Editor’s note: This month’s Business Beacon is a spotlight on Dan Castles, a unique gift opportunity from an artist whose medium involves only sand and water. Owner Dan Anderson talks to us about his passion for the beach and what still gives him goosebumps, even when the temperature is soaring.
Do you have an interesting topic you think we should cover? Leave a comment below!
1. How did you get the idea or concept for your business?
DA: I was taught how to properly assemble sandcastles by another company, Beach Sand Sculptures. I worked with them for just under two years. After, it became a passion that grew into its own business! Me playing on the beach constantly led to people reaching out for private bookings, resulting in creating my own company. I did help co-found a sandcastle company before starting my own! Helping create Sandcastle Rockstars was a huge part of the confidence of being able to do it on my own. I’m beyond thankful I have the ability to turn passion and love into a company! I look forward to days off to be able to play in the sand for myself! Truly love what I do.
2. Let’s discuss numbers: What year did you open? How many locations do you have? How many people do you employ?
DA: Beginning of 2020 was the official launch of my own company! That time was just me and it was born from my continued passion! No specific location. I will traverse to and offer my services at any beach between Navarre Beach and Pier Park in Panama City. Sandcastle Rockstars was founded in 2018. The passion was definitely very strong with that company as well. I’m beyond thankful to say that they are still in business and have multiple employees. They are still a company I work directly with almost weekly and highly recommend!
3. What do you sell or what service do you provide? What’s your best seller?
DA: All things that provide Sandcastle joy and happiness! Marriage proposals are always my favorite! I’ve made multiple dozens, and still, get goosebumps every single time! Although I will make a sculpture for any occasion: Anniversaries, birthdays, gender reveals, corporate logos, events, just because you want to watch someone build a castle haha, and also tons of options offered for classes. I have been teaching classes since the very beginning, and I take a deep passion for my ability to customize to any group, although I specialize in small groups, typically requesting 7-8 participants or less. If you have a larger group, that’s when I recommend Sandcastle Rockstars! They typically send out two people for larger classes, where my company is just myself!!
4. What’s unique about what you do or offer?
DA: I create custom works of art using just sand and water! I can tailor a sand sculpture to any occasion! I provide a unique class experience that few have ever seen! I provide in-depth scientific knowledge on how exactly sandcastles work, while adding in a lot of humor and fun.
5. How would you describe your business to a potential customer?
DA: All of my sculptures are the perfect gift for that special beach lover! If you have somebody in your life that absolutely loves everything about the beach, this is something that would be perfect for them!! It doesn’t matter what service you choose, they will be thrilled to receive any! I offer a unique beach experience in my sandcastle classes that will leave all family members walking away with a smile and a fantastic picture.
6. What do you love most about your line of work?
DA: EVERYTHING!!!! Except for taxes haha!
7. What sorts of trends are you seeing in your industry?
DA: My industry is very small. Our trends can change with any mainstream trend. My joy and passion are finding out exactly what brings you joy, then turning that into a unique piece of sand art for any sort of occasion.
8. Tell me in just a sentence or two what you feel sets you apart from your competitors.
DA: Passion! Joy! Happiness! I literally have a sandcastle with a heartbeat tattooed right over my heart.
9. Who or what inspires you? This could be a family member or celebrity, a particular quote or even a book/movie/podcast. The sky’s the limit!
DA: God is my inspiration! That’s why there’s a cross at the top of almost all of my castles!! I want to continue to be a good person! I want to be a source of love, positivity and pure JOY!! I want to make everyone happy and smile in some way, shape or form. I truly, deeply, and passionately want to leave the legacy as “the Bob Ross or Mr. Rogers of sandcastles!” I want to inspire and motivate.
10. What’s the best thing about being a part of the Emerald Coast, personally and/or professionally?
DA: Our community!! Our deeply rooted community is amazing!! I truly love all the amazing locals that support and come see almost everything I make. Our beautiful beaches and amazing sand are just icing on the cake haha! I love offering happiness in tiny piles of sand! I love having this gift that I can give to so many! I love making random pieces of art and letting them sit on the beach for days. Even destroying sandcastles brings happiness to that family.
11. Are you/your business involved in the community in any way? Volunteering or giving back? If so, how?
DA: All the time!! I take deep pride in working with Okaloosa County with all sorts of different beach community cleanups and other events. I also work with tons of foundations and constantly give away my services for charitable donations, I work directly with Make-A-Wish Foundation, and although that’s not volunteering, I take a strong pride and passion in every one of those experiences. I try to be involved with the community as much as I possibly can, including offering free workshops throughout the year that anyone can attend. I try to do my best at promoting them across all social media platforms.
12. What does a typical day in your business look like? (Pretend it’s Monday (or Friday!) and take me through the highlights of your day.)
DA: Every morning starts with a cup of delicious coffee haha! From there, it’s picking the appropriate equipment for the task at hand, Whether that be a class or a special sculpture. Getting goosebumps of pure excitement heading to whatever booking, even after 7+ years of doing this — yes, I still get goosebumps of joy!! Spending no certain amount of time engaging with a family and showing them the proper sandcastle science, or working sand into a custom pile for any occasion, I’m in my happy place. The beach is my home, my peace, my passion, and my office. I can literally spend from sunrise to sunset on the beach, without leaving one specific spot, and have done so more times than I can count on two hands and two feet. That is and will always be the highlight of my day!!
13. What’s your best “insider tip?” (This could be a community tip for vacationers or homeowners or even a tip for customers related to your business.)
DA: Pack your patience — sandcastles take a lot of patience! Everything about our area sometimes takes a lot of patience. Our area can be busy, but as long as you’re patient, it’s worth the wait. Good things come to those who wait. Our area is totally worth all the waiting you could ever experience!! We have a magical beauty that is our beaches!!
Insider tip for Dan Castles 2023: I’ll be working directly with the Little Adventures Program in Okaloosa County. I will be offering tons of sandcastle services through them, and their partnered beach locations. Be sure to tell your guests, families and anyone else about the amazing experiences they have to offer.
14. How do you recharge or relax when the day is done?
DA: Watch the sunset on the beach — nothing is more satisfying or gratifying! I also try to catch almost every sunrise — best experienced with no phone, a cup of coffee and a small bucket for picking up any debris. You can almost say, the beginning part of my day is the best way for me to relax.
15. Just the deets, please! Where are you located? Business hours? Social media profiles and/or website links we need to know about? (Please feel free to add social media handles or direct links!)
DA: My operation range is from Navarre East to Pier Park in Panama City, meaning I will happily go to Navarre, Okaloosa Island, Destin, Miramar Beach, 30A, and anywhere west of Pier Park in PCB. As long as the sun is up, I’m happy being on the beach! You don’t have business hours when you love what you do! Although, I do need light to see what I’m doing haha!!
DA: Sandcastles take a lot of hard work — more than most people ever imagine. It’s common for me to use well over 100 gallons of water, hauled by buckets directly from the Gulf of Mexico, for one sculpture. Typically, any castle over five feet tall requires 160 gallons of water; over fix feet tall, 240 gallons; over seven feet tall, 400+ gallons, and the water-to-height ratio goes up even faster from there. Most projects take a minimum of two hours to complete. A full-throttle, intense two hours of hauling sand and water. Typically, all marriage proposals take three hours and require 160-230 gallons of water. Water is the glue that binds the sand together. Oversaturation (soupy) equals compaction and compaction is key in a strong sandcastle. Without water, this is not possible. My favorite saying is, there’s a reason why I’m so skinny, and it’s not because I don’t eat — haha!