2021 Best in Class: Best Industry Advocate

Silver Spray Sports, Inc.
Fenton, Mich.

Silver Spray Sports was started by two laid-off schoolteachers in the recession of 1981 who became business owners because of their love of watersports and boating, and not necessarily because they wanted to be business owners. In fact, Jeff and Patti Smith say if the recession would not have hit so hard back then, they would probably still be schoolteachers (or retired schoolteachers) today. Things worked out pretty good for the couple who not only make their living on the water but spend most of their leisure time there as well.

As a former Sea World show skier and barefoot water ski coach, Jeff Smith is also a senior USA Water Ski judge, two-time national barefoot water ski champion, Midwest slalom record holder and former national slalom champion in his age group. He and Silver Spray Sports are in charge of the Michigan and Indiana Nautique boat promotional team taking Nautique boats to tournaments across the Midwest.

Patti Smith has a decades-long record serving on numerous state and local boards, including being a founding member of the Michigan Outdoor Recreational Advisory Council. She also served as the boating representative for the State of Michigan to the Secretary of State during one of her terms. Silver Spray belongs to both the Flint Chamber of Commerce and the Fenton Chamber of Commerce. And she has also been inducted into the Michigan Boating Industries Association Hall of Fame.

Silver Spray Sports is located in Fenton some 60 miles northwest of Detroit, and 15 miles south of Flint. They have two properties at one location which are approximately 1/8 mile apart, both at the north end of Silver Lake in the Fenton city limits. The main on-water building consists of the boat sales showroom, water ski/wake board/wake surf pro shop, boat launch (private but for public use), Club Silver Spray boat slips/picnic area for seasonal rentals, ski/wake school, paddle board/paddle yoga school, paddle board rentals, paddle board river excursions, and refreshment area.

The complex just to the east includes the service center, parts center, two five-story storage buildings (holding 400 inboard boats inside for the winter months), boat hoist, trailer storage, and an additional six acres of outdoor boat storage.

“We branched out at the start of 2020 for marketing and went beyond the typical boundaries of boating-related marketing emphasis only,” explained Jeff Smith in his Top 100 application. “We again sponsored a local race car team as well as a pro-boxer named Joey Spencer from our town. We also shared and continued to update the story of one of our Team Silver Spray family members who at the age of 14 received a heart transplant. The response from the watersports community was HUGE!”

They also give a cash scholarship at the Midwest Regional Water Ski Championships in the name of Silver Spray Sports, Inc., and use traditional advertising as well as social media to reach their audience.

The Smith family also makes themselves available to local media for information and tips on all forms of watersports as well as paddle boarding topics.

They host water ski/wake events at their main marina site, such as Nautique Demo Day in the spring and the Proving Grounds Wake Tour by Nautique in early summer, and also sponsor three camps that use their boats so younger generations can get on the water.

“We had no idea when we started a boating business from scratch that it would endure all of the ups and downs of the past 39 years,” said Jeff Smith. “But our original formula of no pressure sales, no commissioned sales staff, highly trained positive employees, honest business practices, and being tireless industry advocates still seems to work today for Team Silver Spray Sports.”

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