The Atlanta Small Business Profile – Josh Sprayberry, Anchors Marina

On the latest episode of Atlanta Small Business Profile, host and small business expert Ted Jenkin sits down with Josh Sprayberry, co-owner of Anchors Marina at Lake Oconee. In this segment, Sprayberry discusses his entrepreneurial background, the inspiration behind opening a Marina, and what boating enthusiasts can expect from the upcoming Lake Country Boat Show.

Ted Jenkin:
Today we are talking about getting dockside at the water. I’m here with Josh Sprayberry, who is a co-owner of Anchors Marina opening up soon here at Lake Oconee. And we’ve had on a lot of different types of businesses, Josh, but I don’t think we’ve done anybody before who actually owns a marina. But I know this wasn’t your first business. That actually you were a partner in a CPA firm and owned a CPA firm. How did you make the move from going from accounting to now actually opening up a marina?

Josh Sprayberry:
So really we just took advantage of an opportunity. Where we’re building our house on Lake Oconee and where my office was at Lake Oconee, I kept riding by the same water side gas station every day. Jerry’s Bait and Tackle is a Lake Oconee staple. And Miss Janice had ran it for over 40 years. And as she was approaching into her 80s, she was looking for a transition, and I just happened to make the right phone call to the right broker and was willing to take the risk to bring it on and to bring probably one of Lake Oconee’s last marinas to the table.

Ted Jenkin:
Well, I know Lake Oconee is growing like wildfire. Originally it was Lake Lanier, but now Lake Oconee’s growing like wildfire. What’s actually going to be at the marina? When people end up going there, what are they going to see at the marina?

Josh Sprayberry:
So we’re going to have about a 33,000 square foot facility. We’ll have room for 280 boats and 30 jet skis. We’re primarily focusing on the larger tower boats. Since our marina’s been built more with today’s technology, we have larger bays and ability to hold more capacity. So we’re really going to cater to the wakeboard boats.

Josh Sprayberry:
Most people on Lake Oconee don’t know, but we have a lot of low, short bridges, which affects a lot of boaters ability to get to certain marinas on the lake. And so we’re fortunate enough to be right off the main channel. We don’t have that headache to worry about. So we want to serve the wakeboard and surfing customer and take care of them and bring a little concierge service to the marketplace as well.

Ted Jenkin:
This is a fairly capital intensive business to start, isn’t it?

Josh Sprayberry:
It has been, yeah. Between buying the land and the building and the forklift, the projects already exceeded five million in total value.

Ted Jenkin:
Now I know, unfortunately, the Atlanta Boat Show is canceled here. Obviously COVID’s affected a lot of things, but you’re going to basically have the Lake Country Boat Show coming up in January. Tell us a little bit more about that.

Josh Sprayberry:
That’s correct. So a lot of the local dealers thought we needed to do something in January. A lot of buyers are used to buying boats that time of year. So independently, they approached us about possibly having a show and we decided better to do it together and brought everybody in. A lot of the community’s been very involved and very excited. So we’re planning on having about 40 boats on display January 23-24. We’ll also have 30 local businesses coming out to exhibit that our trade and bring the community together that much closer. We’ll have a band that evening, and we’ll have some good food and drinks throughout the day as well. So I look forward to seeing everybody January 23-24.

Ted Jenkin:
It’s been such a barbell economy, Josh. Are boat sales on the rise right now in general? Have they been selling out like crazy because people just want to get out of the house and get on the water.

Josh Sprayberry:
So if you went to a boat dealer today and tried to buy a boat today, you might take delivery in March or April.

Ted Jenkin:
Wow.

Josh Sprayberry:
So the lead times are definitely at all-time highs. So a few months ago, everybody was completely out of inventory. We’re starting to see some of the 2021 models come in. But for the most part, it’s a long lead time if you want a boat on the water.

Ted Jenkin:
Obviously this project started pre-COVID and then we hit COVID in that February/March timeframe. What challenges or struggles did you have to deal with with the coronavirus and trying to get this all built up now so you can get ready to launch here in December?

Josh Sprayberry:
So honestly when coronavirus hit, there was the initial fear, but what we saw in the Lake Country was in March, everybody fled the cities. And so Lake Oconee’s been just as busy as ever. We’ve had 200 more home sales year over year through Q3. Prices are up over 20%. I mean, we’ve seen home sell for $3 million to $8 million down at the lake and really just kind of a big boom. We’re already 40% full and hadn’t even opened the doors.

Ted Jenkin:
We’ve got a lot of beautiful lakes here in Georgia. And I’m wondering in general, you could have chosen any lake to build this. I know a Lake Oconee’s always been famous for Reynolds Plantation. Why’d you choose Lake Oconee to do this marina?

Josh Sprayberry:
Well, I think part of it, like I said, we just saw an opportunity and took advantage. So I think some of it was out of more convenience than anything. But why we came to the Lake Country in general, you’ve got Publix, you’ve got great grocery store, you’ve got commercial retail. You’ve got St Mary’s hospital, the charter school, Gatewood Private School. You have a really good community at the lake. And when you look at a lot of lakes in Georgia and the Southeast, they’re kind of more of a destination than an actual community. And that’s just simply not the case for us in the Lake Country.

Ted Jenkin:
And now that you built a marina, will there be other projects? Are you planning… I understand build a luxury hotel. Will you build other retail? What other things around the land that you developing?

Josh Sprayberry:
So at the marina on 44 for Anchors, that’s only going to be the dry stack facility and a ship store where you’ll all your boating supplies, snacks, food, and beverages for the day. We are also in discussion with a hotel development group to bring a boutique hotel to Lake Oconee and kind of expand that presence. So that project’s about five minutes down the road from the main marina that we’re starting out with this week.

Ted Jenkin:
Now, I know I mentioned in the introduction of the profile today that you are the co-owner of the business and the other co owner being your wife. As you talk to other entrepreneurs that maybe watching the TV show today, is it a good idea to start a business with your wife, and how have you been able to manage that and just separate it when you get home?

Josh Sprayberry:
The last part is probably the biggest struggle, the work-life balance and having work time and personal time is probably the biggest struggle. But my wife Lauren is extremely smart. She’s an attorney by trade. So it never hurts to have good in-house counsel with you when you’re going through projects like the marina, like the hotel where obviously zoning and litigation and related is always a big exposure.

Ted Jenkin:
Like any partnership, Josh, I mean, did you all set up a division of responsibilities? Sometimes I say in the program that the only ships that sank our partnerships and it’s because sometimes people don’t set up those division of responsibilities. But have you been able to stay in your own lanes while you build out the marina?

Josh Sprayberry:
For the most part, we have. We definitely have kind of clear roles that we both want to see. Lauren’s very much more on the design phase and the contract phase. I tend to be more on the pro form of the projections and the day to day construction. And so we kind of definitely split roles. And obviously it’s a topic of conversation at our house every day.

Ted Jenkin:
Now you did taxes for a lot of years and handled a lot of small business owners in and around Atlanta. What do you see the biggest mistakes or a couple of the big mistakes that small business owners make when it comes to their taxes?

Josh Sprayberry:
So the two biggest things that I see for small business owners is really twofold. The first one being always pay up for a good controller. I felt like a lot of people slide by with an office manager that’s handling way more than they should be. So I’d always say pay up for a good controller and have someone really sharp looking after your money in-house. And the second would just be to reinvest in yourself. Your marketing dollars, your reputation, your presence, those are always big things that can help you go a long way. So those are always two things I always try to tell every entrepreneur to really pursue those two very hard.

Ted Jenkin:
So now that you’re basically a built up the marina, you’re going to have a lot of boats. It sounds like almost 300 boats that’ll be there and jet skis and everything like that. Do you have a favorite boat at this point now that you’re getting to see so many different boats on Lake Oconee?

Josh Sprayberry:
So we’ve had a Cobalt for a number of years and I love the boat we have. So that’s definitely one of my top choice, but as my wife will tell you, some of these whiteboard boats she’s getting suckered into. She likes those shiny gel coats. So there’s a pretty one on display at Watersport Central right now that she likes that red and sparkling black.

Ted Jenkin:
But as they say, you really got to buy things when they’re low. You don’t want to buy them when they’re high. So I guess it’s that four month delivery time. You got to wait right now for pricing to come back down.

Josh Sprayberry:
I don’t see that happening in the boating industry. Prices for boats these days… I mean, a basic pontoon can be $70- $80,000. And it’s not uncommon for the bigger tower boats to crack $200,000 plus. So it’s definitely a big commitment, but as hard as we all work these days, sometimes you got to commit to a little bit of fun for yourself as well.

Ted Jenkin:
Absolutely. Well, I wanted to say thank you. I know that you’re out developing the project and getting things done today to get the marina up and going. I appreciate your time for coming on the program today.

Ted Jenkin:
And folks, you got to check this out. Anchors Marina going live here soon. And of course, the boat show that will come up right here on January 23rd-January 24th. No Atlanta Boat Show this year, so you’ve got to check it out. And Josh, thanks so much for joining us today.

Josh Sprayberry:
Thanks for having us, Ted. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving,

Ted Jenkin:
All right, everybody get out on the water. Check it out. Get on a wakeboard, get on a jet ski and have some fun. I’m Ted Jenkin, small business expert right here on this week’s Atlanta Small Business Profile.


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