Charting New Waters: Diventures Expanding to Southeast, Mid-South U.S.

Omaha-based Diventures has been making some significant waves via mergers and acquisitions. The company, launched in 2009, has been growing by leaps and acquisitional bounds, purchasing competitors from the upper Midwest to the southeastern seaboard to the mid-South.

In 2022 alone, the firm bought Sub-Aquatic Sports and Services of Battle Creek, Michigan; Scuba Professionals of Arizona/Arizona Dive Shop in Phoenix; The Dive Shop, headquartered in Memphis; and Virginia-based Nautilus Aquatics. These came on the heels of 2021’s additions, New Horizons Diving Center in Lexington, Kentucky; Kansas City-based TD Scuba; Atlanta-based SeaVentures; AQUATREC in Lincoln, Nebraska, and The Playground Dive Shop in Blue Springs, Missouri. All told, Diventures now operates 17 locations in 11 states and employs 200.

Dean Hollis, company founder, said while the new additions have come fast and furiously, the company isn’t finished with its buying spree just yet. He said to look for multiple additions in 2023, possibly as soon as the first quarter.

Retail space offering swim and scuba gear. (photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
Retail space offering swim and scuba gear. (photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Growth Mentality

“We’ve identified 35 markets that will allow us to get to just under 70% of the U.S. population,” he said. “We are very strategic in how we grow and where we grow and we want to make sure that the opportunity is there to provide great customer service wherever the demand is.

“We have a process and a methodology: It’s getting into the market and then saturate the market. To use Atlanta as an example, getting to Atlanta was a first priority and then we had an opportunity to get another location. We’ll have multiple locations in Atlanta because of how spread out it is.”

Hollis said the selection of potential merger partners has rarely been better as many long-time, independent operators were looking to get out of the market after the pandemic.

“COVID was really a financial hardship for everybody,” he said. “You had people who have been in the business for 30, 40 years and they were like, ‘I’m tired. I’ve been through recessions, I’ve been through economic downturns, and I just don’t have it in me to rebuild my business anymore.’ In a lot of cases, they would come to us and say, ‘We want to be a part of this.’ That really exploded our growth.”

The Diventures Omaha location at 4303 S. 121st Plz.(photography by Debra S. Kaplan)
The Diventures Omaha location at 4303 S. 121st Plz.(photography by Debra S. Kaplan)

Location, Location, Location

Acquiring assets is just the start of Diventures’ entry into a new market. Equally important is the buildout of the company’s signature centers, sometimes by remodeling acquired stores but often built from the ground up, to maximize location, visibility and access. 

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“Divers will drive two hours; we have divers from Des Moines and Kansas City drive to our Omaha facility,” Hollis said. “But Mom’s not going to drive more than 20 minutes to get the kids to swim lessons. So, location is really important to us. We’re following grocery store openings, we’ll follow new schools, we’ll follow new subdivisions because that’s where the young kids are and that’s where the young kids are going to be for many years to come. 

“Once we find that geography, we look for somewhere on a main thoroughfare, so we get the drive-by. We want to make sure we have ride in, ride out access and that we design the center so the pool is facing the main thoroughfare. I hear almost every day people say, ‘I drove by that building and was wondering what was in there. It’s just a cool-looking building.’ That’s the location answer.”

The construction model generally includes an 8,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art swim and scuba center featuring an indoor heated pool, retail space, classrooms and a diamond-level scuba service center. Company stores also boast a concierge travel center, providing extensive U.S.-based and international excursions. Hollis noted the travel service has seen particularly brisk growth of late.

“We’ll do 150 trips in 2023,” he said. “If you call me and say, ‘I want to take my family to spring break and I want to go somewhere warm,’ we take care of all that. We also have group trips anywhere around the world, and we also do a lot of local diving.”


Hollis said the company views its growth strategy as mission-driven every bit as much as a business move. 

“Teaching people to swim is a very important part of our business economically and emotionally,” he said. “Twenty-two people are going down today and tomorrow and the next day, and 11 of those people are going to die and half of those deaths are going to be kids. That’s a pretty compelling reason to say we’ve got to grow, and we’ve got to get to where the families are so we can teach kids how to be safe around the water.

“Water safety really drives our expansion. Our passion is to help as many people as possible be safer and have fun around the water. The business opportunity comes along with that.”

402-933-6251 • 4303 S. 121st Plz., Omaha, NE 68137
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