San Diego Startup Offers Sand Castle-Building Services | NBC 7 San Diego

San Diego Startup Offers Sand Castle-Building Services

San Diego Sand Castles offers three-hour classes that teach customers how to build the perfect sand castle on a San Diego beach



    A new start-up is turning not-so-creative beach goers into Michelangelos. NBC 7's Megan Tevrizian shares how one man's venture into sand castle creations is paying off for tourists. (Published Friday, April 3, 2015)

    If you’ve walked by Dog Beach in Del Mar recently, you may have noticed some better-than-average sand castles. That’s thanks to a new startup offering a unique service that’s becoming one of the most sought-after attractions in San Diego.

    San Diego Sand Castles is the one and only local company that teaches customers how to make eye-catching sand castles on the beach. The company is less than two years old, but it’s already reached the number one spot on Trip Advisor for San Diego attractions.

    Founder JT Estrela stumbled upon the idea after being laid off as a charter school math teacher.

    “I started doing sand castles, street-artist style, on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, while I looked for jobs at night,” said Estrela.

    After a while, Estrala realized he could combine his love for teaching and building sand castles and make money from it.

    That’s when he decided to cash in his 401K and become a small business owner.

    “It’s basically an art class, it’s very educational, so it kind of hit me in the right spot. It just took off from there,” he said.

    Now San Diego Sand Castles has three instructors who teach three-hour classes every day. They have two locations: one by Dog Beach in Del Mar, and the other by Powerhouse Park.

    JT says his customers are from all over the world.

    When NBC 7 visited a class, Rachel Snyder from Chicago was building a sand castle with her family.

    “It’s actually easier than I thought,” she said. “I thought it was going to break apart, but it didn’t.”

    Looking back, JT says getting laid off from his teaching job was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

    “All of us here at Sand Diego Sand Castles feel like we hit the San Diego job lottery jackpot, he said. “It doesn’t even feel like work.”

    According to JT and his fellow “sculpting experts,” all you need to make a good castle is sand, water, a broken plastic fork for designs and a straw to blow away the sand. All of his materials are less than $5 each.

    Sand Diego Sand Castles hopes to expand to other beaches in San Diego and possibly to other locations like Miami and Costa Rica. Right now, the company’s classes are available any day of the week and cost approximately $60 a person.