With a successful career in banking and acclaim as a top volleyball player, Shervin Rankin seemed to have his path in life clearly set out before him.
But the creative Caymanian dreamed of giving it all up to spend more time outdoors and follow in family footsteps to work with his hands.
So he did just that, turning his back on a lucrative career in finance to start his own business making luxury beach furniture.
It was a risk that paid off and Shervin’s distinctive day beds, cabanas and deck designs can be seen in pride of place along Seven Mile Beach.
Hotels that have taken his handmade pieces include The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman as well as Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, and Grand Cayman Beach Suites.
The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa is another hotel that currently features Shervin’s fabulous furniture.
Well-known in Cayman for his volleyball successes (he has represented the islands internationally several times), Shervin hails from a family of carpenters and builders.
“My father, uncles and cousins were all in the trade,” he says.
Nonetheless, Shervin started off by pursuing an academic career, studying business at Concordia College in Bronxville, New York, as part of a volleyball scholarship.
This led to a job with Deutsche Bank back in Cayman where he was a corporate officer mainly responsible for managing the administration for a portfolio of clients.
But after eight years in the world of finance, Shervin felt confined by his office-based job and yearned for a change.
Some time previously he had worked on the design of a floating table specifically for the beach and then, when an opportunity arose for him to pursue this concept, he decided to seize it.
So in 2008 he took a leap of faith and left the bank to start his beach furniture business Kayotics Recreational.
“I have always had a passion for design and construction,” he says. “A lot of time was spent in fine-tuning the design for the floating table and obtaining a patent.”
To gain interest in the table, he set one up by Calico Jack’s beach bar for people to try.
And his first lucky break came when the table was spotted by a member of staff from The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.
“An employee from the Ritz saw the table and suggested I approach the manager from Bar Jack (a beach bar at the resort) with the idea,” Shervin recalls. “A trial run with four of the managers was confirmed, after which they decided to run with the idea on the basis they had exclusive rights for the first year. As the relationship grew, the Ritz asked to see more of my ideas, which were taken.”
After first acquiring floating tables and floating beds, the five-star resort also featured Shervin’s cabanas, day beds and deck designs.
And once the exclusive agreement for the floating tables had expired, the Marriott and Beach Suites placed orders and purchased the floating tables, although due to logistics and staffing they were unable to keep them.
“Within a year of providing cabanas for the Ritz, the Westin came on board and this was the foundation that help pushed me to take my cabana and outdoor furniture design to a whole new level,” says Shervin.
Since then, he has had inquiries about his furniture from all over the world including the United States, Turks and Caicos, Bermuda, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Oman, Republic of Maldives, and Dubai.
And, as well as hotels, he often has commissions from private individuals, with each piece designed and handcrafted to their requirements.
“A lot of time is spent with each client to understand the environment in which the furniture will be set as well as the client’s wants,” Shervin explains.
“I design various options which the client can pick from.”
Shervin designs the furniture with a three-dimensional program on a computer.
“Inspiration is taken from the client and what they want to see,” he says. “I often sit and ‘dream’ of the furniture pieces before drawing them on the computer and making them reality. I taught myself how to use the program as well as making furniture. I am quite a perfectionist, a trait which has served me well here.”
The furniture is made in Shervin’s workshop in George Town – an old rust-colored shipping container that he’s fitted out for the purpose – before being transported and assembled onsite.
Wearing his trademark big, broad straw hat, and with reggae music blaring in the background, Shervin is at home amongst the tools and sawdust.
“Each piece of furniture is handmade by myself and a team of three,” he explains. “This is a small team, but I feel it is important for me to oversee each piece of work and ensure it’s perfect.”
Most of the materials are bought locally and Shervin only imports items that cannot be sourced on-island.
The majority of clients buy the furniture outright but local hotels have the option to lease.
And, with the sun, sea and salt breeze always taking their toll, Shervin offers maintenance services.
“All outdoor furniture eventually becomes old and receives damage, especially from the harsh outdoor elements,” he points out.
“We have the capability to refurbish or repair pieces and parts locally without having to replace an entire set.”
Shervin’s furniture is also unique in that it is tailor-made for clients on-island.
“Sometimes, there is little or no chance to customize when buying overseas,” he says. “For example, you cannot find the floating furniture anywhere else in the world.”
Shervin hopes to continue working with local hotels as well as designing and building furniture for private homes and, ultimately, would like to mass-produce products to export internationally.
His entrepreneurial success, he believes, is down to the Caymanian spirit of hard work and humility along with the chances he has had so far.
“I am thankful to all of the local hotels and the community for believing in me and my products,” says Shervin. “I am very thankful for the opportunities they have given me.”
Walking along Seven Mile Beach and seeing his furniture in front of the island’s top resorts is a constant matter of pride for the man who quit a steady career in banking.
“I feel overwhelmed that I took the chance to change my destiny,” he says.
“Whilst Deutsche Bank enabled me to have a stable life, the thrill I get from running my own business, and doing what I love, is no comparison.”