MOUNT DESERT — For George Grohs, military service turned out to be ideal preparation for starting and growing his own business.
He is the owner of Coastal Computers in Somesville, which provides a wide range of services, from repairing home computers to designing, installing and providing support for large IT systems.
Growing up in a small town in Connecticut, Grohs wanted to be a firefighter. But he decided to join the U.S. Coast Guard. He gravitated toward communication systems and information technology and eventually became one of the service’s top-level IT specialists.
Even before finishing his Coast Guard career in Southwest Harbor in 2011, he knew he wanted to put down roots on Mount Desert Island and began working in his spare time to lay the groundwork for his computer company.
“It was scary,” he said, “going from not having to worry about getting a paycheck or benefits to being completely on your own. I’ve never worked harder in my life.”
But it has paid off. Having started as a one-man operation, he now has eight full- and part-time employees and has expanded into more space in the Kittredge Building on Route 102.
Grohs said he is glad he was able to join the Coast Guard and serve his country. And he gratefully acknowledges that his success in business is, to a large extent, the result of the education and training he received in the military. The skills he learned, he said, went far beyond IT.
“The military teaches you leadership, organizational and management skills and the importance of teamwork,” he said.
“We have a great team here, people who are very good at what they do and provide excellent, personal service to every client.”
Grohs said MDI is a good place for an entrepreneur to start a small business. He calls it an “island of opportunity,” because it is easy to get to know people and, if you do a good job, to gain their trust.
And even though the population of MDI and the surrounding area isn’t large, there are businesses and organizations of all sizes, as well as school systems and research institutions that need all kinds of professional services. And for someone in the computer repair and consulting business, there are year-round and summer residents who need help from time to time.
Another key to success, Grohs said, is getting involved and trying to make a difference in the community. He is on the boards of directors of Neighborhood House in Northeast Harbor and the MDI Lions Club.
Much of Coastal Computers’ business is still on MDI, but the company is extending its reach. Members of his team have provided on-site service for clients up and down the coast. They also do remote problem solving for seasonal MDI residents after they return to their rest-of-the-year homes and businesses.
Grohs said he doesn’t see any reason why Coastal Computers can’t continue to grow. “My vision is to be the technology solutions provider not only for this island but for the whole state and maybe beyond,” he said.