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Public Health graduate merges business with public health

College of Public Health graduate Golden Mashindi runs his own business, Jet Ski Indy. Photo provided by Jonathan Greene.

LEXINGTON, Ky. — University of Kentucky College of Public Health (CPH) senior Golden Mashindi, a first generation American with roots in Zimbabwe, has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Now, as he looks toward his post-graduation days, Mashindi intends to use that spirit to bridge the gap between health and business.

“I plan to continue to learn and develop the skills needed to be an effective entrepreneur and organizational leader as I step into the realm of health care and other niche business opportunities I am passionate about,” he said.

Running his own business, Jet Ski Indy, has taught Mashindi valuable lessons in leadership and administration, and his CPH course work taught him a surprising amount about research and components to start initiatives.

“Being a business owner is not easy work, but the research, writing and marketing opportunities that we get through the bachelor of public health program made starting and running my business easier,” he said.

Golden graduated this May and plans to pursue an MBA to further develop his entrepreneurial skills.

“From this, I want to start health care organizations to create equal opportunities for health around Kentucky, Indiana and back home in Zimbabwe where I come from. Anybody can work for a health care organization, but I picture myself creating organizations for communities to run and have the resources they need,” Mashindi said.

Golden recently received the College of Public Health’s Promising Practitioner Award, which recognizes a B.P.H., M.P.H., or Dr.P.H. student with potential to influence public health practice in Kentucky communities.

The Entrepreneur 

Growing up, Golden spent his childhood watching others explore the Indiana lake near his home. The high cost and strict age restrictions of boat rentals kept him on the sidelines.

That changed during his freshman year of college. Determined to create his own path, Mashindi worked through the school year and saved enough money to buy a 1996 WaveRunner — his first jet ski. That purchase became the catalyst for an entrepreneurial journey he could never have anticipated. It wasn’t just about owning a jet ski; it was about discovering a way to connect his community to the lake and himself to the world of business.

The summer after his freshman year at UK, Mashindi and his best friend came up with the idea for renting out jet skis to allow more young people to enjoy the water. His old WaveRunner attracted a lot of his peers to the water.

“The idea of Jet Ski Indy was born from there since our friends wanted that same first-time experience with the lake. So, we bought more jet skis and created a business opportunity for our Indiana community,” shared Mashindi.

He was seeking opportunities to expand his education and gain business knowledge and was directed to the Von Allmen Center for Entrepreneurship, which connects entrepreneurs with mentors, Kentucky Angel Investors and free access to downloadable books and templates.

“I started the program shortly after creating Jet Ski Indy, and this created a great opportunity for us to solidify our operational plans and build business models. From this program, we received a grant that helped us start Jet Ski Indy before our first operating season,” Mashindi said.

The business took off as more people expressed interest in renting jet skis, but the path wasn’t without challenges. When the marina they’d hoped to work with canceled just one week before their first booking, Mashindi and his friend were left with significant debt and no access to the lake on which they had planned to operate.

“At this point, we had to pivot and create a new logistical plan, and that’s where our unique business model was born — jet ski deliveries,” Mashindi said.

Mashindi and his friend decided to offer jet ski deliveries across Indiana, allowing customers to rent jet skis for any public body of water. This flexibility set Jet Ski Indy on the path to success. The innovative model also laid the groundwork to expand into other states, including Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois. With determination, Golden overcame the initial challenges and created a thriving business that continues to grow and evolve.

Public Health and the future 

While Mashindi was developing a plan for his jet ski rental business, he was also pursuing a traditional path toward a career in public health care at the University of Kentucky. However, his interests broadened as he progressed through his studies, and he became interested in the field of public health, which offered a broader perspective on health care and community wellness.

His advice to other students is to follow their passions and not be afraid to take risks. He encourages them to explore different fields, even if they seem unrelated to their career goals, because doing so helps develop a well-rounded perspective.

“You’d rather fail trying than never try at all,” he said, urging students to embrace challenges and seek opportunities for growth.

From studying pre-medicine to eventually majoring in public health, Mashindi found the University of Kentucky to be a place of exploration and discovery.

More information on Jet Ski Indy can be found here.