My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is…
124% increase from
2017 – 2020
202% increase from
2017 – 2020
Can you tell us a bit about your background? Was there an ah-ha moment that led to the evolution of your company?
I grew up knowing I wanted to make stuff, for lack of better words and went to school at Auburn University for mechanical engineering. The first 10 years of my career were spent in various engineering areas. I started out as a machine designer and then made my way down to Florida to the Eglin Air Force Base and worked as a test engineer. I did that for about six years and left to open my own engineering consulting firm.
I’ve always had this desire to make consumer products and am drawn to really cool brands. While I was running my engineering firm, I told my wife, “I’m done doing soulless design.” I was ready to do something that had a flare and some cool stuff behind it, and even better if I could design products that fit into our lifestyle here in Florida. I was on a sandbar here in Destin surrounded by hundreds of pontoon boats and a friend of mine comes up with this giant surfboard and he’s like, “dude check this stand-up paddle board out!” It was legitimately nothing more than an oversized surfboard.
So many people were coming up trying it out and nobody could stand on it. I looked at my friend and said, “There’s something here.” There’s something about the simplicity and the elegance of a stand-up paddleboard, but yet, it’s designed poorly. It’s not made for the average person looking to get on the water and have a good time. Essentially, I started with that narrative that this can be a vessel that people can use for their lifestyle, whether it be fishing or paddling or cruising or throwing a cooler on for drinking beer. I decided to apply my engineering background to it and create a cool brand around these things being boats for any lifestyle, which is where our brand name came from.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Growing up or while I was in college, I didn’t have this overwhelming desire to run an entire business. I think the desire for me was to be a person with full control over my destiny. Being an entrepreneur meant I had the power to decide how to do this and what to do. From the perspective of ownership as in controlling my own destiny, absolutely I always wanted to do that.
Tell us a bit more about BOTE. What sets you apart from others in your market?
We’re a watersports brand. Our mission statement is to stand apart through industry-shaping innovation, fresh ideas, and simplicity to create a product that defines a lifestyle. It’s as simple as that. We want to package up the Florida DNA and culture and sell it throughout the entire country. Even if it’s simply hanging out with family and friends on the water, our brand is stylish, innovative, and fresh. I think what makes us unique in our space is that we’re one of the first brands that put a lifestyle spin on the products. Historically, it’s been a very commoditized category – a just get the job done type of product. About 60-70% of the market is a pure commodity, Amazon or Walmart products. We try to sell this curated experience, where style, innovation, and simplicity set us apart from the competition. The culture and experience around our brand give the consumer this immersive vibe, something that they can attach to. The concept of selling the experience is where we’re different. It’s a holistic customer experience.
What is your company culture like?
We have a very entrepreneurial culture from the top, down. The team shares the same excitement for our business. Our core values are passion, creativity, authenticity, and hard work. I think most of those come from my nature of bringing up the businesses, being passionate about the space and our customers. For us, authenticity is the keyword. There’s transparency every day, being open and honest in the workplace adds an authentic layer to the product. As for creativity, not all businesses should be cookie cutter. Not all processes should be sterilized. Our team does a great job of looking at creative solutions and applying creative processes to business development. At the end of the day, I think it gives us a leg up on our competition by creating our own barriers.
What were some of the challenges you’ve found while growing your business?
We started with zero funding. In the effort of authenticity and transparency, we started with $40,000 in credit card debt. My wife and I bootstrapped it from the beginning. Her background was in financial wealth management and my background was engineering. With that, we had a solid foundation of technical experience. We didn’t have business strategy experience. After about a long period of learning and growing, we were able to move away from being technicians and move into the strategic arena, forecasting and modeling growth dynamics and risks. All that stuff was a lot of fun, but it took a lot of work to get there, the experience was like getting an MBA, law degree, the whole nine yards – we learned so much so fast. We both had an extremely hard work ethic, but transitioning to a strategic leader, or a strategic thinker, was our biggest challenge.
What are some of the goals you have for BOTE?
Our goal is to become the world’s premier water lifestyle brand. We want to be the top of the peak in our space in the globe. Step one is obviously becoming the premier brand in the United States, and I think we’re well on our trajectory there to do so. We’ve been diversifying our product categories for more than pure watercraft and water sports. We’re looking into adjacent arenas with a channel expansion like apparel and a category expansion, like camping.
We want to be an omnichannel brand pillared by our direct consumer channel. That means having our website and our flagship stores all over the country where consumers can experience the brand, and then taking that model and expanding internationally. We recently opened our Australia market and are expanding into Europe in 2023.
What is your proudest moment as CEO?
That’s a tough. It’s hard for me to name big homeruns because I like to celebrate the base hits and then we’re back to asking, what’s next? But, one would be when we do our annual planning around September. I always get the biggest highs when we come out of the season having achieved our trajectories.
Looking back, another big moment was when I told our board we have to transition the business to direct consumer. If we don’t do that, we’re going to be upside down from a business perspective. Getting buy-in from the entire board to shift from wholesale to direct consumer, was rewarding. And it’s worked out well in our favor over the last five years. From a CEOs perspective, that was definitely the best decision we could have made for a strategic push.
What does it mean to be selected as an Honoree this year? Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
Man, it’s cool to know that there are eyeballs on you, that people are watching. It’s always rewarding anytime somebody recognizes you for something. Especially when it’s on the business growth side of things as opposed to the marketing and product. It’s a really cool honor. My wife and the co-founder, Magda. Without her, we wouldn’t be here.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is…