Key West is known for its nightlife, crazy characters and our stunning coral reef, among other things. And if you’re lucky enough to land in paradise, it’s time you get your feet wet — on the water, that is. There’s no one better suited for a water-based job than Nate Knight. As the director of sales and marketing for Sunset Watersports, Knight knows a thing or two about fun in the sun.
The Michigan transplant has spent the last five years living in Key West, where he has quickly made a name for himself and his brand with his namesake. The oh-so adorable Knight knows not only how to get the attention of the ladies, but the adventure-seeking men, too. He knows the most effective tactics to direct traffic to Sunset Watersports’ many activities, which is evident by the number of locals and visitors who have ventured onboard one of Sunsets many excursions due to Knight’s killer marketing skills.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the 34-year-old sales and marketing maven soon found himself immersed in the world of IT. With not one, but two, MBA degrees under his belt, Knight found his way to the island of misfits, where he quickly landed a job with Sunset Watersports, aiding the company in its daily marketing and sales tasks.
It was after a trip to visit a buddy of his who lived in Key West that Knight knew he needed a change of pace from his overwhelming office IT job. “My life was very busy and hectic,” Knight said. “At the time, I was living in Savannah, Georgia, and working insane hours running a huge company. I was young and responsible for so much. Once I came to Key West to visit, I knew I needed a plan to make the island my home. I fell in love with the people and culture that is Key West.”
And Sunset Watersports loved Knight right back. The locally owned and operated watersports giant boasts a list of restaurants and retail spaces in addition to their myriad daily excursions. If you’re in the mood to see what island life is really all about, then take Knight’s advice and book a trip from Sunset’s catalog.
“We offer an array of trips with something for everyone in the family,” Knight said. “We have all-day underwater adventures, jet skiing, kayaking, snorkeling and parasailing.”
I met up with the busy marketing guru one hot Key West afternoon near the Historic Seaport, where Sunset Watersports ships out of. It wasn’t my first time meeting Knight. We had actually met a month prior, when I was a contestant in a blind dating game at the BottleCap where one lucky lady would win Knight’s heart and a date with the eligible bachelor. Alas, Knight wasn’t my soulmate (I was the girl who wouldn’t chug the beer at his request, but in all fairness, I’m more of a tequila girl myself). But I jumped at the opportunity to interview this handsome, smart and funny guy.
We sat down, had drinks and talked about life in Key West and the ever-so-demanding need to differentiate ourselves in the saturated world of island business — something Knight is an expert on. The marketing junkie filled me in on his busy life and everything that is Sunset Watersports.
“I honestly never imagined that I would attend college for seven years, attain two master’s degrees and leave a successful consulting career to chase a dream to live on an island and yet I managed to end up in Key West, successfully wearing backwards hats and flip-flops to work,” he said.
Sunset Watersports has been family owned and operated since 1984. The goal of company creator Rich Welter was to leave a legacy for his family and provide the best in watersport adventures on the island.
“Sunset is by far the most fun and unique company I have ever worked for,” Knight said. “Sunset is a family-owned company and you can tell that from the very beginning by the culture. I have worked for 20-plus companies in search of a culture that fits my personality and I believe I have finally found my match. You never know what you will be doing on any given day at Sunset. Key West is full of some of the most interesting individuals from around the world and each day we fly in more unique individuals who visit our little island. This combination creates an opportunity to grow and learn faster than I’ve experienced in any other place I have ventured to.”
As if ruling Key West’s waters wasn’t enough, the Sunset Watersports brand is currently branching out and opening Stock Rock Café this year on Stock Island. Residents and visitors can enjoy the eatery by land or by boat, as the complex will offer docking and dining options for boaters. The restaurant will host a waterfront craft beer bar, local fresh favorites for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as feature locally caught seafood.
“We will focus on having the freshest seafood, the biggest and most creative burgers and, of course, we’ll have some of the common Key West favorites,” Knight explained. “We will have a craft beer bar on the water and will be stocking the best beers in South Florida. We really look forward to putting all of the local brands on the shelf. Finally, we will have the area’s largest selection of soft-serve ice cream at our local ice cream shop, which we’re calling Cow Cream Ice Cream Shop. Stock Rock Café will be the perfect waterfront location for the whole family.”
As you can probably tell, Knight is a busy man with a plan. But everyone has to relax a little, right? When Knight’s not busy preaching the Sunset Watersports gospel, you’ll find him lounging on a 40-foot inflatable flamingo pool float he has christened with the name Floyd, invading local pools, sipping cocktails and enjoying the island life he’s worked so hard to create. ¦