Life After The Military
After Darren Merritt’s 20-year military career ended with a medical release due to a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), he had no idea what to do with his life. As a radio operator for most of his military duty (including time in Afghanistan), he was accustomed to working in a modular unit with limited time outdoors, so Darren felt most comfortable in those early days at home in his garage. With the encouragement of his wife and professional counselling to help address his PTSD, Darren decided he would venture out to buy a boat. Going through the process of analyzing options, purchasing a boat, and after-purchase visits to the dealership, Darren was comfortable enough to ask for a job as a driver. Instead, he was offered a job in sales. “I’d say it was probably the best thing that happened because it got me out of the house. I had to go work boat shows and meet people. It really was the best thing that happened.” After 10 years of working for someone else, Darren and his wife (also ex-military), decided to start their own boat dealership.
With its location on Lake Ontario and the Rideau River and the number of lakes and waterways within a short driving distance, Kingston was a natural choice when deciding where to locate the new boat dealership. During their posting in Kingston, Darren and his wife fell in love with the uniqueness of the Limestone City and the variety of activities – both outdoor and indoor – it offered. For others thinking of starting a business in Kingston, the Kingston Economic Development Commission provides numerous types of business support, including:
- Free one-on-one personal consultations and programs to discuss business ideas and needs
- Referrals to professionals in the community
- Information about financing programs and initiatives
- Assistance in identifying the resources you may require to start and grow your business
As the sole employee of DM Boat Sales, Darren is hands-on with all aspects of the business. He takes an ethical approach and is committed to being honest and fair with his customers at all times. Starting off with two truckloads of inventory in their first year of operations (2015), all but two boats were sold. Business has continued to grow as DM Boat Sales enters its 4th year of operations. “We love it. You have your ups and downs – learning curves – but we did it on our own.”
Darren gets the most satisfaction from seeing the looks on the faces of his boat buying customers. “For 20 years, you do stuff in the military and you spend your whole life justifying yourself. Now you’re on the other side; they buy the product and you see the smile when they’re driving away. That’s what seals the deal. That’s the pat on the back that you did something good. I like that. I like it a lot.”
WHAT DARREN LOVES ABOUT THE KINGSTON REGION
Darren likes the fact that there’s always something to do in Kingston (“and ten-fold in the spring to fall time”). As a boater, Darren enjoys being on/fishing in Lake Ontario or Sydenham Lake (he lives in the village of Sydenham north of Kingston). He likes watching the Kingston Frontenacs play hockey, or catching a musical or comedy show at the downtown Leon’s Centre. The Frontenac Parks hiking system, snowmobile trails and campsites in the area are other aspects of the Kingston region that Darren enjoys.