2020 Women Making Waves

Woman Making Waves - Stand-out women in the boating industry

Women Making Waves is Boating Industry’s effort to recognize the multitude of women in the industry who have made and continue to make great contributions to its success, propel its growth and lead their organizations and peers into the future.

With nearly 100 nominations for this year’s Women Making Waves, choosing the highlighted women was no easy task. There is such a large and continuously growing number of women doing incredible work in our industry that the pages don’t provide enough space to honor each and every one. However, the women below have given everything they have and more to the marine industry and have accomplished so much, with a pledge to continue pushing the industry forward.

Here they are, the 25 Women Making Waves as nominated by the industry and selected by Boating Industry.

Jodi Allen
Marina Manager, TSJC Corp. dba Lakeway Marina

Education: Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sports Sciences
Years in the marine industry: 19.5 years
Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: Sun Resorts International:  Store Manager, Buyer, Marketing/Sales Manager, Assistant Manager

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up in the Panhandle of Texas and boated on Ute Lake in Logan N.M. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to own a 20 slip bait shop just like the marina on Ute Lake. Once I graduated from Texas Tech University, I moved straight to Austin and was hired by Lakeway Marina. I have been here since and love it. My husband and family now own the marina, as well as a second one on Lake Travis.   

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
I’ve learned a lot about managing people over the years.  In the marine industry, we have many age groups to manage from our service department staff to our summer high school/college age kids.  Learning to manage many different age groups and personalities have been both challenging and rewarding. 

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
Being elected the Marina Association of Texas president. It was a great honor to lead a group of marina owners and managers during my term.  I was young when I started in the marine business and I remember going to the annual marina conferences and thinking to myself, I want to be president of this association one day. 

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not? 
I was very fortunate to have worked for such a large marina company when I first started in the industry, therefore I learned every aspect of the business. I understand inventory, accounting, service, docks, boat rentals, marketing, customer service, management and all the requirements that come with each piece to a marina.  It was not difficult for me while I was working for Sun Resorts and my hard work paid off by moving up the ladder quickly. I had many job titles with them and learned it all. Once the marina was purchased by my family, the transition was much easier with the knowledge I had. 

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry? 
I have encountered many cashiers and women dockhands that wish to continue in the marine industry and I encourage them to finish school and come back and see me. With the contacts I’ve made over the years through the Marina Association of Texas, I can typically find a company that will be a great fit for them. I encourage everyone interested in the industry to join their state marina association. That is where I made most of my contacts and have learned so much about the business. Marina owners and managers are very passionate about their career choice so you can usually find someone to call when you need help or have questions. 

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry? 
Work hard every day and learn every aspect of the business and you will be a great asset for any marina company.  One thing that I learned early on through the marina association is to visit different marinas all over the country or your state. Marinas are all so different and it’s great to see what other owners/managers are doing. I enjoy being on the Marina of the Year committee, so that I can tour all the marinas nominated. It gives me great ideas for my own marina. When my husband and I travel, we usually end up at a marina or several of them just to see what they are doing. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 
Is there another hobby?  Boating is absolutely my favorite hobby but making memories with my husband and our friends traveling the world is a favorite. The four of us are all in the marina business and anywhere we go, we are typically boating.   

Shannon Barrows
Partner/VP of Business Development, DLR Financial

Education: Entrepreneur - Educated in many fields
Years in the marine industry: I am excited to celebrate my one-year anniversary

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Sexy boats and the need to change the black and white stigma surrounding F&I in this industry. I had many conversations with my business partners about how this space typically operates. I loved the idea of being the best in this space and focusing on people first. The profit will come only after people are totally taken care of. Our dealers and their clients are our number one priority at any time of the day or night. Truly aligning with a company with the same moral compass and mentored by some of the industry’s top leaders is what drew me in. Fully trusting our talented team to offer a proven transparent financial growth platform like no other totally sets us apart and allows us to deliver the service and profit we stand behind.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Have real raw conversations. This is where you get to begin the process of true trust and relationships that are business altering. Don’t be shy or afraid to ask exactly what you need to know out of the fear it might offend someone or be too personal at the time. Keep the focus on making good things happen for others.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
Calling on a past client to let him know how we have completely rebranded our business and we are ready to serve them. Hearing his doubts and past obstacles. Understanding why he has this opinion and then not giving up and letting him off that phone without an instant plan to go all in. Two weeks later we on-boarded him and now six months later we have the biggest supporter of DLR Financial. Delivering on the promises I made to him and seeing the progress financially has been very rewarding. I value the relationship we have built over applying our best business practices.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to empower women to always have real honest conversations and ask the questions no one wants to ask but may be completely relevant to assisting them to greatness. The business world is ever evolving and changing. It’s time to trust your knowledge and skills to change the way certain segments in this industry have operated. Black and white does not exist in my world!

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Go all in and learn as much as you can. Gain anything you can from the leaders in your field that have become successful. Keep a watchful eye on the trends, read articles, gather as much insight from others around you, and then add your own spice to make it even better! Find a workplace that supports and aligns with your core values and will provide opportunities for you to excel. Focus on people first, stay true to your integrity, and do not ever waiver or bend when something is not right.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Egmont Key in the Gulf of Mexico; beautiful place with tons of history.

Abby Benchimol
Marketing Manager, Harborside Marina & Yacht Sales

Education: B.B.A. Marketing, James Madison University
Years in the marine industry: My whole life (4-plus years working)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I have been a shoreline girl my entire life. My parents bought Harborside Marina when I was almost 2 years old and I spent any free time possible playing on boats with other kids around the marina. As soon as I was old enough, I spent summers and weekends working as an office assistant and finally as a full-time marketing manager post-graduation.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
The marine industry is definitely relationship-focused and building and maintaining customer relationships is crucial to success. Although you cannot please everyone, I have found that kindness and consideration go a long way. I also have learned the value of having a career you are passionate about. Ironically enough, this was my first-full-time job and, at only 23, I feel extremely lucky to wake up and be excited to come to work each morning.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
Our digital marketing efforts over the past year are something I am really proud of. Creating and managing a ‘brand identity,’ for Harborside through social media, email, online advertising, and other unique low-cost forms of marketing for smaller businesses has definitely been the most memorable and fun. By shifting our marketing efforts to primarily digital, we have seen a huge increase in both sales and service leads and ROI. That being said, I think it is difficult to pinpoint one achievement as my own. Most everything I have accomplished has been as a result of a team effort, which I think is really a powerful thing unique to the marine industry.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
It hasn’t been overly ‘difficult’ in a negative way, but it has definitely taught me how to step outside my comfort zone and advocate for myself in a primarily male-dominated industry.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to be an example of a young professional woman who is building and growing her career in the marine industry. From my first part-time job to working full-time, I have enjoyed every minute of it and hope I can inspire another young woman to follow her passion.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Work hard, challenge yourself, and always keep learning. There is something so special about this industry and the passion it drives. I would encourage anyone interested to give it a shot.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Definitely Long Island Sound (CT Shoreline). I will always have a special place in my heart for where I grew up boating. 

Michelle Burke
President, Lake Erie Marine Trades Association; Executive Director, Boating Association of Ohio

Education: BA, Boston College and MA, from Case Western Reserve University.
Years in the marine industry: 1.5 years
Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: I started a boating lifestyle apparel company called Lyman Life rooted in the old wooden Lyman Boats. I was inspired to start this company based on an authentic American legacy brand after we purchased our Lyman boat in 2016. Lyman Life connects this vintage brand to today’s boaters and promotes and inspires the boating lifestyle.

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
When my husband said, “let’s get a boat” back in 2015, my response was “you are nuts, we do not need a boat! Who needs a boat?” We proceeded to buy an old wooden Lyman, known for their classic lines and lapstrake construction. I instantly fell in love with boating and the lifestyle. Starting the Lyman Life company took me to exhibiting at boat shows, where I immediately thought of so many ways the shows could be improved. Little did I know what my future held!

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
I believe the fact that I did not grow up boating, or have a background in the marine industry has turned out to be a strength. What I came to realize was the industry primarily focused on current boaters, but I had a real passion for reaching the “you’re crazy who needs a boat people,” like I once was, and turning them into passionate boat owners. So when I look at the marketing of shows and boating, I certainly want to capture our loyal base but reach out to first timers and the younger generation because that is where the growth is.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
The 2020 Progressive Cleveland Boat Show was really the pinnacle of all the ideas I believed would make a successful show. After all, the boats we are selling are not hardware, they’re an experience. I concluded the boat show must also be an exciting experience. So, we added a myriad of interactive family experiences and entertainment; a 22% increase in attendance resulted.  But perhaps the most gratifying compliment came when our Progressive representative said he was in awe of the experiences that our team had created. An “experiential” boat show can exhibit the lifestyle we are promoting and that, in turn, will generate excitement and sales for our exhibitors. That was my goal. For years people said the show never recovered from the recession of 2008.  This year people said, “the boat show is back!” 

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
It was not difficult to navigate, as I have two amazing mentors, both Norm Schultz, who was in my position for 34 years and Ken Alvey who succeeded Norm for 11 years. They come from different backgrounds and are both incredibly helpful to me.  Additionally, I have a supportive board that embraces my creativity.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
For the most part, this has been a male-dominated industry for years. I do hope that women can look at my background (non-marine related) and say to themselves, “I can do this.”  The marine industry is a passion for so many. If you did not grow up cultured in this industry, one is unlikely to even consider it as a career path.  What I really hope to do is inspire younger people, both male and female, to boating and to this industry. Again, this is our future and I am always looking ahead.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry? 
Do not be afraid to share your ideas and run with them. Take a risk and don’t always pursue to well-traveled route, you will be amazed at your own potential.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
We boat off Catawba Island on Lake Erie. It is absolutely beautiful. I can honestly say the happiest memories I have with my family are the times we’ve spent on the boat.

Melanie Clement
General Manager, Rinker’s Boat World at Lakeshore

Education: Texas A&M University
Years in the marine industry: 36

Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies:  

  • 32 years with Lakeshore Sports (now Rinker’s Boat World), General Manager at Lake Conroe location.
  • 10 years Lake Conroe Waterski School (some years overlapped), Instructor/Owner.

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Ron Gilstrap, a one-legged barefoot skier, asked our Texas A&M waterski team to ski in a waterski show. He taught us everything about show skiing. Between shows I would give waterski lessons.  After college, my husband and I started our own waterski school that we ran for 10 years. Many of my customers would want to purchase a boat after their children and families enjoyed being out on the water so much, so all of sudden I was in the marine business selling boats.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Patience and how to listen. Each family goes through the different life stages.  If you can gain their trust and fit them with the correct boat for that stage, they will be a customer for every life stage and in turn, for life. Usually every stage requires a different boat that suits that age and/or interest.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
In 1992, our office for Lakeshore Sports was on a houseboat on Lake Conroe and we were awarded the Cobalt Boat line for the Houston area. We had worked hard and customers wrote letters describing how well we took care of them and how much they would like to see us selling the Cobalt brand. It was an honor then and we still appreciate it today! 

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I encourage all women to pursue their goals. I had a mentor who challenged me and encouraged me to be the best I could be and I hope to do the same.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Never look back! Women have great communication and relationship skills so men are not intimidated by asking beginner questions with them. There is a huge opportunity to be successful in the industry that people dream of being a part of.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I love my tennis team. As a family, we do quite a bit of off-roading with Jeeps. I love anything outdoors and of course boating!

Michelle Dauchy
Chief Marketing Officer, Mercury Marine

Education: MBA Kellogg School of Business, BA Dartmouth College
Years in the marine industry: 5 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My journey to the marine industry was a little unconventional; I didn’t grow up boating, unless you count riding in rowboat or a canoe, or a Circle Line tour in New York City. My serious interest in the industry began in 2015, when Mercury recruited me for the CMO role. At that point, I honestly knew very little about boats and engines, but quickly came to respect the industry’s history and its incredibly hardworking and passionate people. In addition to becoming a boater, what really excited me was the opportunity to leverage my marketing experiences and knowledge to attract and engage boaters while building a strong affinity for the Mercury brand.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
I’ve learned many lessons about the boating industry, but the most significant is the power of experience, collaboration and user centricity. Successfully encouraging potential boaters to experience the adventure, relaxation and human connection that boating offers is a powerful opportunity for our industry.  I’ve also seen first-hand, when we put the boater at the center of innovation – whether it be product, service or even innovation in the buying experience – the positive impact we can have.  This becomes exponentially more powerful with collaboration across the various businesses in the marine ecosystem.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
It’s difficult to highlight a single industry achievement, but I’m extremely excited by the tremendous innovation in controls and technology that simply makes boating easier and more enjoyable. There has always been a high correlation between childhood boating and boat ownership as an adult, in part because boating requires some experience and skill. It’s exciting to see innovations like Joystick Piloting, Active Trim and VesselView systems that lower some of the hurdles to becoming a boater. As a new boater, I’m living proof that these innovations make it possible to enjoy the boating lifestyle. I’m a strong believer that making boating easier will help us all access new consumer segments improving the ability for the marine industry to compete with other experiences like travel and RVing.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
I had heard that leaders in this industry were predominately men, but I was pleased and impressed to feel welcome and respected from my earliest days at Mercury and in boating. Perhaps the most difficult part was developing a network of people I could trust to help me learn the industry while also striving to make a quick impact.  I was fortunate to have an experienced and supportive team that helped me navigate the industry. I also spent many hours during my first year “on the water” talking with boaters and prospective boaters to provide insight that has ultimately fueled our marketing strategy.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
To be honest, I don’t see that as a personal goal, but I certainly hope it is an outcome. I always strive to excel professionally and personally, and I truly appreciate this opportunity to coach and mentor both women and men within and outside the marine industry. If anything, I hope that a mom of three wonderful teenagers, a female leader at Mercury and someone who didn’t grow up as a boater will inspire others like her to pursue their passion and goals.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Be yourself; embrace the different perspective and skills you bring to the business; build connections; and work hard.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
I’m happy to report that since joining Mercury, my family and I have become avid boaters. This will be our third season boating. Most of our boating is done on Lake Michigan near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where we live. Some of my favorite times on the water are the simplest – anchoring and relaxing with the family with the Milwaukee skyline in the background, watching the Fourth of July fireworks from our Vantage and enjoying a cup of tea or a glass of wine on the bow.

Marsha Fisher
General Manager, Marine Sales Group – Pickwick

Education: High school graduate
Years in the marine industry: 28 years

Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies:

  • 1992 – 1997, Al’s Honda Seadoo, Sales
  • 1997 – 2008, Pier 57 Boat Sales and Service, Sales
  • 2008 – 2009, Pickwick Sales, Sales
  • 2009 – 2017, Pier 57 Boat Sales and Service, General Manager

What first drew you to the marine industry?
After graduating high school, I was looking to find something to do in Pickwick related to the water or lake business. We are in a small town, with no stoplights and surrounded by the Tennessee River and Pickwick Lake. I knew if I wanted to continue living here, it would be more beneficial to find a job pertaining to the water.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
One of the most important lessons to me is to always be honest in your word, even if you can’t make the person happy with your answer. Be true and honest and you will always succeed. People just want to be told the truth and will value you more if they know you are telling it to them.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
In the marine industry sometimes women are not looked upon to be the most informative people, rather than a man. I worked almost 20 years for Pier 57 around a lot of “go fast” boats such as Fountain, MTI, Cigarette, Donzi, etc. where that industry is dominated by men. I attended several Poker Runs and dealer meetings at each of these manufacturers and dealt firsthand with many of the owners. I remember Ski Bravor of Cigarette Boats personally asking me to fly to Miami and assist him with some company designs and decisions for upcoming boats. This was such an honor to me as a woman. I realized that women can be recognized in a role which men typically dominate.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
I think there are more challenges due to men wanting to deal with men in some instance, but if you have the confidence to prevail to a customer, this can be overcome. Sometimes you will often find after receiving someone’s trust or confidence in you that regardless of gender, you will receive the respect deserved and find yourself in a successful career.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I would hope that all women feel they have the ability to do anything, whether in the marine industry or any other field. We all have our strengths and once we learn those, we should find areas to shine.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Always pay attention and learn from your seasoned bosses, salesmen, teachers, manufacturers, etc. Always try to learn one thing every day about what your company does and offers. Listen to what your customer is asking for. Do not overpromise the world, just make what you say can happen and make it happen.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I sit on the board of directors for the Darryl Worley Foundation. They are a 501-3C organization that raises money for a lot of charities touching my heart; Cancer centers, Lebonheur Hospital, St. Jude, Harmonies for Hollis, local schools, etc. I am very active in these fundraisers and events. I also own a restaurant and Ice Cream Shop here in Pickwick. I love meeting with so many diverse customers and meeting so many people from all over the world.

Jamie Haradine
General Manager/Owner, Wakeside Marine

Education: Arizona State University, BS
Years in the marine industry: 3 years

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
Boating has always been in our family’s blood. Lake life was never not an option! In 2002, my husband, Jeff Haradine, purchased a marina and storage facility. Shortly thereafter, Wakeside Marine was born. In 2017, Jeff accepted an opportunity with Barletta Pontoons and I joined Wakeside as the general manager. I had never worked a day in the boating industry and had a lot to learn quickly. It was trial by fire.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
The seasonality of the industry is very challenging. Adjusting your workflow every few months requires intense organization. Extensive product knowledge is essential to a successful marina operation. This is a business with many details that need to be learned quickly, as they are all critical to a thriving operation. We’re not just selling products, we’re selling a lifestyle.  

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
When I took over the management of Wakeside as a virtual novice, I wanted to implement a different system of organization with long time employees who had been accustomed to the “old ways of doing things.” Change is difficult for anyone.   Fortunately, I was able to involve the staff, solicit their ideas and gain their support for the needed adjustments. The employees saw the changes as benefits to their workload and production, while also having a vested interest in the success of Wakeside. Not only was I able to retain valuable employees and improve our efficiency, but our team felt they had provided a needed contribution to the future of our business.  

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
My previous careers in pharma and education were dominated by women. The competitive marine industry is a totally different animal with a workforce and a customer base  principally male-oriented. As a female in the lead position you definitely need to wear many hats! Knowing the mechanics behind your product, how to negotiate a sale and how to relate to the many different personalities entering your showroom are prerequisites for success. It also doesn’t hurt to know how to back up a 30-foot trailer.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
It is important that women in all industries see that their options are unlimited. As the mother of two teenage daughters I have already involved them in our business.  They are learning from the ground up by cleaning and detailing boats, working in the pro shop and maintaining the showroom. They are impressed with the products, enjoy speaking with the customers and are learning to work within a group toward a common goal. These are basics in any industry. Knowing your products, knowing your audience, maintaining a fair and ethical code of standards and being unafraid to devote time and energy to your business are keys to success with any gender.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Get involved at all levels. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Always push yourself to be better. Surround yourself with knowledgeable people who will support you, but also offer constructive criticism.  

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Without a doubt, at our family home on Corey Lake, Michigan!   

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Free time? Never heard of it! When I’m not boating or thinking about boating, I enjoy watching our daughters play high school sports, vacationing with family, camping in Northern Michigan and enjoying a good bottle of wine with Jeff over dinner.

Victoria Harris
Office Manager, Pasadena Boat Works

Education: Anne Arundel Community College
Years in the marine industry: 2.5 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
Boating has always been a part of my family’s life. I grew up on the water in Pasadena, Md. We had everything from canoes and paddleboats to sport and fishing boats. My uncle, Capt. Eddie Sienkiewicz, started his crabbing business from our house on Main Creek, and now runs a successful crab store here in Pasadena.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
One of the biggest lessons I have learned working in the marine industry, is every customer has a unique experience when it comes to buying a boat. It is my job to make each experience as personal and a fun as I can from start to finish.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
A memorable achievement was being a part of this team at Pasadena Boat Works during the first year we made the Top 100 dealer list in all of North America. Being a small and fairly new business, it means a great deal.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
It is fair to say it is difficult to navigate a career in the industry as a woman, especially one under 25 years old. Stacy McDonough, the previous office manager here at Pasadena Boat Works had given me a lot of knowledge that she had acquired over the years. It is a competitive business, and knowledge is a key part in gaining confidence from our customers.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to inspire women with my success. I hope to continue to be a strong asset at PBW and help us grow. 

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
My advice for women starting a career in the marine industry is to be honest, confident and have fun! In an industry dominated by men, don’t be afraid to step up and prove yourself. Always try to learn something new and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to go boating would definitely be in the Florida Keys. However, I love the Chesapeake Bay and catching those tasty Maryland blue crabs!

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I love to travel and go to as many sporting events as I can. Whether it’s going to see the Washington Capitals or going to Camden Yards to watch the Orioles play.

Jodie Haven MacLean
Vice President of Administration, Correct Craft

Education: M.B.A., Master of Business Administration, University of Central Florida; B.S.B.A., Management of Information Systems, University of Central Florida, SPHR and SHRM-SCP
Years in the marine industry: 5 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I must admit that my entry into the marine industry was unintentional. When I went back to school for my MBA, I met a classmate that worked as a production manager for Nautique, a watersports boat manufacturer based in Orlando, Fla. I am a little embarrassed to admit, but I had never heard of Nautique before meeting Kris.  However, over the next two years while we attended classes, I learned a lot about Nautique and its parent company, Correct Craft. Kris was always eager to share information about Nautique with teachers and classmates and his attitude and appreciation for the company he worked for made a lasting impression on me.

About a year after graduation, Kris reached out to me about an opportunity at Correct Craft for a director of administration role. I was not actively looking to change jobs at the time and was comfortable in my position, albeit not necessarily challenged. I thought the job description was a very good fit for my skill set, and admiring the passion that Kris had for Nautique, I thought it was at least worth considering. After meeting with the leadership team and learning more about Correct Craft and its desire for growth, I knew that I wanted to be part of the journey. And what a journey it has been! I have had the opportunity to participate in seven acquisitions and assist with the optimization and growth of all the Correct Craft companies, which now include eight boat brands, marine engine and transmission companies, an innovation company and three cable water parks.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
The impact that company culture has on an organization is transformational and has the greatest impact on the ability of a business to be successful long-term. 

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
One of the most satisfying achievements I have had in this industry is the implementation of an incentive-based employee mentor program for production team members. In recent years, as the labor market has become more competitive and unemployment has been at a low, it has become increasingly more difficult to find and keep good people in all areas, but even more so for the production teams.  As turnover increased at some of our locations, it was having a very negative impact on tenured employees because they were forced to compensate for a less experienced workforce. As a result, we began to see attrition rates rising amongst experienced employees as well as newcomers. Further, our strongest team members were reluctant to put forth the time and effort to train new employees when the majority were not staying with the company. 

Across all our companies, we have taken steps to curb turnover; however, one of our newer acquisitions was experiencing turnover rates in excess of 80%. For this location, we decided to pilot an incentive-based employee mentor program that I developed to combat turnover where a more aggressive approach was needed. The program was designed to enlist frontline employees in our efforts to reduce turnover and improve the work environment for all our employees. Production employees with at least one year of service were invited to join the program to mentor and help onboard new employees.  In return, the company rewarded successful mentors with a bonus if the new hire reached their first milestone (120 days) and a larger bonus at the one-year anniversary.

The response from the production team was overwhelmingly positive and we were able to reduce the turnover by over 50% in less than 18 months. More importantly, the positive impact it has had on the company culture has been a pleasure to watch.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
At Correct Craft, I have had the privilege to follow some very competent women in the industry that have contributed greatly to our company culture and paved the way for other women entering the marine industry. My predecessor has been one of those women and she inspires me daily to do my best work.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to set the same example of the great leadership that I have had the privilege to work with over my career and especially during my time at Correct Craft. I feel very fortunate and proud to be a part of the marine industry, which is full of people passionate about boating and about making life better for others.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
My advice would be the same for any industry. Do quality work consistently and set a high bar.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Anywhere and everywhere! I love any opportunity to be on the water.

Savannah Hess
Editor, Great Lakes Scuttlebutt

Education: “Some” college
Years in the marine industry: 13 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I’ll have to admit that when I started working here, I was 22 and simply needed a job. But what KEPT me here is the great work environment, both of my immediate surroundings and of the industry. I came from a roofing background and found the marine industry much more low-key and easier going, and far more accepting of my sometimes-inescapable tendency to try to make jokes.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
When I started working in the industry, I certainly had no idea that it was as intricate and expansive as it is. In retrospect, why wouldn’t it be, right? But I have still been surprised and intrigued to learn about each ‘next thing,’ how it relates to the previous incarnation, and the considerations around how it will inspire others to adapt and evolve.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
When Great Lakes Scuttlebutt successfully emerged from the crunch of the 2008/2009 downturn and we were still able to produce a superior product than before, I knew we had achieved something special. There were 15 publications in the Great Lakes region beforehand and there are only three these days. I’m definitely proud to have been a part of our success.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
Not for me, but that is likely because we have a great person at the head of our company. Erik has been encouraging throughout and always supportive. His attitude has never invited negativity into my career and, instead, he has allowed for as many opportunities for the company as a whole – always keeping me near the helm.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
As a non-boater growing up and as someone who has never earned an official college degree, I firmly believe that there is a place in this industry for people who have drive, smarts, and a willingness to commit to the passion the industry calls for. I hope that my success can encourage others to see beyond what they lack, find a bit of humor in the juxtaposition, and forge on anyway while being ready and willing to learn as you go.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
This is a great time to be part of the marine industry. Women have proven to be great leaders, amazing contributors, and are more welcomed in more ways than seen even 10 years ago. Simply step up because the course is yours to take.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I confess I have many favorite hobbies that are non-boating! I’m a nerd that loves the outdoors, so you are just as likely to find me planning my next hunting or hiking/camping adventure as you are finding me daydreaming of someday cosplaying at a convention. I basically take great pleasure in attempting to raise children to live Tolkien-inspired lives, made a tad more complete by having donated my five-foot-tall genetics to them.

Carly Hysell
PR & Media Relations Manager, Garmin

Education: B.S. in Public Relations from Kansas State University
Years in the marine industry: 12 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up in Minnesota fishing with my dad and grandpa, so the water has always had a huge place in my heart. There’s something uniquely special about how being on the water brings people together, and as much as I was drawn to it when I was a kid, it’s even more prevalent for me now as an adult. After college, I was fortune to land a job at Garmin, where I had interned my senior year. I’d never known a company as diverse as Garmin – where else can you talk about boating, flying, hunting, running, hiking and cycling in the same day, let alone the same meeting?

Garmin makes products that fuel peoples’ passions and I knew right away that working for them would be a great opportunity to pursue a career that allowed me to blend my passion for the water with my goals professionally. And while I think our love for the water and the sport of fishing is what attracts us all to the industry initially, the passion of the people here is so contagious that it’s impossible not to love it.  

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
By comparison, the marine industry might seem small, but over the years I’ve learned that there are so many micro industries within it – all with their own nuances. Fortunately for me, Garmin products appeal to all types of boaters and anglers, so I’ve had the opportunity to experience it all – freshwater, saltwater, inshore, offshore, cruising, wakeboarding, sailing, sail racing, kayaking, just to name a few. I’ve learned that each come with their own set of rules, traditions and lingo, but at their core, all share one commonality: no matter what part(s) of the industry you’re in, we’re all here to help people enjoy and sustain the waters and fish we love so much.

Also, relationships are everything. The marine industry is one giant extended family, and that’s one of the things I love the most about it. If you need advice, or a contact, or just a helping hand carrying boxes into a tradeshow, the people in this industry will line up to help you. And if you reciprocate it, chances are you’ll walk away with new connections and friendships you’ll take with you for years to come.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
It’s tough to pick just one, but from a professional standpoint, I’d have to say that Garmin winning back-to-back ICAST Best of Show awards was pretty remarkable. The first year, we won the best electronics category for Panoptix LiveScope, and then went on to receive the Best of Show honor too. We prevailed over a competitor that had previously won the category for the past seven years, then earned the top spot that more than 330 other companies were vying for. The following year, we repeated the Best of Show honors for our Force Trolling Motor, a brand new product category for our company. These awards solidified our commitment to delivering the most innovative technology on the water, and they reinforced that Garmin was a serious competitor in the freshwater industry. We are a product-focused company at our core, but as a communications professional, it wasn’t just about the product wins for me – it was about shifting the perspective and reputation of our marine brand. The back-to-back ICAST Best of Show recognitions were an incredible achievement for our entire team, and something I’ll always be proud to have been a part of.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
Garmin’s world headquarters are in Kansas City, right in the heart of America. Sure, we have lakes here, but we’re about as far away from the ocean as you can get in the U.S. Geographically speaking, that’s certainly made it more challenging to be completely immersed in all of the marine markets we serve, but I also believe it has made me appreciate the marine industry that much more. Because I don’t have an ocean or lake in my backyard, I never take an opportunity on the water for granted. Professionally, I’m thankful to work for a company who values hiring associates who are passionate about the products and markets they serve. That kind of support makes it infinitely easier to have a career in this industry…especially when you’re landlocked!

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope women aren’t deterred from the marine industry because they’re worried about the criticism that could come from being in a male-dominated industry. For every woman I know that’s making waves in the marine space, there’s a team of men in the background cheering her on.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Don’t listen to the old adage of ‘fake-it-‘til-you-make-it.’ That doesn’t apply here, and it’s the quickest way to ruin your credibility. You certainly don’t have to know everything there is to know about the marine industry, you just have to want to learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, try new techniques or explore a new fishery; there are so many generous people in this industry who want to share their knowledge with you.

Also, don’t discredit how many career opportunities there are in the marine industry. It’s great if you want to be a boat captain or a professional angler, but if that’s not the path you want to take, there are so many other ways to contribute and make a difference in this industry. And speaking of opportunities: take every one you can to get on the water. No one has ever regretted being on the water too much.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Few places compare to the beautiful waters off of Costa Rica, but there’s still something about going back to Lake Carlos in my hometown in Minnesota that gets me every time. I love going offshore, but the Midwestern roots run deep.  

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
We try to be outside as much as possible, mostly chasing around my 5-year-old, Brady. I also enjoy actual running too. Half-marathons have always been my distance of choice, but someday I hope to talk myself into tackling a full marathon.

Melanie Kyle
Director of Operations, Marine Ad Network

Education:  Master of Business Administration
Years in the marine industry:  8 years

Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: Great Lakes Scuttlebutt Magazine – Digital Marketing Manager

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
In 2008, when the financial crisis began my husband tasked me with finding out what we could do to help the marine industry. At that time, I quickly realized how far behind our industry was in marketing technology. The rest is history!

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Listen to your peers – Take their advice and build on it. I have also learned that it takes time for this industry to adopt to new business ideas. We have clients that we have been pitching for five years that have finally decided to give us a try. Lesson learned: Do not give up!  

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
The day we clicked the “live” button on the Marine Ad Network. I had spent countless hours working with marine publishers educating them on why they should utilize our network. Seeing that hard work come to fruition is one of my greatest accomplishments. Also, one of the scariest days of my life!

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
It was very hard in the beginning. Fortunately, my husband has spent over 25 years in this industry and has been able to introduce me to many wonderful people.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to inspire other women in our industry by showing them that with a dream and determination anything is possible. I hope to be a mentor – taking new women in the industry and showing them the ropes and introducing them to all of the wonderful people I have met in this industry.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Get involved! Network with anybody and everybody. Find a mentor. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Find your voice!  

What is your favorite place to go boating?
The Great Lakes. We love going to Kelly’s Island and Put-in-Bay on the weekends.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I love to travel. Our latest adventure was taking our kids to Tanzania and the Seychelles in Africa last summer.

Trista Kebeck
Operations Manager, Coty Marine

Education: H.S./Marina Management
Years in the marine industry: 6 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
To be honest I never thought I would work in the marine industry. I had lost my job prior due to lack of hours and I needed to work to raise my three growing boys. So, I applied for the position of office manager, taking a huge jump because I knew nothing about boating at all. I interviewed two times and like my boss says “I hired myself. I wouldn’t wait for him to call me back, I called him.”

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Everything changes, everyday is different and nothing is hard. It has not always been easy, but it is never hard. The customers are your biggest challenge, I find that just having normal conversation with them is the biggest way to earn their trust. One thing anyone could tell you about me is that I give it like it is. I hold back nothing, even when it comes to my customers, I do not sugar coat a thing. They know it and they appreciate it a lot. That is why I have loyal customers who continue to only work with me.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
One of my achievements in the marine industry I would have to say is when I first started working at Coty Marine and we had to build from the bottom up, while recovering from Hurricane Sandy, with limited staff. We worked seven days a week (I was bringing my youngest son to work) and we knew each customer who walked thru the door sales and service.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
Honestly, no I did not have a hard time, because I jumped in and did it. I worked to get where I am today. Hold no punches. Just take control and keep it moving.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope more women see that this industry is not just for men. That women can run a boat dealership just as much as a man could. You are not just a runner. You are not just working to get the guys lunch. You are the glue that holds that place together and when you realize that your career in this industry will have a whole different meaning.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
You must have thick skin. Without that, you will not make it in the marine industry. Because, I have learned that not everyone is built for this industry I have seen many come and go. The ones who stay have the thickest skin and can handle anything. It’s not only something one “gets into,” it’s a lifestyle.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
I would have to say that my favorite place to go boating is in Florida. I love the ocean and every year I am lucky to attend a dealer meeting with my dealership that allows me to get to go boating in the ocean. It’s just so peaceful and beautiful out there and it is different than the Jersey Shore.

Lorraine Mariotti
VP of Lending, Priority One Financial Services

Education: Some College
Years in the marine industry: 25 years

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
In 1995, while working in the automobile F&I industry, I was contacted by Priority One to join their team.  At the time, they were a very small company who provided professional F&I services to marine dealers across the United States. Their new concept, offering “virtual F&I” over the phone, simplifying the process for dealers and elevating the experience for dealers and consumers, was very intriguing to me.  

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
Learn from your mistakes. They are a normal and part of the learning process, but make sure to take the time to understand how not to make that same mistake again.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
I’m proud to have spearheaded our company’s electronic signature process, called EZ-Sign. In 2016, electronic signatures were unheard of in the marine industry and lenders had no plans to offer them anytime soon. It was my belief that if we had the ability to build and blend the technology with our current processes, then build it.  EZ-Sign would simplify the closing process for our dealers and bring more efficiencies for lenders - who could say no to that? We, as a team, worked hard to bring the lenders a product they were comfortable with. It was a gamble, and I underestimated how difficult and challenging it would be, but Priority One now has five lenders funding deals by this unique process and adding more as fast as we can.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
No, I didn’t find it difficult and loved it from the minute I stepped into it. Customers are so much happier buying boats versus cars and I enjoy contributing to those memorable moments. Financing boats was more challenging than financing cars for many reasons, but I enjoyed that challenge when I began in the industry and I still do. What kind of job can still excite you after 25 years? Mine does and I love that about the industry.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I try to lead by example and believe working harder and smarter will take you further. I’m passionate about offering outstanding customer service and do my best to ensure what I promise will happen – happens. Additionally, it’s important to understand the big picture and be able to communicate it to your team - not telling them what to do but why. Sharing my experience and knowledge is empowering for me, and I hope for others, too. 

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry? 
Don’t be intimated by the fact the industry is predominately male. We, as women in the industry bring a different and valuable perspective to the process. In fact, on the retail side of buying boats it’s very common that a woman is typically the final decision maker. Whether it’s the color, model purchased, options or budget – rest assured that a woman likely influenced a significant portion of that purchase.   

There is no secret to success. Be respectful. Be honest. Work harder than you think you should. On several occasions throughout my career, I’ve volunteered for additional responsibilities without rewards for doing so because I felt it was the right thing to do for the employees, for Priority One, our business partners or simply because I wanted to improve a process or learn something new.

Build relationships and cultivate them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or say you don’t understand something. Look for mentors whom you admire and learn from them.  If you don’t find any, be one yourself, for others. 

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Lake Apopka in Hernando, Fla. My family owned a cottage there since the 1940s and it is where I learned to bass fish as a child. I’m proud to say that my grandfather who many considered an expert bass fisherman always bragged that I was a very good caster. I still smile when I think of that. Not sure if I would agree, but I am thankful for the wonderful memories he and I spent on the lake – just the two of us fishing and talking. We connected on a deeper level that I’m not sure would have been there if it wasn’t for fishing. Those same stories and lessons are now part of my daughter’s life, who learned to cast when she was three and still loves hearing the fishing stories from years past.

Jan Morton
VP Supply Chain, MasterCraft Boat Holdings, Inc.

Education: BS Organizational Management, Tusculum College Greenville, Tenn.; Certified Purchasing Manager
Years in the marine industry: 35 years
Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies:

  • Brunswick Corporation, VP Supply Chain Brunswick Boat Group
  • Sea Ray Boats, VP Supply Chain & Procurement

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I fell in love with boating while in high school. My best friend had a Cobalt fiberglass recreational boat and the memories we made boating were priceless and forever impactful. When Sea Ray contacted me in 1984 to inquire if I would be interested in coming to work there, I immediately flashed back to my high school boating memories and I knew how wonderful it would be to part of a team that manufactured an amazing product that provided invaluable memories for families and friends.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
One lesson that I learned early in my career in the industry was the importance of building relationships with co-workers, suppliers, people that reported directly to me, and with those employees on the front line building the boats, even the janitor and security guard at the plant. It amazed me at how much easier it was to accomplish important initiatives if you had built a solid, trusting relationship with those people that you needed to engage in an initiative in order to achieve success. Rolling your sleeves up and getting out on the plant floor to talk to people and to understand their everyday issues and the challenges they face and then helping to resolve those issues and challenges go a long way in showing people you care about them. I feel this is one of the ways in which I built strong internal relationships. Relationships with suppliers were built be being respectful, knowledgeable, tough, but fair and equitable, and proposing win/win situations instead of win / lose situations helped me achieve success in the industry. My mantra is “Do the Right Thing.” Relationships in the marine industry are priceless and powerful!

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
I have two achievements that I am extremely proud of: One achievement being the fact that I began my career at Sea Ray on the factory floor in the lamination department. In 1984 once you were in lamination you usually were retained in lamination for life. Through my hard work, dedication and proving that I could provide more value to the company, I was promoted to warehouse operations and through the years was promoted on a frequent basis to positions of higher responsibility and accountability. The second achievement that I am equally proud of is being a STEP Ahead Award recipient in 2017. The STEP award is a prestigious award that recognizes women in manufacturing who exemplify leadership within their company.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
In 1984, the marine industry was an extremely male-dominated industry making it somewhat more challenging to navigate my career. However, through hard work, persistence and the inspiration that I had from a female operations manager, I was fortunate to have had the opportunities to learn and successfully grow my career over the years.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I attempt to inspire hope in other women in the marine industry by telling my story and showing examples of other women in the industry that have achieved successful careers in the industry. There are many high-profile examples of successful females in the industry today that are inspiring. In addition, throughout the years I have attempted to be a mentor to some of the females that expressed desire to grow their careers.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Learn everything possible about the industry and the company for which you work. Learn the manufacturing process from beginning to end. Ask a lot of questions and do not be afraid to speak up with your opinion. Get engaged in areas outside of your specific work group. Volunteer to participate in projects or initiatives. Get engaged in organizations and network. Go above and beyond the call of duty. Treat people with respect. Drive continuous improvement in all aspects of the business. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
My hobbies include my son, age 13 and my daughter, age 9. We love boating, tubing, riding bikes, spending time on the beach, camping and hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Nona Pedersen
General Manager, Propspeed

Education: Bachelors Degree in Business, Double Major in Management and Marketing, Minor in Sales, Auckland University of Technology.
Years in the marine industry: 5.5 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
When I first started in the marine industry, I was fresh out of university and when the opportunity to work for Propspeed came up, I jumped at it! I love boating and everything to do with the ocean, so why wouldn’t I want to work in a job where I get to be surrounded by both? I didn’t know much about the industry, or our products for that matter - I grew up in the countryside and I thought anti-foul was some form of chicken repellent. After working my first boat show I was absolutely hooked (pun intended), and I have been ever since.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
1) This industry is all about passion. Our customers have boats because they love them, and the people who work in this industry love boating. In order to connect and do well in this industry, it helps to have a passion for it. At Propspeed, passion is one of our key pillars. Boating is primarily a passion for our customers, and we are passionate about what we do. No matter whom you talk to in the company, you will see the passion for our products, our industry, our customers, and the ocean. Our customers love spending time out on the water, and our products help them do that. Their love for our products is the greatest reward.

2) Partnerships are critical to be successful. You need to value your relationships with customers, distributors, and industry partners, if you want to make a positive impact. Now more than ever, it is important to work together, and this is what differentiates the good companies from the great ones. We always strive for win-win outcomes and our ultimate goal is to enhance the experience that our customers have with either our products or our people. Everyone that we work with also share this goal with us.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
A personal achievement of mine was receiving my promotion to general manager of Propspeed at 26 years old. I started with Propspeed as a junior marketing assistant, and I was so fortunate to be able to grow with the company. The cherry on top was being named one of Boating Industry’s 40 under 40 this year. Our company has had so many memorable achievements throughout the time that I have been there, so I will go with the most recent which was launching our new product, Foulfree, which was recognized amongst Boating Industry’s 2020 Top Products. What makes this so special is our partnership with AIRMAR to provide our customers with a solution that improves their boating experience.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
All careers have their challenges, the key is overcoming them. Personally, I have not found it to be difficult at all - you get out of it what you put in. Hard work, dedication, and the willingness to go above and beyond is what works. People in this industry recognize that, and when they see that you mean business, they will take you seriously. I am also fortunate to be surrounded by support from within our company and also the within industry. Building a solid network and taking the time to learn and understand your customers and partners is critical, and it is also one of the best things about this industry.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
We are surrounded by people who are passionate about what they do and that is what makes the marine industry one of the best to work in. Women who are driven, have a willingness to learn, and are passionate about what they do, absolutely thrive here. I hope to see more women get involved in the industry as it is so rewarding, not only can you make a great career, I guarantee that you will make life-long friends.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Know your sh*t… Seriously… This goes for anyone starting out in this industry, if you want to be respected and you are starting out, you need to know your products or services better than anyone else. Once you know your products, then it is important to know the industry, start with the segment that you operate in, then keep expanding your knowledge. Be hungry to learn more, there are so many great mentors who are more than happy to share some wisdom. Get involved with industry associations and make the most of boat shows and events – not only is it fun, it also helps you get ahead further.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
My favorite place to go boating is in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand. Beautiful scenery, crystal-clear water, and you always see dolphins. The fishing is great too!

Nicki Polan
Executive Director, Michigan Boating Industries Association

Education: BA Michigan State University, Masters Business Management Walsh College
Years in the marine industry: 33 years

Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies:

  • Michigan State Waterways Commissioner (2013-2018)
  • Michigan Clean Marina Foundation Board (2013-present)
  • Recreational Boating Educational Foundation Board (2013 – present)
  • NMTC & ACMA Chair (2015-2017)

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I was fortunate to have lived on a lake while growing up and my boating/fishing family would visit the Detroit Boat Show every year, so when a position became available at the Michigan Boating Industries Association, obviously I was interested. After interviewing with the staff currently working at MBIA, I had a good feeling it would be a challenging, fun and rewarding experience, and 33 years later I can attest it certainly has been that and more.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
My most important lessons came during my six years on the Michigan State Waterways Commission where I learned patience, compromise and diplomacy can go a long way. We worked with the state government, private industry, municipalities, boaters, law enforcement and more, giving me a new perspective on how public and private entities can work together to grow an industry.

Another lesson learned during this past COVID-19 epidemic is that everyone is in a different position as it relates to risk tolerance, financial stability, personal investment, and personal philosophy. We are a united industry, but crises or no crises, it is important to recognize that there will be many different opinions and that everyone’s opinion counts. There is usually a connection point for all, and you will need to find it. Then you can get back to a point where you can move forward. 

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
Passing the Michigan’s Sales Tax on the Difference Law in 2013 is a natural first choice as this was something MBIA worked on for 20 plus years. It makes Michigan boat dealers competitive with surrounding states, which already had this in place. But if I may sneak in another, I am super proud of our Workforce Development efforts. After three collaborative years, we have three post-secondary schools now ready to teach marine tech education here in Michigan. Both achievements are extremely beneficial to our membership and ultimately that is why we are here.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
Not at all. I find this industry to be filled with amazing people, who are extremely passionate about what they do. If you share the same passion it is easy to jump right in. I also find this industry filled with supportive people who are excited to help others succeed – both male and female. I was fortunate to have the support and encouragement from many individuals along the way including, our board, members and staff.  It is important not to be afraid to look to others for help. People generally like to help and often feel flattered that you came to them. You won’t be seen as weak. Conversely, you will be seen as someone who is interested in learning.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I hope to inspire women to aggressively pursue leadership roles by helping them understand their value in any industry – and maybe even more so in a male-dominated industry. Our staff is predominately female, and I encourage all to not only develop professionally, but also know they have what it takes to succeed. Relevant to our industry directly, I see women succeeding at all levels – association management, dealerships, manufacturing, marinas, show directors, services and more. I say, don’t be afraid to take the journey. This industry will support your ideas and celebrate your accomplishments.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Don’t go it alone. Attend as many industry events as possible to network and find a support group for your specialty. Relevant to my position, I can’t say enough about the National Marine Trades Council, a group of marine trade professionals from across the country. The shared knowledge and opportunity for collaboration from this group has been extremely valuable to me personally and to our association’s efforts. Also, socialize.  There is a tremendous amount of benefit to slowing down and taking the time to talk with and listen to members, customers, and colleagues. Your lost productivity time will be greatly rewarded with valuable insight, new ideas, and new opportunities to bring value. 

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I love to be outside, so when I’m not working or boating you can find me in the yard working with plants or seeking sun on the deck while watching my sons play basketball. I’m always up for a walk, trail hike, or an outdoor dining experience. Someday I hope to get back to rollerblading, but at my age, maybe that ship has sailed.

Brenna Preisser
President, Business Acceleration and Chief HR Officer, Brunswick

Education:  Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Ohio University and Master’s in Business Administration from Ashland University
Years in the marine industry: 15 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
It was the people first and then the water. I did not grow up around boating, so I was unfamiliar with the marine industry when I received a call to interview for a “boat company” in Knoxville, TN.  It was the energy and commitment from those I met with that initially drew me in. Fifteen years later, what has kept me in the industry is still the people and a real sense of purpose in what this industry has to offer – it’s about freedom, connection, and really cool products!

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Aside from some quite funny experiences as I look back (like avoiding fire ant hills at Boston Whaler) I’ve learned that you must adapt. The nature of any consumer discretionary industry will bring about various cycles. I’ve had the opportunity to work across Brunswick’s marine portfolio and directly with several boat companies – through the good and more challenging times. Staying focused on what’s important, adapting plans and maintaining optimism are leadership qualities that I have learned through this experience. I’ve also learned that this industry is quite resilient and people love the water! I believe our best days are ahead.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
The acquisition and continued growth of Freedom Boat Club. A lot of things must come together in the acquisition and integration of any business to ensure objectives are met and long-term success is achieved - vision, hard work, compromise and a great team. I am so proud of what the Brunswick and Freedom team has accomplished in the first year.  This is most memorable because it’s meaningful to our future and it has accelerated my learning as a leader and the industry.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
There were some difficult decisions along the way that ultimately accelerated my career - such as relocating and taking on new roles – however, there was nothing about the industry which made this more challenging. If anything, the breadth of the industry has provided great experiences – from the shop floor to leading some of the most exciting new ventures.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
The industry needs women who are willing to lead. I would like to encourage women to step toward new opportunities and contribute their voice to defining the future. You can do it – take the wheel!

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Very practically, I recommend women get “hands on” in the business. Don’t be shy to ask for experiences which will provide a firsthand understanding of the industry – work the shop floor, speak with customers and build a network. Seek to understand how value is created in which ever sector you work and then get close to the action.

I also recommend women seek opportunities to work for people from whom they can learn, people who will champion their career - someone who will push you and wants to see you succeed.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Norris Lake outside of Knoxville, Tenn. We had a 220 Sea Ray Sundeck and going boating with the family is still some of the best memories of my life – finding a quiet cove, jumping into glass-like freshwater, swimming, tubing, laughing, eating and great music.

Living in the Chicago-area, we now boat on Lake Michigan, which is quite an impressive body of water. It’s very cool to take the boat from the north suburbs to downtown Chicago. My next milestone is crossing Lake Michigan!

Alexis Reed
Chief Operating Officer, United States Warranty Corporation/Eagle Extended Service Protection

Years in the marine industry: 1 year; USWC just launched our Marine Warranty Division October 2019.

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I love being on a boat and at the beach! We were looking to expand our product offerings.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
The biggest lesson for me to date is learning all the different technical parts of the boat. From attending a few trade shows I have noticed that the general crowd has a more laid back atmosphere and the marine industry is more welcoming of women in leadership roles.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
Being nominated for this Women Making Waves program so early on in our new adventure.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
I want to inspire other women by never being afraid to innovate.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
This is a very welcoming industry. Do not be afraid to try new things, you never know where it will lead.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Lake Guntersville, Ala.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
I enjoy traveling, especially to the Caribbean islands with a cocktail in hand! I love to be in the warmth and with palm trees! Spending quality time with my family and being outdoors.

Cindy Sailor
OEM National Account Sales, Boats Group

Education:  Floyd College, Rome, Ga.
Years in the marine industry:  17 years

Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: 

  • 2004-2015 Power & Motoryacht Magazine - Associate Publisher
  • 2015-2018 IYBA – Executive Director

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
At the time I was hired by Power & Motoryacht magazine, I was working for Computer Reseller News in the High-Tech publishing industry. It was right after the dot.com bust, and the business was rapidly changing. It was a very stressful time. I stumbled on a random job posting for a key account director with PMY and thought, “Wow.  If only I could make my living at doing what I love so much.” And of course, with the last name of Sailor, I suppose it was my destiny. 

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
Hard work and perseverance pays off. I have seen a couple of industry recessions, and it always recovers on the other side. Doing what you love in the industry that you love will always lead you in the right direction and make you happy.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
Fortunately, I have had several memorable achievements. Getting hired by Boats Group is my most recent and one that I am very proud of. But the sweetest one was during the recovery after the ’08 recession. The marine publishing industry was in a very tough spot. I presented a business plan to our corporate executives of what I thought it would take to turn the business around after the decline. They said yes, and gave me carte blanche to make it happen. We ended up with a double-digit rebound (25%) in the first year, and one that sustained and grew long after. It was a huge accomplishment during a very difficult time, and one that I am very proud of.  

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not? 
As with anything that is worthwhile in life, you get out what you put into it. As long as you are passionate about what you do, work hard and know that what you are offering to clients is a win-win for everyone, it will all work out.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?  
By lifting up and promoting not only women, but anyone who shows they are committed to the cause. I have been an equal opportunity promoter of like-minded individuals for my whole career. I believe in making things better, together. 

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?  
The boat shows are exhausting, the industry cycles are unpredictable, but in the end you are working with people who share a passion for being on the water. What could be better than loving what you do and having fun while you are doing it?

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?  
I do some volunteer work with local animal rescue organizations and love spending time with my family and dog. And, of course, travel. But mostly I’m a working girl and spend a lot of time with my job, which ends up helping me accomplish my travel goals. I also do a little gardening and love cooking and fitness too.

Diane Seltzer
Marketing Director, SureShade, Lippert Components Company

Education: Bachelor of Science, Marketing
Years in the marine industry: 10 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
My opportunity to get into the marine industry came with a scrappy little startup called SureShade that enabled me to combine my marketing expertise with my passion for boating. As a boater for over 20 years, I feel fortunate to work in an industry that is focused on a lifestyle and recreational pastime that I enjoy so much personally. I always lead with “How would I respond to this as a boater?” or “How does this make boating better?” in all my marketing strategies and programs. Understanding the market opportunity from a boater perspective has been an approach that has proved successful for me and the business.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
I have learned that despite the ups and downs of the economy, people will always find a way to enjoy boating. Our job in the marine industry is to continue to sell the experience of boating – whether boaters are purchasing a new boat or looking for an aftermarket accessory upgrade. We also need to continue to raise the bar and exceed their expectations by introducing new technology, jaw-dropping design or next-level performance features. For an industry that was not known to embrace change well 10 years ago, I now see it as very adaptive and innovative and there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer in the boating industry.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
The business growth milestones are the most exciting moments for me. I remember being at the Miami Boat Show in 2013 celebrating SureShade’s five-year anniversary – our boat shades were on 50 boat models and it just seemed like we were on top of the world. Fast-forward seven years, and we have nearly quadrupled our number of factory-installed models. This growth certainly came from having a great product that appeals to boaters, but I am also proud that my efforts in building the brand played a significant role in our growth. The brand and business we built resulted in our 2019 acquisition by Lippert Components Inc., and we are now positioned for even greater innovation and growth as part of their marine group of brands that includes Taylor Made and Lewmar.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
The boating industry may be big, but it can also be relatively easy to build a name for yourself when you have confidence in the value you bring and are open to making connections in an authentic way. Typically, I can bond over two mutual goals – sell more boats and elevate the boating experience. People in the industry with that same “how can we make this a win-win?” mindset are naturally drawn to each other and will respond well to a collaborative approach.  

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
Although boating is certainly a male-dominated industry, we should feel proud that there are many stand out women leaders in the marine industry – from presidents of boat builders to marine accessory marketers like myself. Women are major influencers in the boat purchasing decision, and I believe that the marine industry values a women’s perspective and understands women represent an important voice in the industry.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Find your niche, show up and be seen! Make yourself known in the industry for whatever you do best and leverage opportunities to build your own personal brand.

What is your favorite place to go boating?
Chesapeake Bay in Maryland with my husband and two daughters. The Chesapeake has many beautiful anchorages and great destinations like Rock Hall or Annapolis. Our experiences on the water as a family have fueled my passion for the industry as well as the creation of MyBoatLife.com and BoaterKids.com - two sites I founded that promote the boating lifestyle.

Mary Strauss
Director of Marketing, Galati Yacht Sales

Education: MBA
Years in the marine industry: 5 years
Other companies you have worked for in the marine industry and titles you held within those companies: Regal Marine – Marketing Coordinator.  My marketing career began in the marine industry and will probably end in the marine industry. The marine industry is like bookends for me. I spent the better part of my career in the technology field, which really helped prepare me for my role at Galati Yacht Sales.

What first drew you to the marine industry? 
For me, the question is what drew me back to the marine industry? I have life-long friends in the marine industry (including my husband), have great memories on the water, at one time we owned three boats, but down to one now. But more importantly, I was drawn to the Galati family and their vision. I am not sure if I would have returned if not for the opportunity to work for and with the Galati Family.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
Don’t eat the lobster after it was used as a prop in an all-day photo shoot!  Seriously, I think it is don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you don’t make the same ones over and over. If you are not testing new strategies then you are stagnant. Sometimes people are afraid to fail so they don’t try new things, but I think that’s when you learn your greatest lessons.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
The marketing team at Galati Yacht Sales has had so many over the past few years as we focused our digital marketing efforts. It’s so satisfying to see return on marketing investment. But I did my own happy dance on the day we had the most visitors on our website EVER.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
It wasn’t difficult, but I have no regrets spending the majority of my career outside the marine industry. I think I am a better marine marketer because of the experience I gained in other industries.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
The people who have inspired me allowed me to be myself and believe in myself, I hope that I can offer that to others.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Network and be helpful to others, even those who may be considered competitors.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
Proud member of HOG, Harley Owners’ Group, I have a 2019 Softail Slim that I ride nearly every weekend. Additionally, you will find me in the gym at 5 or 6 a.m. every morning, as I cannot think of a better way to start the day. I think both of these activities help clear the mind and stay focused on what’s ahead.

Cindy Thompson
VP of Corporate Development, OneWater Marine

Education: BS in Accounting, Master of Business Administration
Years in the marine industry: 8.5 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
I grew up fishing with my brother and dad; spending countless summer days boating on Lake Lanier with family and friends. When an opportunity at Singleton Marine presented itself, I felt my love of being on the water, coupled with my automotive experience at Porsche’s North American headquarters would translate well to the marine industry.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry? 
Prior to working at a dealership, I thought that because boats are a high-ticket, luxury purchase, that the administrative side of the business would be straightforward. Boy, was I wrong! It has been eye-opening to learn what is required to market and sell a boat, and then, the necessary paperwork to register units, file warranty claims and receive backend and rebate dollars from our manufacturers. I still can’t believe how much administrative support is required to run a marine dealership.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? 
What immediately comes to mind is leading the Acquisitions Team at OneWater. During an acquisition, my technical role crosses over IT, HR, Accounting, Daily Operations, and Legal; which require me to lean on all of my education, past work experience as well as small business ownership. But when a dealer decides to join the OneWater family, it is an extremely personal and emotional experience, as their family built that business through decades, and even generations, of hard work and sacrifice. Balancing the technical with the emotional sides of the transaction is a great and rewarding personal challenge. I have found it incredibly satisfying to know that we are not only adding another successful business to the OneWater portfolio, but that I am also making a difference in the lives of the dealer and their team who are transitioning into new roles within OneWater.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
I don’t think so; I tend to thrive in a rapidly evolving and dynamic environment. The marine industry is relatively young in comparison to many other industries. As a result, there are still many ways to improve how dealerships are run, and there is great potential for me to leave my mark on our organization and industry at-large.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry? 
I would like women in any industry, especially those like marine that are so heavily male oriented, to realize that they have a voice and great potential to lead. You don’t have to have the most technical knowledge of boats, or the most experience in the industry, in order to have great ideas in leading an organization to the next level. Often, a fresh perspective is greatly needed inside an entrenched industry.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Do not be afraid to learn the operations side of the business. Always be curious, ask questions when you don’t know something. I still remember wondering why we were making so many skeg purchases. I asked one of our technicians to point out where a “skeg” was located on a boat. He grinned widely while pointing to the bottom of an outboard engine. It suddenly made sense to me why we purchased so many of them. Understanding what happens in parts, sales and service will help in any job you have in the dealership. Engage with other parts of the organization, learn something new every day, and remember, that people are the lifeblood of the organization, so the closer you can bring your team together, the better off the company will be and your career as well.

What is your favorite place to go boating? 
There is nothing better than spending time on the crystal-blue water of Lake Martin in Alabama. It’s perfect for wake surfing, jumping off of Chimney Rock, visiting Goat Island, or just relaxing with family and friends.

Stephanie Vatalaro
Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

Education: Certificate in Management from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and BS in Communications from Florida State University
Years in the marine industry: 13 years

What first drew you to the marine industry?
The marine industry kind of found me, and I’m so grateful it did. I was working in public relations in D.C. when I heard about an opening at RBFF. It was the first time in my career that a job encompassed both my personal and professional interests, so I jumped at the opportunity. Thirteen years later, I’m still excited to head to work every day knowing I’m helping people experience the joys of boating and fishing, both true passions of my own.

What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned working in the marine industry?
The marine industry may seem large at first glance but in reality, it’s a small and tight-knit community. I’ve learned that building relationships is key to success. Attend meetings, get to know people and learn what they do. There’s a lot of opportunity to work together and support each other.

If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why?
RBFF has to compete for its funding every five years, and for the last two cycles I have led the creation and submission of RBFF’s successful proposal for a five-year ~$60 million cooperative agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This means more to me than any marketing campaign award or goal achieved because it solidifies the success of all our work as an organization and recognizes the important work of all of my amazing and talented colleagues.

Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not?
I immediately felt at home in the marine industry, perhaps because I grew up around it. My dad is a fishing guide and I have fond memories of attending the Miami Boat Show with him as a kid, climbing all over the big sportfishing yachts. There was definitely a learning curve on all the acronyms though, haha.

How do you hope to inspire other women in the marine industry?
At face value, the marine industry appears to be a man’s world. But there are many amazing women in the industry who are invaluable to its success. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of these women over the last couple of years and they’ve inspired me with their leadership presence, confidence and knowledge. I hope like my mentors, I can inspire other women with my own actions to vie for that leadership role, pitch a big new idea or take the stage with confidence at an industry event.

What advice do you have for women starting their careers in the marine industry?
Get to know the key players and chart your own course. Seek out a mentor who will help you learn the ropes, and also a champion who will look out for opportunities that suit you.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?
If I’m not boating, you can find me spending time with my family hosting dinner parties, sitting around the fire pit and lounging in the hammock on weekends. We’re casual hikers and bikers and when we can travel, would rather be anywhere that’s close to the water.

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