Sea Sub Systems of Pinellas County
After moving from Detroit to St. Petersburg in the late 70s, high-school sweethearts Anne and Rob LaMaire began chasing their dream of owning their own business with just a bucket and a scraper.
Today Sea Sub Systems is a certified team of specialists dedicated to underwater repairs. Their local and international services include in-water surveys, underwater welding, and underwater salvage utilizing cutting edge, high-tech equipment.
Anne said that the path to their success was long and hard fought, but an unwavering one.
“We did not make anything the first couple of years,” Anne said. “Anyone in the service industry knows there is a constant reinvestment. This is a type of business that you constantly have to keep updating your equipment in order to stay ahead of the curve.”
One of the ways Anne said that she has stayed ahead of the curve, is by seeking out guidance and help from the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida.
In January 2002, Anne turned to the FSBDC at USF in search of information on local small business certification programs that could help her company become eligible for county and city government contracts.
The FSBDC at USF not only connected her to local contract opportunities, but also exposed her to an array of certification programs to help expand her company’s footprint, connected her to training grants that increased competitiveness and introduced her to programs that helped build the Sea Sub Systems brand to market to government agencies for contracts and awards.
During her one-on-one consultations with Charlene Bostic, a consultant at the FSBDC at USF who specializes in government contracting, Anne earned her Veteran-Woman Owned Small Business Enterprise certification and became SBA 8(a) certified, qualifying Sea Sub Systems as a small business firm and eligible for federal contracts.
“Charlene helped me walk through the certification process with ease,” Anne said. “She taught me how to keep my finger on the bids, how to obtain these certifications and what I needed to do to keep them.”
Since certification, Sea Sub Systems has been successful in receiving contracts from a wide range of government agencies, some of which include the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, Military Sealift Command, and the U.S. Navy.
“All of those programs are a living, growing creature, like our business,” Anne said. “You can’t just go the SBDC once. You can’t just take the class and understand it. You have to keep calling the consultants to find out what is new and what is coming up, so I touch base often.”
Bostic said what she feels sets Sea Sub Systems apart from their competitors is that they are a niche business, they have built an efficient team and they maintain their relationship with the Florida SBDC at USF region.
“My colleagues and I educate businesses, but the business owners have to listen in order to succeed,” Bostic said.
Bostic said that Anne has listened and continues to listen and seek out advice.
“She continues to maintain the relationship and continues to keep up with the greatest and the latest in government procurement,” Bostic added.
Though Bostic stresses the importance of becoming certified, she also stresses that it takes more than relying on the certifications to become successful.
In addition to taking classes and learning how to locate government opportunities, Bostic said that Anne’s success could also be attributed to her passion and drive to help other small businesses to be successful.
“Anne has spoken at government conferences and has sat on government panels,” Bostic said. “That not only helps the company in marketing, but also allows the company to learn more about how to do business with the government.”
Though Sea Sub Systems has come along way from their humble beginnings of a bucket and a scraper, Anne encourages other small businesses to follow in her footsteps and to build their business a little at a time.
“Go to the first meeting at SBDC and maybe go to a class or two to see if their help applies to you,” Anne said. “But most importantly, be willing to do the work and follow the advice.”
Anne said that the 34 years that Sea Sub Systems has been in business went by in a snap.
“There was no big ‘wow we’re successful’ moment,” she said. “There will be disappointment, but you have to be able to get over that disappointment. Work hard every single day and maintain a relationship with your resources.”