The Man Behind The Eye Patch

Meet Mark Hicks, Founder of Captain Jack’s Tours:

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mark Hicks.

Mark, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After 25 plus years in the automobile industry, owning and managing car dealerships, I was looking for a change. In 2005 I took my girlfriend Donna on a 7-day Hawaiian cruise. It’s a great way to visit the islands. Each night the cruise ship would travel to a different island and we would wake up to a new adventure. We spent one day in Maui where we swam and snorkeled with giant turtles and went whale watching. Another day we woke up at the island of Kauai. There we were escorted to a beautiful ranch and went horseback riding. Every day was a new adventure. Near the end of the trip, I told Donna that when we would return to Santa Barbara, our hometown, and one of the most beautiful places on earth, that I was going to create a special day tour excursion. Thus…..Captain Jack’s Tours was born.

When we returned to Santa Barbara, I got right to work. I bought a tandem kayak & kayaked every cove, bay & lagoon we could find. When we kayaked at “Smugglers Cove” we knew immediately we had found the perfect place. Next, we decided the tour would include door to door transportation from anywhere in the Santa Barbara area. We would transport our guests to “Smugglers Cove” for 2 hours of kayaking and then we would have lunch at El Capitan Resort. After lunch, we would drive a few miles north to a private horse ranch where the guests would ride through this beautiful forest to the top of the mountains where they would enjoy incredible ocean views. During one of our first kayak and horseback riding tours, one of my guests said, “This day was heaven on earth” so that is what we now call the tour: “Heaven On Earth”.

Now we needed a business name and a marketing plan. After careful consideration, I decided to name my new company, “Tour DeJour”. I called one of my closest friends, Fritz, and told him my plan. Now I need to give you a little history here. Thirty years ago doctors found that I had a cancerous tumor in my right eye. As a result, the eye then had to be removed. After the surgery I was laying in bed, very drugged up due to the pain and the phone rang. I picked up the phone and someone said, “Can I talk to Jack?” Now keep in mind my name is Mark. I said, “You’ve got the wrong number”. Then the caller started laughing and asked, “You mean I’m not talking to One-Eyed Jack?” It was then that I recognized the voice on the other end of the line as being my good buddy Fritz and we both laughed like hell. From that day on Fritz called me “One-Eyed Jack”. So when I told Fritz I was naming my company “Tour DeJour” he said, “You can’t call it that. You have to call it Captain Jack’s!” It only took me a second to agree and that’s how Captain Jack’s Tours got its name.

Our first tour was our Heaven on Earth Tour, which included kayaking, lunch & horseback riding. We started out very modestly, with our first month having a grand total of 14 guests. Word traveled fast and soon we had hundreds of guests calling to join our tour. Then an amazing thing happened. Guests would call and request different tours. One caller wondered if we did kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor. We said sure and our Santa Barbara Harbor Kayak Tour was born. But the biggest thing that happened to Captain Jack’s Tours was the addition of wine tours.

Our first wine tour was a combination off-road excursion, wine tasting & hiking tour that ended up with everyone soaking in a natural hot spring at the end of the day. Today we offer many different wine tasting tours. In addition, we encourage our guests to customize their own tour. We tell them, “If you can dream it, we can do it!”

We offer Sunset Sailing Cruises, Whale Watching Tours, Wine Tours, Beer Tours, Horseback Rides, kayak tours & much more.

We are also an event company providing group cruises, deep sea fishing, dinner cruises and wine dinners at local wineries.

It has been an exciting journey and we keep growing each and every year. All we can say is “TOO MUCH FUN”.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
From the very start, the business more than doubled every year. When the housing market crashed in 2008 -2009 we actually saw big increases in our business as people were having “staycations”. We saw a tremendous amount of people driving up the coast from the LA area. The only time we have struggled was in 2015 when we had the Plains Oil spill at Refugio Beach. Every time you would turn on the TV there was a story about the oil spill in Santa Barbara. The oil spill was 30 minutes up the coast and had no effect whatsoever here in the Santa Barbara area but because TV News programs sensationalized the spill by saying it was in Santa Barbara, people stayed away. This was a tough time for hotels, restaurants and tour companies in our area. But now things have been back to normal and 2016 has been a great year for Captain Jack’s Tours.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Captain Jack’s Santa Barbara Tours story. Tell us more about the business.
We were just voted the “Best Wine Tour Company” in the Santa Barbara News-Press “READERS CHOICE AWARDS” for the 4th year in a row. So even though we offer many different events it is in the wine tour category we are truly heads above the rest. For almost 12 years we have forged great relationships with over 50 wineries, farms & restaurants in the Santa Ynez Valley. These relationships make it possible for our guests to have many choices when customizing their tours. This is why our slogan is “Too Much Fun!

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I don’t know if luck has had a lot to do with the success of our business. But I do believe if you choose to earn a living by doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life. With Captain Jack’s Tours, I found a business I love….I guess there is some luck in that.

Pricing:

  • Wine Tasting Tours start at only $70 p/p
  • Kayak tours start at $50 p/p
  • Horseback Trail Rides start at $90 p/p

Contact Info:

 

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