According to my wife, I was going through a mid-life crisis when Dig This entered my mind. I had a successful fencing company and we had just built a house and were ﬁnancially secure. If I had not built the house and decided that I would do the excavating for the project (without much experience) Dig This would probably not have been born. I blame the 20-ton excavator for providing such a magniﬁcent experience, I moved more dirt and rocks than I could have ever imagined. It was way better than what I fantasized about when I was a young fella playing with my Tonka toys in the sand box. This time it was for real. Then and there I realized that if I was having this much fun, imagine how many other folks would like to do this but had no opportunity to play.
From those ﬁrst few buckets Dig This was born. It would offer the ultimate adult sized sand box experience where men and woman could relive their sandbox days but this time for real.
“Big” Things Have Small Beginnings
I have always had a fascination with heavy equipment. I was in awe of how powerful these machines were and how masterful the operators. How could one learn to manipulate the controls and leave a work of art in the landscape of a golf course or in the form of a road,foundation or even just a dirt pile, big or small?
One would think Dig This would be a relatively easy business to start, but like all new concepts we certainly ran into a few hurdles, such as ﬁnding an insurance company to insure something that had never been done before.
Insurance Agent: “I’m sorry Mr. Mumm…did you say you want to put inexperienced people on 10 -20 ton pieces of earth moving equipment?”Ed:“ Why yes, they will be ﬁne and there shouldn’t be any issues. I have really thought this through.”Insurance Agent: “ You’re nuts… get out of my office”
I heard that in many different forms from local small insurance companies right up to Lloyd’s of London. It was a year later when I thought all was lost when I happened to ask my car insurer if there was a possibility he could insure Dig This. He made a call and said he found a company that could underwrite a policy at a price we could afford. A month later Dig This was ﬁnally in business.
From the moment that we opened the doors to our test site in September 2007 at Steamboat Springs, Colorado, folks were coming from all corners of the country to operate large bulldozers and excavators. I knew I was onto something.
Building Work into Fun (Literally)
After two summers of tweaking the program to make it fun, exciting and ever safer for tourists and team building events, it was time to move it to the ultimate big stage-Las Vegas. It was right in the middle of the recession and Vegas had one of the country’s highest foreclosure rates on land and homes, so the timing was perfect for leasing land but perhaps not that great in other ways. We found an amazing 5 acres right on the interstate across from the Strip within 10 minutes of all the main hotels who accommodate our key customers, tourists, and convention attendees.
Next step was to get the business license approved by the Las Vegas Planning Commission. That in its self was a process that left us worrying ﬁnancially after paying for the myriads of permits, consultants for site requirements, and additional safety measures required for amusement parks. The City of Las Vegas, in order to protect themselves for $25,000 (the maximum you can sue the city) cost me at least $50,000 in fees, consultants and Gin. I would have rather given the city the $25,000 after it was all said and done! That’s all behind us now and Dig This moves on.
After our business license was issued we began the process of ﬁnding instructors, sales and guest services staff. The only other good thing that came from the recession was the availability of very qualiﬁed and skilled people to choose from. Within a week we hired a team of instructors, a manager and sales staff. I had a consultant help train the crew and help with some of the organization. On May 5th, 2011 Dig This Las Vegas was digging it.
Digging Work into Fun!
Our ﬁrst two clients were two female attorneys from L.A. in Vegas for a girls’ weekend of excavation and exfoliation. After scoffing at our waiver they cleared the breathalyzer test and proceeded to tear up 5 acres of prime Las Vegas real estate. After two hours of digging, stacking two ton tires and playing excavator basketball, they came in with a whole new lease on life and renewed conﬁdence in themselves. They, like the thousands since, blew themselves out of their comfort zone and took the controls of a 20,000-40,000 LB steel giant, forgot their lives for a brief moment, and playfully regained their sense of conﬁdence, accomplishment and adventure.
Their Certiﬁcates of Achievement (fastest certification in America!) will possibly be on their office walls next to their Law Degrees and may instigate some conversation about burying the competition out there.
Three percent of America’s working population is involved in construction of some sort. Millions of the remaining ninety seven percent drive by construction sites, have equipment working on their own or the neighbor’s property, or pass by a construction site and think: ”I wish I could just have a go at that.” These are professionals from all backgrounds; pilots, engineers, lawyers, accountants, school teachers and farmers to name a few. I once had an engineer who actually designed a piece on the excavator but never got to operate the ﬁnished product until he retired and came to Dig This for a play.
The fact is many of us have never really grown up. As kids we were all happy playing in our sand boxes, then school got in the way and then sports and homework took over. After that, we had to go and ﬁnd a job and moved onto bigger and better things to play with. But we never forgot what it was like to play and create amazing things in our sandbox, pretending to be the operator on some of the worlds best toys ever made. Tonka will never die nor will Dig This in keeping the generations digging.
Just Dig It!