Money makers: A trip to the Titanic

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Money makers: A trip to the Titanic

Postby Andrew Clarkson » Sat Sep 16, 2017 7:23 am

Small, robust, deep-diving submarines are the spaceships of the deep, and they’re in short supply, says Josh Dean in Bloomberg Businessweek. Only four active vessels are capable of diving below 3,000 metres and all are owned by governments: France, Japan, China and the US. But thanks to Stockton Rush, that’s about to change. As a boy, Rush, 55, dreamed about exploring space. Then, while flicking through images of “fish out of nightmares”, “I realised that all the cool stuff I thought was out there is actually underwater”.

Rush earned his money “the old-fashioned way”, he says. “I was born into it [his grandfather was an oil and gas magnate] and then grew it.” While in his teens, Rush worked in aviation, then in 2003, bought his first sub. Six years later, he and Guillermo Söhnlein founded OceanGate with the aim of building a submersible that could dive below 4,000 metres. That sub, Cyclops 2, costing “tens of millions” of dollars, should be ready for sea testing by year-end, leaving just enough time to complete safety certification for the event Rush is eager to promote: a trip to the wreck of the Titanic next year. Tickets have all sold-out, at $105,129 each – or, in inflation-adjusted terms, the price of a first-class ticket in the Vanderbilt suite on the Titanic’s only voyage.

“We had a dog named Dosi, who was a 45-pound accidental Goldendoodle,” Phil Blizzard tells Forbes’ Amy Feldman. “We get plenty of storms [in North Carolina]… She would shake, and her tail would go between her legs, and sometimes she would hide.” A friend suggested putting a tight wrap around the dog’s torso. So one rainy night, Blizzard and his wife made one from a T-shirt and packing tape. The shaking stopped. “We were amazed,” says Blizzard.

When the financial crisis struck, Blizzard, now 50, left his job in real estate to see if the dog-wrap idea had wings. But his entrepreneur friends “literally fell on the floor and laughed at me”, he says. “They thought I was pranking them.” Undeterred, Blizzard and his wife put together a simple prototype using a sewing machine, and came up with the ThunderShirt. Since then, they have sold millions of the shirts, which cost from $39.95, come in a variety of styles and are also available for cats. Forbes puts the annual revenues at more than $15m. ThunderShirts have even earned mentions on popular American TV, while there’s a whole Dilbert cartoon strip based around the ThunderShirt, says Blizzard. “We’ve become part of the public vernacular.”

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