The Day We Met and Decided to Start a Hot Tub Company
I met my future husband, Blair Osborn, on June 2nd, 1975 at 2’o clock in the afternoon at a meeting of the World Future Society in Washington, DC. One of the guest speakers, Hazel Henderson, looked at me, looked at him, and after introducing us said, “You two talk. I have to go off and be on TV. Tah Tah!”
We walked and talked until midnight, when we realized that we were tired of our respective bureaucracies, wanted to do something together, and probably would never be apart. That was the beginning of our 36-year partnership.
My future husband, Blair, was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington. I worked for the U.S. Department of Labor doing job training for the disadvantaged. I had a $60 million dollar budget and 88,000 people on the payroll. In the spirit of the 70’s we decided to answer the question: “Can men & women work together?” by starting a business. So out of a desire to escape the bureaucracy and a half-baked idea that being in business couldn’t be hard, we began. I said, “Let’s start a business, how hard can that be?”
“How hard could it be?” Hard. Our start up capital was $30K, my entire pension cash out, plus credit cards. Later the sale of a house netted another $50K. My father was appalled and my friends thought I was crazy giving up a high level government job with excellent benefits.
Olympic Hot Tub Company was founded as a retail wood hot tub business. Why hot tubs you’re thinking?? They seemed to be the “coming thing”. The entry cost was low because the “industry” was so new. We were the first- the Seattle Times credits Olympic with introducing hot tubbing to Seattle. Plus I loved soaking in a hot tub and thought everyone should have one.
Business was very slow at the start. The biggest obstacle? Nobody knew what they were! Customers would stop in and ask: “What’s that big cedar barrel in the window?
My own banker asked if I liked beans. “Why?” I asked. “You’ll be eating a lot of them with this business,” she replied. I had to sell my wonderful collection of Oriental rugs and Victorian antiques just to keep afloat.
You’ve guessed by now that today is the 36th Anniversary of the day I met Blair, my partner in life and in Olympic Hot Tub Company. Through ups and downs we’ve stayed together and built a business we love with employees who are fantastic at what they do and are extremely loyal.
We have almost 18,000 Hot Spring customers in Puget Sound with over 100,000 seats in our hot tubs! That’s more seats than Qwest Field!! And, we’re fortunate to have a referral rate of 45%-that is happy customers refer their friends to us. For a business that started asking the question: “Can men and women work together?” we answer “YES!” and are very, very grateful for our success. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has helped us on our journey-our employees, vendors and, of course, our customers.
And, we’re still gung ho about it because not everyone has a hot tub…yet. We’re dedicated to making it easy to take it easy.
SANUM PER AQUA. Latin for Health through Water.
Author: Don Riling
Don Riling is the President of Olympic Hot Tub and has been an active member of the hot tub industry for over 20 years. As the company’s owner since 2016, he has continued Olympic’s legacy of promoting health & wellness through hot water & sauna therapy.