Sue Cooper: Steward of the Lower Keys Backcountry
Sue Cooper, a Florida Keys paddleboard guru and author of the “Millionaire in Flip Flops” book series, is also the face of Lazy Dog Adventures, known for its slogan, “We do more in a week than most people do all day.”
But don’t let that tongue-in-cheek slogan fool you. Cooper, brimming with business acumen and motivational concepts, is no lazy “hound” and doesn’t bark out orders.
Cooper founded Lazy Dog Adventures, located on Cow Key Channel between Stock Island and Key West, while reflecting on the true meaning of life after a successful marketing career at H.H. Brown, a global shoe company headquartered in Greenwich, Connecticut. The former University of Massachusetts soccer player grew up in nearby Darien.
“I realized that life is about time, freedom, health and money,” Cooper said.
Her brand, launched in 1998, is essentially a lifestyle developed to fulfill her dream of living on an island and creating an environment where people wanted to work.
Lazy Dog Adventures, with a staff of 16, donates the use of free kayaks to Keys groups doing cleanup efforts. Staffers holding “lifestyle jobs” work to educate clients organically about recycling, eliminating paper and plastic, using refillable water bottles and sustainability.
The company conducts eco-tour and pontoon boat sandbar trips through the Lower Keys’ “mangrove jungles” with paddleboards and kayaks. Paddleboard yoga and paddle fit classes are also popular.
Cooper organizes the Key West Paddle Classic, a 12-mile open-water distance race around Key West for paddlers on stand-up and prone paddleboards, outrigger canoes, surf skis, kayaks, pedal-craft kayaks, row and dory boats. The 26th annual race took place Sept. 30.
She also enjoys creating fun one-day events for entrepreneurs and traveling the world with friends. Lazy pup Jax, a border collie rescue, is Cooper’s constant companion.
The author of four books — the original “Millionaire in Flip Flops,” “Millionaire in Flip Flops, The Lifestyle Edition Updated,” “The Lazy Dog Way: How to Build Your Business, Brand and Life Putting People First” and “Millionaire in Flip Flops: Take Action Work Book” — is expanding her YouTube presence to offer business advice for leaders and startup companies.
Among that advice: If what you want doesn’t exist, create it!
Keys Traveler: When did you first come to the Florida Keys and why?
Sue Cooper: 1997. I quit my corporate job to follow my dream of living on an island and opening my own business.
KT: What aspects of the Keys environment or way of life matter most to you?
SC: A love of the ocean. There’s this great bond among so many of the locals here. Plus, the small-town vibe that builds a great community.
KT: Who or what inspired you to become passionate about respecting and protecting the Keys’ natural world?
SC: My parents instilled in me a love of the outdoors. We grew up a very outdoorsy family and always have had respect for Mother Nature. I think that’s why I get so fired up when I see people littering or not respecting our home island.
KT: How does that passion influence your work or profession?
SC: We love what we do at Lazy Dog and one of the best parts of the job is to share our love of the water, nature, Key West … with customers. One of the comments we hear most after a tour is that people can tell how passionate we are about what we do.
KT: What are some of the ways, personally or through your work, that you connect with and/or help protect the local environment and unique lifestyle?
SC: As a group at Lazy Dog, we lead by example — leading and encouraging people and groups from all over to hold cleanups.
KT: What keeps you energized, challenged and focused on your path?
SC: I still love my job. The crew at Lazy Dog is a big part of that. We enjoy our job, but most importantly enjoy the life that we live down here.
KT: What do you hope your positive environmental actions will accomplish?
SC: I would love to see a cleaner Key West — a locals’ respect for the island we live on, and in turn, the visitors respect the island as well.
KT: What message do you want your actions and example to communicate to people you encounter?
SC: Love what you do, every day, and have respect for the place that you live and work.
KT: What’s your favorite natural or eco-friendly activity in the Keys?
SC: Paddleboarding is my favorite way to be on the water. Because you stand up in paddleboarding, you can view so much more of the sea life.