(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
When the soon-to-be newlyweds Amanda Shaftel and Aaron Weiss were forced to postpone their wedding
this past spring, what did they do? They started a pool business. Having a wedding during a global pandemic was not in the cards but their new venture could not have been better timed.
The business is called Cowboy Pools and the couple didn’t really plan on it being a business at all. With extra time on their hands, they decided to trick out their backyard near Austin, Texas, to look like a real oasis, all built around a stock tank that’s normally used for watering cattle (this is Texas, remember). After they posted photos on social media, inquiries began coming in and so the couple started selling maintenance kits and implementation services to help others do the same. The wedding may be temporarily on ice, but thanks to Covid, the couple’s new pool business is hot.
“Making your backyard an oasis is definitely something we’re passionate about. That’s how to make this time bearable,” Shaftel told GoErie.com. “If you can just enjoy your home and have some nature and an oasis to escape to, that’s how you get through this.”
Restaurants and retailers are suffering because of the pandemic. But pool sales have been booming and it’s easy to figure out the reasons why. Municipal pools are shut. Camps aren’t allowed to open. People aren’t traveling to resorts. Parents are going crazy. Interest rates are low and many homeowners are refinancing their mortgages. If you don’t live near an ocean, it’s tough to find some water, and even if there’s water near you, the crowds are not only off-putting but potentially dangerous. As a result, people want pools and spas in their homes.
In northern California, one small pool company says it has installed more than 250 pools or spas in homes since the pandemic began and has had to hire 30 more employees to keep up with demand. “Business is booming,” Mark Wampler, the owner of Trademark Pool and Spa in San Joaquin county, told the local news station KCRA. “We’ve been booked out for two and a half months for three months now.” Wampler says he has more than 400 prospective customers still waiting for a quote from his company.
Some entrepreneurs are using the pool boom to innovate. Swimply, for example, is an app that – like Airbnb – allows people to rent out their pools by the hour to others looking for a refreshing diversion. Since launching in 2018, the company has seen 200,000 downloads and now lists 6,000 pools, according to a report in Dispatch. The company’s owner says that, thanks to Covid, his app has experienced 3,300% growth since the pandemic began.
“I really didn’t realize how many people want to use a pool right now because of the pandemic,” Gina Burnside, who rents out her pool on Swimply for $45 an hour, told Dispatch. “Why not have an extra side hustle while I’m working, while giving people the joy of swimming in a pool?” Burnside has netted $1,000 since 30 July.
The pool industry supports thousands of small businesses that not only do construction and maintenance but also produce cleaning, safety, heating, chemical and entertainment products around it. It’s so far been a good year for these companies. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, the main trade group for the industry in the US, has forecasted revenues would rise 10% or more this year, according to a Reuters report.
“I’ve been in this industry for 35 years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Thomas Epple, chief executive of Only Alpha Pool Products in Fort Wayne, Indiana, said.