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40 Under 40

By Jonathan Sweet

40 leaders from the boating industry’s next generation

While finding employees interested in the marine industry can be a challenge, this year’s 40 Under 40 shows there is reason to be optimistic.

These individuals touch all aspects of the industry, from associations to manufacturing to dealers to marinas and more. But they all have one thing in common – they stand out for their efforts to improve the industry and their organizations. These 40 individuals were chosen for their work so far – and the potential we see in them to continue to carry the industry forward.

We received nearly 200 nominations for the 2017 40 Under 40. With plenty of great young leaders to choose from, it’s clear that the industry is in good hands with the next generation.

 

Mike Alleva  
Vice president of global accounts & client branding, Lighthouse Media Solutions

What first drew you to the industry? 
I loved the fact that the majority of the industry is small businesses and rather than large corporations that would just see clients as a number. Here, I can build relationships that are meaningful. 

Who was your hero as a child? 
My parents. My mother and father taught me to have a passion for anything I do in life, and as long as you work hard and believe in what you’re doing, you will be successful. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
John Witte is the guy who offered me an internship when I was in college, and I am very grateful he gave me the opportunity. In addition, I have to say Nick Owens and Bob McCann also were influences. Both taught me so much about the importance of understanding the needs of dealers and OEMs. Lastly, Matt Lodder of Lodder’s Marine and Martin Boyer of Austin Boats & Motors, both are current clients and friends of mine. They believed in the concept of me being their “virtual marketing department” and trusted my vision to help their dealerships. 

 

Ellen Hopkins Bradley 
Vice president, marketing communications & PR, National Marine Manufacturers Association

What first drew you to the industry? 
When I interviewed for a job at NMMA I immediately noticed how welcoming, smart and passionate the staff were as they described working at NMMA. The positive energy and excitement I felt among the NMMA team were key reasons I was drawn to the industry. 

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
I had been a passenger on boats from cruisers to pontoons to sailboats but was never at the helm. That changed during the summer of 2005 when I officially learned to boat aboard a 28-foot bowrider that an NMMA member provided to the NMMA Chicago office to use for PR. I learned everything from how to dock to how to anchor. It gave me confidence on the water and is a reason I’m an advocate for boater education as we look to keep new boaters in the market. 

Who was your hero as a child? 
Growing up my hero was my dad and is to this day. He is a retired high school English teacher who lives in St. Louis with my mom, a retired high school principal. He has an unwavering positive outlook and humble confidence about him, teaching me that the kind of day I have is ultimately up to me.

 

Gordon Brittle 
Regional director Northern territory, SmokerCraft Inc.

What first drew you to the industry?
Love of boating.

What was your first job? 
Ever, a gofer at a printing company; in the marine industry, on-water demonstrator. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Being selected to sit on the multiple boards/groups that want to help improve our industry.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Travelling, snowmobiling.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Georgian Bay.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
12 Lund with a 15 Evinrude, 23 Chris Craft LTD Scorpion. 

Who was your hero as a child? 
My parents, they worked extremely long, hard hours so my sister and I would not go without.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
My first boss in the marine industry, Ted Dallimore. Ted taught me and let me educate myself on everything I know at the dealership level, [and] he was a smart business and family man. My second was my late boss Peter Spiegel, he taught me everything I know on the wholesale side of the industry as well as was the family man and father that every man strives to be.

 

Eric Buckner 
Regional sales director, West Marine Pro

What was your first job?  
Stocking the shelves of my local West Marine Store in Bellevue, Wash.

What is your favorite place to go boating?  
The San Juan Islands of Washington and the Gulf Islands of British Colombia.  

What boat did you learn to boat on?  
28-foot Bayliner Contessa and a 3288 Bayliner.   

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
While there are many influences on my career, both inside and outside the industry, there are a few that stand out:  

I’ve found the best mentors to be the ones that not only help benefit your career, but also your life. I’m lucky to have someone like that in my life who I’ve known long before I began working in the boating industry. His perspective helps keep me focused not simply on whatever end goal I have, but on primarily on enjoying the journey to get there. 

West Marine’s Director of B2B ecommerce is someone I lean on regularly for advice. He worked for much of his career in sales and as a VP with OMC. 

As West Marine’s founder, Randy Repass cannot help but be an influence on my career. 

John Buller currently leads the Loyalty Solutions Group, a consulting firm working to help build dynamic team culture. John and I worked together on a number of projects and he is a guiding force in my thinking around team building, leadership, and building strong partnerships to benefit customers.

 

Jesse Davis 
District sales manager, Legend Boats

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
When I look at the growth of Legend Boats over the past decade I have been here, you can’t help but be proud of the part you have played in this growth. We have a great team of people, and a fantastic group of dealers I work with everyday. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Aside from boating activities, I love attempting to stay active. I play a variety of sports, and try to keep active getting all the boat show weight gained back off! 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Our country is absolutely beautiful, and although it is nice to find a private lake with no one around, it is hard to beat spending the day on Lake Muskoka, fishing, sight seeing and having the option to go dock and grab some lunch before heading back out on a second afternoon shift.

What boat did you learn to boat on?
My father had a 16-foot Princecraft with a 40 Johnson. I can still remember being pretty young and out camping, I was bugging him to go out when he handed me the keys and said take it yourself.

Who was your hero as a child?
I might not have known it at the time, but now as a father of two, it is hard not to look back at my parents raising three kids, and the work ethic they had and instilled on me, not to point to them as a hero.

 

Ben Dorton 
Product manager, Bayliner/Heyday Wake Boats, Brunswick Corp.

What was your first job? 
I worked at MasterCraft Boat Company implementing lean manufacturing practices with a concentration in 5S in the engineering department. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Co-founding Heyday Wake Boats a brand that is bringing affordability to the tow boat segment. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
Hard one here … I spend the little free time I have on a bass boat or tow boat. I like duck hunting but I have a boat for that as well!

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Lake Loudon, that is part of the Tennessee River. I have been wakeboarding and fishing here since I was six years old.  

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
A Ranger bass boat that my father let me drive when we were bass fishing.  

Who was your hero as child? 
My father John Dorton and still is. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
Zane Swank, a pro wakeboarder who had a very successful career in marketing and sales in the tow boat segment was always kind teach me about how to present product at both whole sale and retail levels. 

 

Cory Dugger 
Vice president of engineering, Malibu Boats

What first drew you to the industry? 
My passion began when a new friend introduced me to wakeboarding in 1996, my freshman year in college. I was hooked and tried every way possible to spend evenings and weekends wakeboarding. 

What was your first job? 
My first job was as a manufacturing engineer for MasterCraft Boat Company.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Dale Hollow Lake, I have spent two or three long weekends on a houseboat there every summer for the last 20 years.  

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
The first tow boat I learned to drive was a 1997 Malibu SunSetter LX.  

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
I would have to say one key influence was my parents. As far back as I can remember, they were great examples of working hard and always encouraged me to find a career doing something I enjoy. Another key influence is my best friend, Ryan Lewis. He introduced me to wakeboarding over 20 years ago and the possibilities of a career in the boating industry. A key mentor would have to be Ritchie Anderson, Malibu’s COO. I have worked for Ritchie over 15 years and he has set the example for excellence, loyalty, integrity and boatbuilding knowledge. 

 

JoAnna Goldberg 
CEO, Fairwinds Marina

What was your first job? 
When I was 14, I started working as a customer service representative for Storage Village, my dad’s self-storage company.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
That I am making my dreams come true in a way that facilitates other people making their dreams come true.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to go boating is the Magothy River. It’s beautiful, quiet, with lots of little nooks to explore. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?
A 17-foot Boston Whaler Newport.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My dad, Larry Goldberg, is my mentor. He is the one who motivated and inspired me to be the leader I am today. My dad is the most tenacious person I know, and one of the most caring. Through his example and coaching I learned that excellence is the only acceptable standard, and more importantly “never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.”

 

Danny Goldenberg 
CEO, Marine Connection

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
I’m proud of the fact that I started Super Boats & Yachts LLC in May 2006 in a 1,000 square foot warehouse with only one boat and my partner John. Between the years 2006 to 2010 we bought hundreds of used boats from dealers, private parties and banks and sold them to customers all over the country as well as to Australia, Europe and the Middle East. We then bought Marine Connection in 2011 and switched its business model back to selling new boats again. Since 2011 we have sold hundreds of new boats in South Florida and expanded the Marine Connection territory with two new locations in Miami and Vero Beach. 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
I love the Greek Islands. My favorites are Leros, Marathi, Zakynthos, Symi and Mykonos. You can only enjoy them during the summer months, and the color of the sea is addictive. The seafood is always fresh and cooked by locals with amazing taste. I also like the Bahamas, but have only been to Bimini and Nassau. 

Who was your hero as a child?
My childhood hero was the French undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau and I always envied his life. He was an adventurer and spent most of his life on a boat. I watched all his documentaries with great pleasure. I was inspired by my grandparents, my father and my elder brother because they all enjoyed boating and owned boats. I have boating in my DNA thanks to them.

 

Jani Gyllenberg 
Founder, Distinct

What was your first job? 
I started washing boats the summer before my first year of high school. During the last week of the summer, I had mentioned to the owner of the dealership that their website was broken – he pulled me out of the yard to fix it.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
In general, being able to innovate in the boating industry, creating new ideas that improve businesses and forge real results.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
The countless lakes in Finland, fishing with my grandfather.

What boat did you learn to boat on?
Although we had a few boats when I was growing up, the one first one I can remember being excited about learning was our Pioneer 175 Venture.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
At the end of the day my career would not be where it is today without Timo Turkki. He was one of the first people to identify my strengths and provided the opportunities for me to utilize them. I very much value the work we created as a team over the first few years of my career and what I learned from him.

 

Nathan Heber 
Founder, Boatyard

What first drew you to the industry? 
I grew up in Miami Beach and have been boating ever since I was a kid. Years ago, my wife and I sailed a Beneteau Moorings 352 on our first bareboat charter in the British Virgin Islands and had the greatest adventure of our lives. When we got home, I decided that I wanted to make it easier for other people to have similarly remarkable experiences on the water. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
The owner of one of our marine service businesses told me that he was planning to close one of his locations, but with the business he had generated through Boatyard, he was able to keep it open. Helping some good folks keep their jobs is all the motivation we need to keep working hard.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
Jon Vanhala, the former Head of Digital for Universal Music Group, has been an invaluable advisor and mentor for me since I started working on Boatyard. His knowledge, experience and generosity of spirit were critical in getting us through some difficult times. Tony Hsieh, the founder of Zappos, is another key influence in my career. His book “Delivering Happiness” is the bible on building a company culture around delivering remarkable customer service experiences. 

 

Scott Holmes 
General manager, MarineMax/Hall Marine Greenville

What first drew you to the industry?
Passion for the water, to sell fun, and connect families with the water.  

What was your first job? 
Ace Hardware but that was short lived. My first real job commitment was a dock hand at Lake Keowee Marina. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
My current position in life. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry? 
I would probably be in the financial industry of some sort.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
Family time, home improvements.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Lake Keowee in Upstate, S.C. 

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
1998 Bryant 182.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?
The Hall Marine Group, its owners, employees, operation and mission statement. 

 

Morgan Huntley 
President, Vanquish Boats

What first drew you to the industry?  
My love of the water and the freedom that it provides. Also I had a weird mix of being very creative and mechanical inclined. Boatbuilding lets me use both.

What was your first job?  
Launch Operator at Seymour’s Boat Yard.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Block Island Sound and the Elizabethan Islands.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
My father and I built a plywood skiff when I was about 10. I outgrew it by about 12 and then we had the obligatory 13-foot Boston whaler.

Who was your hero as a child? 
Batman.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
Bob Johnston and Barry Carroll.

 

Jim Jabaay 
Vice president, LotVantage

What first drew you to the industry? 
I grew up spending summers on the water at Lake Maxinkuckee in Culver, Ind., and gained a love for boating. 

What was your first job? 
Working for the family car dealership and then outside sales at Manheim Auto Auction.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Landing our first boating industry OEM partner with Centurion-Supreme boats at LotVantage.

What is your favorite place to go boating?  
Typically we spend most of our time boating on Tampa Bay, but my favorite spot is to take the trip out of Naples, Fla., to Keewaydin Island.  

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
1989 Sport Nautique. I can still remember the day we got the boat.

Who was your hero as a child? 
Michael Jordan. Hands down.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My father has been the person that taught me a lot about running a successful business while also teaching me the passion for watersports. Understanding the challenges in running a dealership, helps me teach our team to relate our products and services to the dealership world.  

 

Lindsey Johnson 
Director of communications, West Marine

What first drew you to the industry? 
I grew up on the shores of Long Island Sound in Milford, Conn., aboard my family’s boats. My first opportunity to work in the marine industry was as an editorial intern for Yachting magazine in 1999. My dad was a passionate Yachting reader and fan. He suggested that I call the editor and ask if they accepted interns. So I listened. 

What was your first job? 
My very first full-time job in the industry was as a staff writer for Soundings Trade Only magazine. I started in July 2001 and worked there for nearly four years before relocating to Chicago in 2005. 

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
When I was in grade school, my parents had a 16-foot aluminum fishing boat. So that was my first on-water boating experience. 

Who was your hero as a child? 
Growing up, my hero was my dad. I was in awe of him and his commanding and charismatic presence. He was larger than life: Confident in his endeavors, liked by everyone, threw heart and soul in everything he did … he truly wore his heart on his sleeve, and I loved that. I wanted to be just like him. And I hope that I’ve done him proud. I lost my dad in 1999 to pancreatic cancer. But he lives on for me through all my wonderful boating memories. The water was his favorite place in the world.

 

Vanessa Kraus 
Director of marketing, Sea Tow Services International, Inc. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Growing to my current position at Sea Tow has been very fulfilling and is a job of which I am very proud and love to do. I work with an incredible team of people who share a vision and passion for our industry – and our network of captains are simply the best! 

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Peconic Bay is one of the most beautiful places to boat. That is where we watch July 4th fireworks, go skiing and wakeboarding with family. Plus, my husband has great memories on these waters as a child — it is a special place. 

Who was your hero as a child? 
My mom. She has always been my biggest fan, closest confidant and the person who made me believe I was capable of great things.  

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My father has had a big impact on my personal drive and determination – he’s always told me I could overcome any hurdle in my path and that hard work is rewarded. I’ve also been blessed with three women – Cindy, Yvonne and Jenny, – who have guided me through my career, mentored me along the way and have always been selfless when it came to their knowledge, time, experience and support. 

 

Paul Kuck 
Director of product development & marketing, Regal Boats

What was your first job? 
Marketing assistant — Most of my time revolved around photo shoots, cleaning boats, running boats, moving boats. It was one of those marine industry summer jobs where you are up at 4 a.m. and don’t get home until 8 p.m. 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Hands down, Abaco, Bahamas. The water is beautiful, there is great free diving and spear fishing, and it is always nice to be a little disconnected from the fast-paced Orlando life. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I have had the privilege of boating on many different boats as I grew up. Everything from 19-foot sport boats to 50-foot yachts. I was driving 40-foot yachts around the age of 12 or 13. I spent most of my time growing up behind the wheel of a Regal 2100, though. I am sure I have over 1,000 hours behind the wheel of that boat alone. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
There is a long list of people that have influenced me greatly. I have obviously learned a lot from my dad. He has taught me a great deal and given me the opportunity to grow and take on a lot of responsibility. There is no way I could be doing what I am doing now without his mentorship and desire to help me grow. 

Tony Kelleher from Volvo Penta has always been a great resource for me over the years. A great teammate and always willing to invest his time in me. 

Duffy Stenger, Regal’s retired VP of sales & marketing, has a taught me a lot over the years on the sales side of the business, working with dealers and developing growth strategies. 

 

Lee Levandowski 
Owner, Charlotte Ski Boats

What was your first job?  
Working the gas dock at Klinger Lake Marina.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Opening Charlotte Ski Boats with my wife, Amanda.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry? 
Fishing charters in Costa Rica.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
Building anything, fixing random things, race cars, anything with an engine! Oyster Shooters in Key West, hiking/camping, building fires, traveling. Making things happen. Sunsets and sunrises. Longboarding at the beach, playing with my dog.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Anywhere the sun is shining.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
1988 Ski Centurion  and 1987 Malibu Skier.  

Who was your hero as a child? 
Papa and MacGyver.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
I have quite a few, first God, my papa, Norm Kraus, Mike Mckenzie, Mike Todd, Ed Brailsford.

 

Kira Melheim 
Marketing manager, SeaDek Marine Products

What first drew you to the industry?
I love the water and extreme sports, so the boating industry was a perfect combination of the two.

What was your first job?
My first career-related job was graphic designer for EA Sports.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
The accomplishment I am most proud of is becoming the marketing manager of SeaDek Marine Products at the age of 27. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry?
If I wasn’t working in the boating industry, I would probably be working for an extreme sports magazine or in the music industry.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Wiggins Pass.

What boat did you learn to boat on?
While having been on a handful of boats when I first began boating, the first boat I got the opportunity to drive was a Parker 23 Sport Cabin.

Who was your hero as a child?
Hands down, my childhood hero was Princess Leia. I first watched Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI when I was about seven years old and Princess Leia had a huge impact on me. While not being a “girly girl” myself, I was inspired by this incredible character that was in fact a princess, but could hold her own in a male-dominated environment. Not to mention, she has the force.

 

Mike Melillo 
Co-founder and CEO, Dockwa

What first drew you to the industry? 
I’ve always loved getting out on the water, but had my boating industry “lightbulb moment” in Newport, R.I., when I saw boats doing endless laps through the harbor trying in vain to secure dock space. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
That two years after we launched, Dockwa continues to grow at an accelerating pace. The majority of our early conversations with people in the boating industry were centered around the idea that this would never work. It would have been very easy to listen to those people and direct our attention elsewhere, but this team is full of dedicated and passionate people who are hell bent on challenging the status quo. 

Who was your hero as child?
Leroy Robert “Satchel” Paige. I was tasked to do a biography on him in the second grade and his story always stuck with me. I am absolutely positive that if I was presented with the same challenges I would not have possessed the dignity or will to achieve all that he accomplished. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My first boss and CEO Tim Burns. He taught me a lot about business but even more about life. The lessons he instilled in me will last a lifetime. 

 

Mike Menne 
Founder/production director, Strait Productions

What was your first job? 
My first job out of college was the marketing director at Premier Pontoons. It allowed me to meet many great people and learn the “ins and outs” of the industry.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Helping Marquis Yachts and Toyota Marine Group launch the Lexus Sport Yacht Concept last year in Miami. We were creative in our approach to getting the job done and it was awesome to help in relaunching the Lexus brand internationally.

What is your favorite place to go boating?  
Exploring Lake Vermilion at our family cabin near Cook, Minn. It’s one of the most beautiful lakes in America.

What boat did you learn to boat on?  
Learned to boat on a 1987 Forester Rio. We grew up on a lake and spent all our free time as kids out in the water skiing, tubing and hanging with friends.

Who was your hero as a child?  
It’s cliché, but my dad.  He was a great father, ran a successful business and was always having fun.  People love him for those reasons.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My uncle Bob is top of the list. He has been working in the marine industry since the 1970s and was just inducted into the NMMA Hall of Fame last fall. He has owned and operated a few boat brands over the years and I was always in awe of his passion and work ethic. He has a personality that you just love to be around.

 

Kate Mosley 
Marina manager, Saybrook Point Marina

What first drew you to the industry? 
I have been immersed in the industry since birth, as I grew up on a boat in the marina at which both my parents worked. Growing up in a marina was the best childhood I could imagine. 

What was your first job? 
Pumping gas at the fuel dock.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Working my way from an entry-level summer dock attendant position to marina manager in five years.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
I love active outdoor activities that connect me to nature: skiing, snowboarding, hiking, camping.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
The Connecticut River in fall. The foliage is breathtaking and it evokes warm childhood memories.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
A Boston Whaler. My best friend and I received our boater’s licenses at age 12 and spent the entire summer exploring the river and nearby creeks on my family’s Boston Whaler.

Who was your hero as child? 
My father Bruce Coderre. His motivation, drive and character is truly inspiring. He is continually creating or improving things, and is humble about his myriad accomplishments. Growing up, I always admired the way he would dive right into challenging projects, acquiring new skills with each undertaking.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
My mother Abbie McAllister broke barriers as a female marina manager at a prestigious marina and set a high standard of service and professionalism. She obtained her Certified Marina Manager status and has been the inspiration for my career. 

 

Jason Murphy 
President & owner, Norfolk Marine Company

What first drew you to the industry? 
My love for fishing.

What was your first job? 
Caddy shack at Horseshoe Bend Country Club.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry? 
I would undoubtedly still be in the golf industry running one of the tour equipment companies and probably be making more short putts.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
Golf and snowboarding.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
“The Narrows” in Virginia Beach.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
Cohasset Sailing Club - Lasers and Mercurys.

Who was your hero as a child? 
The Dukes of Hazzard brothers.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
I was raised watching my father have a tremendous work ethic while maintaining a good sense of humor and humility in his successes. I was lucky to land such a great father-in-law as well, I’ve learned a lifetime from him in the past 15 years and wouldn’t be where I am today without him. So, both of my dads. 

 

Joe Pegg 
Regional sales manager, Robalo Boats

What first drew you to the Industry? 
Boating has always been my passion and I grew up around the sport. Many of my best memories in life revolved around boating or fishing. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

What was your first job?
My first job was as a boat washer working weekends and summers for our family boat dealership/marina when I was a child.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
The Florida Keys is my favorite place to boat. I love the crystal blue waters and array of fishing opportunities. The Keys has amazing offshore, wreck and inshore fishing as well as some of the best reefs for diving.

What boat did you learn to boat on?
Our family had a 1984 Chaparral 234 walkaround outboard fish boat growing up that we kept for over 20 years. That was a great solid boat that caught a lot of fish and helped fuel my passion for the water.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
I have been very fortunate to be able to mentor and learn the boat business from my uncle Buck Pegg, the founder of Chaparral Boats, and Ann Baldree, the vice president of Robalo/Chaparral. Buck’s practical wisdom and knowledge of boats and the boating industry amazes me every day. He has always preached the value of hard work and dedication to what you do as the keys to success. Ann has an incredible way of dealing with people, solving problems, and managing our team. She has taught me the value of strong relationships and has passed on a wealth of knowledge from her years in the industry. I couldn’t have asked for a better team to learn from.

 

Doug Reichard 
General manager/co-owner, Stump Pass Marina/Neptune Boat Rentals/The Lighthouse Grill

What was your first job? 
My first job in the industry after school was a new boat rigger, installing electronics, pre-delivery inspections, outboard installations and sea trials at Stump Pass Marina.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
I’m most proud of taking the risk to leave a pretty good service manager job at a large dealership to open my first business, Neptune Boat Rentals. It ended up being the best decision I ever made, as the business took off, I had the opportunity to purchase the marina that the rental business was operating at, and later opened a restaurant and Tiki Bar on the same property.

Who was your hero as a child?  
My father and grandfather were always men that I looked up to.  I followed a similar path as my father. After serving in the Air Force, he started his career as a technician in the computer industry and worked his way to upper management in technical training schools. My grandfather was in the Navy during World War II, and I believe I got a lot of my technical abilities from him. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
Rick Sommers was the guy that hired me right out of school, taking a chance on an available entry-level technician position. He taught me many things in the industry, eventually moving me to management, and teaching me how to run a profitable service department during a tough economy for the industry. Also, my business partners at the marina, Tom Riddle and Joe Reichard, really taught me many things about running a much larger business and made purchasing the marina possible.

 

Andy Renne 
Manager, Seven Seas Yacht Sales

What first drew you to the industry? 
I grew up in it. My parents started Seven Seas Yacht Sales the year I was born.

What was your first job?  
I started working the boat shows at 14, in high school and college I also worked at a few bicycle shops doing sales and service.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry?  
I’d be working in finance or high-end real estate. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?  
Traveling.

What is your favorite place to go boating?  
Bimini, Bahamas.

What boat did you learn to boat on?  
13-foot Boston Whaler.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
Of course, my parents, as they have been in the marine industry for 30 years, and I also try to learn something from everyone I meet, so the people I surround myself with are also my mentors.

 

Allen Revak 
COO, Classic City Marinas
President, Eclipse Marine Group

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry?
If I was not working in the boating industry I would most likely be working in the software industry. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids at our houseboat, golfing with friends, hunting and recreational fishing. 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite lake to go boating on is Lake Keowee in South Carolina for a variety of reasons. Some of the main reasons include the unmatched water clarity, the mountain views, and memories of weekends with my family at the lake house. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?
The boat that I learned to boat on was a 2003 Sea Ray 240 Sundeck. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My father-in-law Michael Jansen has been an excellent mentor in my business career. In many ways, business comes to him naturally. He most likely does not understand the extent to which he has influenced my success. One example is how he has taught me the importance of maintaining integrity at all levels. 

 

Kyle Roney 
General manager, MarineMax Pompano & MarineMax Palm Beach

What first drew you to the industry? 
Desire to be near and on the water.  I grew up inland in upstate New York and visiting Myrtle Beach each spring made me fall in love with the Atlantic Ocean. The ocean is what first drew me to move to South Florida. 

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry?  
I would be working in the auto industry on the retail side of the business.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
An 11-foot aluminum rowboat that my friends and I hung a tiller motor on and took down a river. Unfortunately for the boat and my grandfather who owned it we found a very shallow and rapid section of the river that was “fun” to navigate or was until we capsized the boat and the water flow into the boat against the rocks was so much that the rivets holding the boat together popped out. Regardless, I was hooked and following the repairs my grandfather somehow still let us use the boat, for which we were much more careful, staying in appropriate areas and had a blast on the water.

Who was your hero as a child?  
My father.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
Yes, Paul Cummings. Paul hired me in 2007 and has helped guide me the past decade both professionally and personally. I will always be grateful for all his encouragement and faith in me. 

 

Allison Scharnow  
Marketing director, Chris-Craft 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Having both a family that supports me and a career that challenges me. We recently refreshed our branding, shot new photography for our entire model lineup, developed a brochure in-house and launched two new websites — all while I was pregnant. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?
Even though I thought I was driving our Wellcraft at age three on my father’s lap, the boat I really learned how to boat on was our Malibu Echelon. My parents were big skiers and I still remember many mornings in Annapolis when we’d head down to the dock to get in a few sessions before school that day. 

Who was your hero as child? 
My mother. She was the epitome of what a strong woman was to me and who I wanted to strive to become. She taught me to have a good attitude in everything you do and only to allow yourself a brief moment of defeat before you get back up and try again until you succeed. She still is my hero today. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My father. I watched him turn his passion of boating into his career and I wanted to do the same. He is the hardest worker I know and puts his whole heart into everything he does, and has fun doing it. 

 

Terri Schneider 
Strategic analyst, Correct Craft Holding Company, LLC

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
One of my favorites is when I worked in marketing for Nautique. The marketing team executed the most unique boat launch for the Super Air Nautique G23 where I played a key role behind the scenes coordinating and executing certain aspects of the plan. That boat and the G-Series has changed the industry and I’m so honored that I was a part of the team that saw that concept from start to finish. 

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
Most of my boating skills came from working at Correct Craft. I learned a lot from these three boats: Ski Nautique 196, Super Air Nautique 210 and the Super Air Nautique 220. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
First is Angela Pilkington, Correct Craft’s CFO. Without her guidance and support I would not be in the current role I am in. She helped me push through the fear of going back to school but also inspired me to take the strategic analyst position. She knew that I would excel in that position.  Second is Correct Craft CEO Bill Yeargin. He’s become a major influence not only in my career but personal development. 

 

Kevin Seelig 
Owner/President, Freedom Boat Club of Jacksonville & St. Augustine

What first drew you to the industry?  
At 12 I was enrolled in a summer camp at Shake A Leg Miami.  

What was your first job? 
Shake A Leg Miami. After volunteering for several summers I was hired as a summer dockmaster. After that summer I was kept on year-round as the weekend and summer dockmaster.    

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Buying the Freedom Boat Club franchise in September 2011, a month after graduating college.

What boat did you learn to boat on?   
The first boat I spent a lot of time on was a 20-foot Catalina sailboat. Shake A Leg had six at the time. They were unsinkable and unflippable as they were designed for disabled sailing. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
Most importantly my mom, Ursula Seelig, and Lisa Almeida, my business partner. I was an only child to a single mother. Before I could drive myself home, she waited in the parking lot more than an hour multiple times while I closed SALM down on the weekends. Eventually she loaned me capital to help buy into the FBC franchise. A few months prior to graduating, Lisa Almeida gave me the opportunity to buy the Jacksonville and St. Augustine Freedom Boat Club locations, where we had both been employees. We have a perfect partnership. Without that we wouldn’t be where we are today. 

 

Andrew Semprevivo 
COO, Seakeeper Inc.

What first drew you to the industry? 
My love for the water drew me to my first job at a local marina and I never looked back.  Working at my local marina tunneled my vision to a future career in the marine industry. 

What was your first job? 
Munros Marina in Mystic Islands, N.J.  My first professional job after college was with the Viking Yacht Company.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
I started with Seakeeper in 2008, entering a deflated market with an unknown product. I traversed the globe demonstrating our product so all could experience how a Seakeeper stabilized boat transformed the experience of being on the water. Since then, Seakeeper has grown by about 50 percent per year, created hundreds of jobs, formed partnerships with hundreds of builders and refit centers around the world, and opened boating to those once put off by boat roll. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?
I have owned several boats through my years, but my first boat was a 14-foot jon boat with a 1967 Evinrude 18hp. It was my first love. If I wasn’t in school or working, I was on that boat fishing, crabbing and exploring.

 

Lisa Sexton 
General manager, Gregg Orr Marine

What was your first job? 
My first job in the boat industry was in marina operations. I was a boat slip broker and ran two fuel docks and convenience stores on the lake. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am proud of how quickly myself and several of my team members have learned how to run a successful dealership and marina. I am proud of the team we have built here. It took three years of change to get where we are now and I am extremely proud of our team and our dealership.

Who was your hero as a child?
My grandfather Doyle Murphy was my hero growing up. He passed in 2010 but was a POW in WWII. He was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army at the Philippines and was in a POW camp for 1,218 days, as well as a survivor of the Bataan Death March. He was a plain country man and the greatest man I have ever known. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
First was a boat captain from Destin named Kevin Kaple. He really helped me in the beginning stages of my career and taught me a lot about running marine operations. Second was a man named Monty Dyer who has been working in the boat industry for 50+ years. Monty helped me recruit some amazing technicians and service manager. I have to mention Clay Staggs who has taught me almost everything I know about fixed operations. And of course, Gregg Orr has been and continues to be a mentor. He challenges me daily and pushes me to be a better me and to take the dealership to new levels. 

 

Ashley Smith  
Co-owner, Colorado Boat Center

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
In December 2016, I was awarded the Duane Spader Leadership Development Scholarship at the Marine Dealer Conference and Expo. I applied for the scholarship two years in a row and I was determined to get into the program especially as I was taking on the new role of ownership. I had a bruised ego the first time around, and I cringed at the thought of writing another essay. It took a lot of courage for me to be vulnerable and being judged by my peers. My determination paid off, and it demonstrated that I was invested in myself and my future in the boating industry.       

What boat did you learn to boat on?  
A custom 1985 23-foot Nordic that my parents saved all of their pennies for. The first memory of driving the boat was sitting on my dad’s lap.  I’m 37 years old and he still tells me on the way to the lake “don’t forget to put your lanyard cord on.”    

Who was your hero as child? 
My dad is Superman. From day one he has never let me down. He taught me my hard work ethic, has always shown unconditional love and shares my sense of humor.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
I’m fortunate to have parents who have been great role models. My key mentor outside of my family is Ann Baldree, vice president of Chaparral and Robalo Boats. Ann is the one who truly inspired me to make a career in the boating industry. I admire her grit and tenacity, and I value the friendship and mentorship she’s given me over the years.  

 

Ryan Strong 
Vice president, Strong’s Marine

What first drew you to the industry? 
My family owned the marina and my love for being on the water drew me closer to the boating world. 

What was your first job? 
My first paying job was being a gas attendent at Strong’s Marine.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
I am most proud of expanding our company to include our Water Club. We purchased Matt-Mar Marina in 2013 and renamed it Strong’s Water Club. Since then, we totally revitalized the property. I headed the projects with my vision for a family boating club that includes a pool and restaurant onsite. 

Who was your hero as child?  
When I was a child, my heroes were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They fought crime, kept the city safe and ate a lot of pizza. My human hero was my dad, Jeff Strong. He did an incredible job of making a wonderful life from our family marina business.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
When I was a teenager I met a client who quickly became my best friend. His name was Michael Constantin. I started off captaining his boat and later we were talking and fishing together during all of our free time. Michael was an extraordinary businessman who shaped a lot of who I am today. Our friendship was cut short when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack in 2007. We were best friends for almost six years. One thing he taught me was that, “You can only manage a team with the amount of fingers you have on one hand.” There were many other pieces of knowledge that he passed along to me that I will value forever. 

 

Chad Tyler 
Vice president/general manager, Skier’s Marine Inc.

What was your first job? 
At the age of 15, I was employed by Skier’s Marine as a boat washer for the service department. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Since starting with Skier’s Marine full time in 2010 I am extremely proud of the astounding team we have worked hard to build that has led to 271 percent growth for Skier’s Marine since January 2011. 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to spend time on the water is Lewis Smith Lake. Lewis Smith Lake is usually ranked as one of the cleanest lakes in the country. It boasts beautiful clear blue waters and mountainous terrain for the ultimate boating destination.  

What boat did you learn to boat on?
The first boat I can remember boating on was a green 1988 Malibu Skier that my father was given to use when he started working for Malibu Boats as a part-time sales rep.

Who was your hero as a child?
My childhood hero, as cliché an answer as I can give, is my father. Watching him work full time as a career police officer while building Skier’s Marine into the company it has become and still making time to coach my youth baseball teams is incredible.

 

Josh Vallely 
Owner/general manager, Vallely Sport & Marine

What was your first job? 
Detailing and washing boats.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
Successfully transitioning our family business to the third generation.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry? 
Tough question. I am guessing it would be something sales related where I could be interacting with people.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?  
Hunting, watching and following sports, spending time with family and friends.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
Lake Sakakawea, N.D.

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
Bayliner Capri.

Who was your hero as child? 
Garth Brooks.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My parents have been key mentors and influencers in my life. I am very fortunate to have been raised by such hard working, positive and driven people. I also have been surrounded my many industry colleagues through 20 Groups and industry involvement that have been key to my success. 

 

Nicole Vasilaros 
Vice president, federal and legal affairs, National Marine Manufacturers Association

What first drew you to the industry? 
As a native Floridian, I grew up on the water and boating was a typical pastime. In 2011, I was working on Capitol Hill and my boss lost her reelection bid. As fate would have it, NMMA was looking to hire a new lobbyist and the opportunity seemed like a good chance to use my political skills while advocating for an industry that hit particularly close to home. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 
At 16 years old I came to Washington, D.C. for a political leadership conference. I was so enthralled with this city and political world, I committed to one day getting an education and living in this great city. I am proud to have followed my dream, persisted in my education and career endeavors and be living and working in DC all these years later. 

What boat did you learn to boat on? 
36-foot Grady White.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My mom and aunt were instrumental in pushing me to be an independent, career-oriented woman — to always speak up and never be fearful to take control. My father inspired me to enter the legal field and engrained in me the value of equal justice under the law. These influences served as the backbone to my ambition and career direction. 

 

Kyle Wilkerson 
President/COO, MariCorp U.S.

What was your first job? 
Sales associate at MariCorp U.S.

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in the boating industry?
I would be looking for a job in the boating industry!

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy golf, aviation and attending Kansas City and University of Missouri sporting events.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Table Rock Lake, which is in Southwest Missouri. This lake has the cleanest and smoothest waters in Missouri. Table Rock Lake is a great place for family fun and various water sports. 

Who was your hero as a child?
Like most young boys, my childhood hero was my father Keith. He was always supportive of my brother and me, and he instilled a strong work ethic in both of us. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 
The team we have built at MariCorp US constantly motivates me to become a better leader. Our team members possess extensive backgrounds in this industry and various others. This cultivates an environment of constant personal improvement and development.  

 

Lauren Woodard-Splatt 
General manager/vice president, Woodard Marine

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Personally, I have had so many amazing events in my life. The one accomplishment that stands out the most is racing a hand-built hydroplane one summer in an APBA racing circuit. Going home with a trophy was the highlight of that racing season.  

Professionally, I am most proud of building an amazing team to work with every day. Having a great team makes the days better and having mutual respect within the work environment is incredible. 

What boat did you learn to boat on?   
When I was six or seven years old, my parents gave me a 1982 16-foot Peterborough closed bow boat with a small remote Mercury 2-stroke. I was allowed to go wherever I wanted, as long as I could see the dealership while on the water (about a mile radius). 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  
My parents and my husband. I am lucky enough to work with them every day.   

2 comments

  1. Awesome Kyle!! We are so lucky to have you at MariCorp U.S.

  2. Congrats to all 40 Under 40 in the boating industry on behalf of the Monica Burguera Foundation promoting boating safety education @mbfsafety.org

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