The Story of the Napkin

TDI Napkin Logo

As told by Mitch Skaggs, annotated & documented by International Training

“When we started Technical Diving International back in the day, we went against everything everyone thought about and believed in at the time. I always wanted to change the dive industry. I kept telling myself… don’t worry about the money… you must first worry about your passion. If you focus on your passion, the money will follow.”

It was that passion along with an interesting series of events that lead to the foundation of Technical Diving International in 1994.

Here we start from the beginning… as told by Mitch. I started diving when I was 11 years old. My instructor was a World War II Master Diver and my equipment consisted of a double hose regulator, double tanks, and the other basic necessities. He may not realize this but he saved my life by showing me what living is all about! As I got older my passion for diving continued to grow. I landed various underwater bridge and construction inspecting jobs that brought me to Southern Florida. It was in Miami in the early 1990’s when I met a beautiful blonde scuba diver. Not only was she a scuba diver but a scuba diving instructor! This was a rarity at the time. Long story short, we ended up together and opened up a dive shop. We specialized in advanced diving and technical dive training. We were one of the only operations in the world blending mixed gases and actively catering to and teaching divers at this level. Keep in mind, during this period nitrox was considered “voodoo gas” and technical diving meant imminent death; it was very controversial to be involved in this area of diving.

We were teaching under another dive training organization. I had to write supplemental materials for my Nitrox students because the organization’s manual was more like an encyclopedia! My students didn’t understand the manual they had to pay an arm and a leg for so I wrote some user friendly materials they could study alongside their required materials. I gave it to them for free and they came to class more prepared and ready to learn.

I came to the conclusion that the dive industry was on a slippery slope since the leaders, the driving force at the time, did not know what was going on in the retail market. I felt the backbone of the dive industry was missing the wants and needs of the consumers by only providing the bare minimum in dive equipment and training materials. We were covered on the equipment side but the training side had some work to do.

After realizing I had a full line of “supplemental” materials on hand ready to assist students in the education process, I started playing with the idea of branching off and creating my own dive training organization. How hard could it be really?

It was that evening I started playing around with business names and logo designs. I wanted the name to be simple, not a set of acronyms you couldn’t remember but simple! I thought to myself… Technical Diving… Technical Diving… Technical Diving International, TDI! That’s it! That’s exactly what we are doing. How much more simple could it get?

People often ask, “Why did you draw the logo on a napkin?” Well after crumpling up all of the paper and throwing it against my kitchen wall, a napkin seemed reasonable. I wanted the logo to start with my roots of diving as a set of doubles. Tanya Burnett and I played with various designs and she sorted out the details on the graphics side after seeing my vision. She continued to make changes here and there and then finalized the logo on the napkin.

We had a name, we had a logo, and we had materials. Now we needed to spread the word. I went to California to present Tools of the Trade – Technical Diving International along the West coast. During these seminars I discussed the business of diving and teaching nitrox. Prior to this I was filling nitrox classes on a weekly basis with 10+ students. I believed it was our responsibility as a dive training organization to give our members the tools necessary to help them conduct programs and make a living on their own. After returning to Florida, I was informed that we had a problem. We had booked over 130 Nitrox Instructor candidates to teach! All from the presentations we had given along the West coast!

We were on the right path, staying busy and filling up instructor programs but the single best thing we ever did with Technical Diving International was bring in Brian Carney. We had the passion, the passion drove the sales but Brian kept us in line. He had the business sense to steer our ship forward and he wasn’t even an owner in the company. He was like our little brother that kept cleaning up our messes… if we booked an Instructor program for 12 candidates, 24 would show up and we wouldn’t have enough materials! Brian preached to us the importance of professionalism in the dive industry and that passion alone wouldn’t allow us to move forward. We had such a diverse group of people setting the path for TDI and Brian was the glue that kept us all together, allowing International Training to become what it is today.

I still remember the vision of Technical Diving International starting out at my kitchen table. The seeds were planted that evening and have since flourished. They continue to grow… and will always grow.