus on finding the alive and well. Today we almost exclusively pick up hot tubs that are already in excellent running order. We mostly seek to acquire top quality products that have been well maintained, have a good track record and have good parts availability
Running a repair shop and buying and selling used hot tubs helped us understand what sorts of things are important when choosing a new hot tub, so we knew which retail stores to recommend and which ones to warn against.
After years of referring people to other places, we finally got smart and looked into selling new hot tubs ourselves. We didn’t sell very many, but each occasional spa we sold was a nice bonus.
After a while we decided to significantly drop our new hot tub prices, making a new hot tub a realistic option for people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to afford a quality spa. As a result, we now sell more new hot tubs than we do used ones.
We outgrew our acreage, then outgrew our warehouse so we decided to lease a big place on Fraser Highway to accommodate the growth. We had six staff and over one acre to work with. Then we opened another place in Langley City.
But then it all got to be too much for us – I discovered I’m no good at managing a big company, and it wasn’t worth the stress and administration and staffing issues. So we intentionally pared things back to something more simple.
Hot Tub suppliers have suggested that if we had a nicer showroom and hired professional sales staff it would inspire more confidence and generate more sales. They’re probably right, but we feel there is a market for a more “real” and personal approach to the hot tub business. Besides, it allows us to keep our costs and prices down, and it’s more fun this way.
Unlike most business owners I know, my wife and I aren’t interested in getting rich. We don’t envy the materialistic Joneses. In fact, to quote Mr. T, “I pitty the foos” (no offense, Joneses). I admit, we hated being poor (been there, done that), but as long as the bills are paid and we have some extra money to play with, we’re perfectly content. This venture is more about freedom and flexibility than money and possessions, so we prefer to keep things small, simple and manageable.
We like to think of ourselves as catering to the more discerning shopper – we tend to attract the kind of people who do a lot of research before buying. In fact, if you’re still reading this, it probably means you’re more literate than the average Joe (flattery, flattery)!
Here’s something better than flattery: As an experiment, just for fun, to see how many people bother to read this long-winded self-indulgent page in its entirety, I’ll give you a $100 coupon toward any upgrades, accessories, supplies or products we offer (valid only if you purchase a hot tub from us). To claim this coupon, please print this paragraph and present it to me at the time before we fill out the purchase agreement.
We’re excited about how things continue to evolve. As a small business owner, I take pride in my work and find satisfaction in offering what I believe is a valuable service.
As we continue to develop and improve, we are open to suggestions and advice, and invite any comments or insights you may have for us.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story.