Gecko Time would like to welcome Steve Sykes of Geckos Etc. Thank you so much for joining us, Steve!
History behind Geckos Etc.
Geckos Etc. is the result of 29 years of keeping and breeding reptiles. I started keeping reptiles at the age of 4, but it wasn’t until I bought my first group of leopards from an ad in Reptiles Magazine that I fell in love with this species. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so creating Geckos Etc. was a way to combine my passion for reptiles with a profession. I’m probably one of few people who can say they actually love their job!
How does Geckos ETC run as a business and how may it differ from Hobbyist keeping?
To be honest, I don’t think there is too much of a difference between a business and a hobbyist keeper other than the scale of the operation. We have the same cares and concerns about taking care of our animals, selling our animals, paying our bills, and the general outlook for the reptile market.
Many people who I would consider “hobbyist” already have their own websites, are selling their animals at shows, and trying to make a profit. The real difference I see between a business and a hobby comes from within the person: Do you have a real passion for this in order to see it through? It literally takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears in order to be successful at this. It is not an easy job, and the bigger your business gets, the more bumps you will see along the road. You will not become a millionaire overnight (or ever)! It takes years of hard work to build the infrastructure, build a good reputation, not to mention years of hard work creating beautiful, healthy animals.
Being a reptile breeder as your sole source of income, how does it differ from a 9 to 5 job?
First of all, this isn’t my only source of income. I am also a self employed environmental consultant which supplements the income I make selling reptiles. But, to answer your question of how this differs from a 9 to 5 job: running Geckos Etc. is a “from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep” kind of job. There is always something to do whether it is feeding, or cleaning, or posting pictures and answering emails. Luckily, my wife helps me with a lot of the cleaning and feeding so that I can take pictures, answer emails, and put together new breeding projects (the stuff I love to do!).
What are the pros and cons?
High points of my job: I love waking up and seeing what hatched over night. There is always a thrill to that task that reminds me of opening presents on Christmas day. Excitement comes when I see a new combo morph for the first time (such as many of the enigma crosses that were so exciting this past year), or when I see a new morph all together like the Blazing Bell I hatched last year. Nothing compares to that excitement.
Low points of my job: There are always low points when working with live animals. There are unfortunately no guarantees of return when trying to breed animals. I have raised animals to get them to breeding size, only to have them die egg bound with their first clutch of eggs. I have had other genes that I thought would prove out to be a new genetic trait turn out to be nothing more than an aberrancy in that particular animal and not heritable. Probably one of the hardest things to deal with is the simple fact that we work with live animals. That means that no matter what else is going on in life, the animals need to be taken care of first. We can’t go away for more than a few days at a time, and that usually means that we rush to get everything fed and watered before we leave, and rush to get everything fed and watered when we return. Unfortunately for us, vacations mean extra work before we go and when we return! Plus, the bigger your business gets, the more you have to take care of.
How do you recommend reptile breeders cover themselves with self insurance and prepare themselves for slow times in the reptile industry?
Luckily, my wife gets health insurance through her company, so we don’t have that additional expense. As for other types of insurance (i.e. liability, loss, etc), it really depends on how you want to protect your business. The more you have invested in your business, the more you should want to protect it against loss, damage, and other potential liabilities.
How are the current economic times affecting your business?
The current economic times are hard for everyone who runs a small business. The cost of running a business is going up, and the sales are a bit slower. You have to be prepared for these times with savings, and you certainly have to think of a way to structure your business so that these times aren’t so painful. It’s not easy, but it is what makes a good business person successful during times like this.
Many hobbyists want to know, what is the key in going from hobbyist to professional breeder?
You have to be willing to work really hard. You have to be smart (and lucky) with your breeding projects. And, most importantly, you have to earn the respect of your customers AND your competitors.
What is the daily routine at Geckos ETC?
We have no set routine since all of this has to get done pretty regularly. General activities include any of the following on a given day: respond to emails from customers; check for newly hatched babies; prepare mealworm and/or crickets for feeding; feed, clean, water breeders; feed, clean, water babies; build new racks; check for eggs and put eggs into the incubators; clean cages; general cleaning (floors, etc.); update the website with new photos (and before this happens, we need to take the pictures and weigh the animals.)
There’s always something to do!
How does dealing with a global market change how Geckos ETC runs compared to dealing with US clients only?
You have to be aware of the overseas market. Prices in the U.S. are not always the same as the prices in other countries. If the overseas market is higher than the going prices in the U.S., you may crash the market in that country by selling your animals for too cheap. You certainly won’t make your competitors happy in that country or region of the world. And as I said in a previous question, it is important to earn the respect of your competitors no matter where they are in the world.
What are your plans for the future of Geckos ETC and what projects are you most excited about?
The morph I’m most excited about is the Blazing Bell that I hatched last summer. This has been six years in the making and I’m proud to have finally gotten it! She is adult size now, and I will be breeding her very soon.
We are always looking to improve Geckos Etc. with new projects and ideas. I can’t give away all my secrets, but we have a few new things we are working with. Stay tuned for more!
Thanks so much, Steve!
Thank you very much for your time in this interview, Steve. If you enjoyed this interview, or have more questions or comments for Steve, leave them in the comments below!
Visit Geckos Etc. online at http://www.geckosetc.com!