2022 Boating Industry 40 Under 40

As Boating Industry’s annual recognition program of strong young leaders in the marine industry moves into its sixth year, it continues to shine a spotlight on a unique group of individuals leading the pack.

Selected from just under 200 nominations from across the industry, this year’s group features young professionals blazing trails of success from all segments of the marine industry, from boat dealers to manufacturers and everything in between.

While no simple task to select recipients with more and more strong nominations for 2022, the young leaders on the proceeding pages were selected for their multitude of accomplishments and strengths, as well as their passion for the recreational boating industry and their promise to bring the industry into the future.

Winton “Parker” Bacon
Sales Representative, William F. Miller & Associates

What first drew you to the marine industry?

The passion for the outdoors and boating. This way of life has been instilled in me since a very young age… I caught my first bass at the age of 4 and was driving boats since well before the age of 16.

What was your first job?

Construction site cleanup for my family’s residential home building business.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m never completely satisfied, so I don’t have just ONE accomplishment. It’s a culmination of different adversities or trying something new and being successful. For example, I learned how to box and participated in a charity boxing match. Who does that at the age of 30-plus?

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Family members such as my father, Richard Bacon, and my grandfather, Daddy Frank. Industry icons to me would be Joe Miller. These three people have influenced me personally; therefore, they’ve influenced my career.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

I believe age is something that has been overcome. I believe in doing what you say you’re going to do earns the respect of others, and this can overcome many challenges.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to share the same example that others have afforded to me.

Who was your hero as a child?

Family members such as my father, Richard Bacon, and my grandfather, Daddy Frank.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I enjoy hunting (which sometimes includes boating), hanging out with my wife and two dogs, working on the farm, playing guitar… all the good southern activities.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

It’s a great industry, selling a product that will make people happy. The people are laid back, again, we’re creating a space of enjoyment, how upset can you get?

R. Gettys Brannon III
President & CEO, The South Carolina Boating & Fishing Alliance

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Participating in bass fishing tournaments through my formative years and learning the industry’s opportunities as president of the University of South Carolina Bass Fishing Team. I discovered your hobby could become a career.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

The influences at Bassmaster, as mentioned before, but two mentors in my career I want to specifically point out are two great South Carolinians; Bob McAlister and Davy Hite. Bob, a former chief of staff of one of South Carolina’s most remarkable governors, Gov. Carroll Campbell, has shown me the ropes of public relations, public policy, and has been a tremendous influence on my life as a whole — God first, family second, and boating and fishing a close third. Davy, a bass fishing hall of famer and Bassmaster Classic Champion, took me under his wing as a wide-eyed freelancer wandering the 6 a.m. bass tournament launches across the country. Davy became not only a friend and mentor but encouraged me to pursue a further career and showed me how influence goes beyond the rod and reel.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Winning the 2015 FLW College Fishing National Championship and becoming a two-time college fishing All-American. As a journalism student at the University of South Carolina, God’s blessings opened opportunities to work with the best in the business at Bassmaster — Steve Bowman, James Overstreet, Dave Precht, Mark Zona, Jim Sexton, Dave Mercer, Steve Wright and many others.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

As a young professional, getting others to buy into new ideas, both conceptually and monetarily, can be a challenge. However, charting an overall vision for the future, following its core mission and showing progression along the way goes a long way.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Surrounding yourself with a great team — starting with SCBFA Chairman Chris Butler of Butler Marine. Goals, especially in the business association world, are only reached with a “we” mentality and strong leadership from your board. Making an impact on a $5.1 billion industry in South Carolina that goes further than state lines entails vision, strategic priorities and the tactics to implement. How can we, as a board and industry, implement smart policy in South Carolina that can be replicated? Or how do we defeat bad policy that could decimate an industry state-by-state?

What boat did you learn to boat on?

Outside of boating and fishing with family and friends on Lake Norman in N.C. as a child, my first boat was an early 1990s TideCraft Bass Boat with a Johnson 112hp engine at 16. The boat floated, and that was about it. Nonetheless, I learned the ropes of boating from an early age. The TideCraft taught me patience when boating and the importance of learning the ins and outs of maintaining and fixing a boat in any situation imaginable.

Who was your hero as a child?

My father was my hero. He had an infectious smile and a salesman’s mentality that I learned from at an early age.

Garrett Clady
Southeast Regional Sales Representative, Patrick Industries

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I spent so much of my childhood on boats and fishing bass tournaments, but I never thought about the possibility of working in this industry. I was first drawn to Patrick Industries right out of college and that is when Patrick was really starting to push into the marine industry. I learned a lot about the RV side of our business and then I was given the opportunity to join the marine side of Patrick and it took off from there.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

My mom and dad by far have been the most influential mentors in my life and career. They are both leaders by example and have shown me the lifelong benefits of a relentless work ethic.

I have been very fortunate to have so many incredible mentors since I started with Patrick. A major influence in my early career was being a member of our leadership development program called Impact. This is a program for recent college graduates that gives members the opportunity to see the functional areas of Patrick like sales, finance, environmental health and safety, operations, and human resources. It was a great experience and I am very excited for the future of the program.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire others in this industry by always showing humility. That is a trait that was driven into me at a young age and one that has opened many doors for me during my career this far.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I am firm believer success happens when opportunity meets preparation. I push myself to learn something new every day whether it be through professional interactions or reading books. I have clear visions of my goals in life and visualize each one of them every day.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

Yamaha SX210 and a Triton 20 TRX.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

From the products that are delivered to end users and the people that you get to work with, it is an extremely rewarding industry. We are building products that give individuals lifelong memories of time spent on the water. I have such fond memories of boating and fishing with my family and friends, it is very fulfilling knowing that I am now a part of providing those memories for others.

Diego Conti
General Sales Manager, Nautical Ventures Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I came to the United States in 2016 to revalidate my MD degree, but my wife wanted me out of the house and to find a job, as I was driving her crazy. As luck would have it, my first job interview was with Roger Moore at Nautical Ventures. I was attracted by their help-wanted ad promising a job that included ‘fun on the water.’ I had no prior experience in the marine industry, apart from my five brothers owning a boat. Being the youngest boy, I was never allowed to take the steering wheel.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Roger Moore, a.k.a. 007. I was fortunate to have my desk right outside his office when I first started working here. Every time he needed help with anything, he would stick his head out the door and the first face he saw was mine, so I was tasked with the job. As a result, we became close and I tried to keep up with his work pace to learn everything I could from him about this industry. Roger influences people with creative leadership and teaches others how to think outside the box. He has had a big impact in both my professional and personal life, paving the way for my U.S. citizenship, for which I will always be grateful.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

1.  By showing them the opportunities that this industry has to offer. I hear a lot of people negatively say that we are 15 years behind the automotive industry.  As a young professional, I find this is extremely exciting because we can build this industry by mimicking what works for other power sports, but also come up with fresh ideas that create new paths for our boating market.

2.  By showing my team how our business model is a blank canvas for them to come grab and start painting how they want to paint. I have this conversation daily with my younger employees. We’re not just growing a company; we’re changing an entire industry.

3.  By showing them a path to make money and still maintain a work-life balance. 

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

Ironically, this being the 40 Under 40 program, being young was my first big challenge. In an industry dominated by older people, I had a lot of pushbacks by “seasoned pros” who had a hard time answering to someone in their late twenties. Another big challenge was introducing them to new technologies, a new dealer management system, a new customer relationship management program, and a host of digital lead-generating platforms. These challenges were largely overcome by personally using the systems and showing them great results, putting in long hours, demonstrating a strong work ethic and restructuring the sales team as required.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

When I came to the United States, I set 1-, 3-, and 5-year goals for both my personal and work lives. Without long term goals, I would be lost. I use a weekly action pad to keep track of my goals and measure results. It’s important to have vision and to surround yourself with people who share the same vision. I was taught, “If you do the right things in the top line, the bottom line will follow.” Take good care of your people, procedures, work culture, and don’t worry so much about the numbers as they will fall in line.

Who was your hero as a child?

My mom. She taught me the values that govern my entire life: solidarity, honesty, humility. She helped me understand, early on in life, that happiness is always shared and we must do the everything in our power to make those around us happy. We are in a very privileged position, compared to those who lack basic needs, so we need to be grateful and help others the same way others helped our family in the past. Everything you do comes back to you.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

When we hire young people, especially from other industries, I tell them all the time, “This is a growing industry with many opportunities. If you work hard and focus on the task at hand, it will be extremely profitable for you.” This is a career in which you meet people from all walks of life looking to have fun on a boat. And your job is taking clients out on boats to have fun. You can also spend your days off on one of our demo boats or water toys. So, I always end an interview with the same question, “Why wouldn’t you want to join us?” The opportunities are infinite.

Jeff Cooper
Creative Manager, MarineMax

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I knew I wanted to have a career in aviation or boating from an early age. I grew up boating and fishing and have cherished those memories ever since.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

One of my greatest accomplishments is bringing many brands to life, including MarineMax, Aquila, and Galeon Yachts—all of which have received many awards and accolades in the marketing industry. As Chief Editor of MarineMax Lifestyles, I have transformed the magazine into a highly respected publication that customers and team members look forward to. On a personal level, I am proud of using my creative skills to renovate homes during my free time.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

I think being a young professional can be challenging in any industry. I’ve overcome this by proving that I can excel in any role that I’m in.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire others by helping them realize that there are many fields to choose from in the marine industry, such as marketing and creative—which I’m very passionate about.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I do this by pushing myself to always stay focused and go above and beyond in anything I do. I’m also a strong believer that we should never stop learning and should always aspire to do more and do it well.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

I enjoy boating around St. Petersburg, Fla., where I live and keep my boat. There are many sandbars, waterfront restaurants, and beautiful beaches nearby.

Who was your hero as a child?

My mother was my childhood hero. She taught me to be patient and to always push myself to achieve greatness. She is also the kindest person I know, who always goes out of her way to help others without expecting anything in return.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

My very first boat was a 19-foot Sea Hunt bowrider. The hull had a very nice sky-blue color. My creative gene led me to improve certain things on the boat, like reupholstering all the seats, adding SeaDek flooring, and new electronics to make me feel more comfortable while learning all the ins and outs.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I believe the marine industry is a great industry to be in because it can be fun, challenging and rewarding. It has also allowed me to make many professional and personal connections. The Marine industry offers a wide variety of boats and yachts which resonate with me personally. And it can be very exciting!

Mason Cummings
Engineering Manager, Monterey & Blackfin Boats

What was your first job?

Working at my parents businesses in the summer and after school. After I graduated college, my career in the marine industry started at Boston Whaler.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Bringing back the Blackfin line and winning a Miami Innovation Award with our 332CC. The team and I worked very hard to build and support a great product that we are very proud of. It was a ton of work in a short period of time, but we have been very successful and have a lot of happy customers.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I’ve had the privilege to work with many great people throughout my career and can’t pick just one as a key mentor. I have learned so much from people that have been in the industry for many years. Starting out at Boston Whaler, Harry Wood taught me the importance of spending time on the shop floor and learning how to improve your designs, be efficient and think outside the box, but most of all, you are always learning. Jeff and Chuddy Marshall, ownership of my current company, taught me that two brothers can work together and create a great company that supports many families and provides people with a great product and have provided me the opportunity to grow in the field that I love.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

There are a lot of people in this industry with many, many years of boat building experience. Coming in as a young engineer, they always assume they will have to fix your work when you “mess it up.” I worked right next to them to learn and understand everyone’s job and in turn, earned their respect. It goes a long way when people see that you really care to improve their jobs. That was a huge hurdle to face and still is, but hard work and appreciation for everyone around you goes along way for both parties.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

There were a few, but mainly my 8-foot Flivver with a 20hp Mercury and my parents 1966 17’ Formula with a 140 Evinrude. I spent many hours on both and still have them.

Who was your hero as a child?

Hands down, my parents. They worked very hard running their businesses and were always there for my brother and me. They taught us about hard work and dedication. They passed on their love of the water and anything outdoors to us and continue to stand behind anything we do.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

It’s a very rewarding industry. There aren’t many industries as fast paced and continually changing. We get to develop a concept and see the reality in very short amounts of time and that is very rewarding.

David Curtis
Founder, Southcoast Boatworks

What was your first job?

A camp counselor at The Boys and Girls Club.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Sea time logged, United States Merchant Mariner Credentials, ABYC and NMEA Certifications and Southcoast Boatworks.

Do you have any key mentors or influencers in your life?

I have taken bits and pieces from each experience and really appreciate those who have helped me along the way.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

Shifting from working in commercial shipping to owning a business in the marine industry has been my biggest challenge this far. Currently finding employees with certifications or previous experience in this field has proved challenging. Overcoming obstacles is always made easier with the help of family, friends and industry peers.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire others through my passion for the marine industry. I truly believe you need to do what you love.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I stay organized, plan ahead and keep open lines of communication so no one is left in the dark. I was taught you should leave a boat looking nicer then when you arrived and I stay true to that. Cleanliness and attention to detail is extremely important to me. At the end of the day, I want everyone to be excited about their boat.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Cuttyhunk, Mass. or BVIs.

Who was your hero as a child?

My grandfather, Charles Curtis, or “Pop-pop.”

Evan Cusson
Sales Manager, Atlantic Outboard, Inc.

What first drew you to the marine industry?

My dad started the dealership before I was born, so I was brought up on the water and have been boating my whole life. 

What was your first job?

Bottom painting boats at the dealership.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

In 2021, we hosted our second annual Duck Island Raft Party and I’m very proud of how this event has turned out. This past year, we had over 300 boats and 1,000 people in attendance. We raised money for a local charity and the event was a huge success. This couldn’t have been possible without our team here at Atlantic Outboard. We have some of the most passionate boaters in our industry on our team, and that results in a superior customer experience. Lastly, we’ve been able to maintain  No. 1 market share in all of our brands, while simultaneously having high CSI scores. Being able to be part of a team that shares the same goal of “100% customer satisfaction, 100% of the time” is really rewarding.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Definitely my parents, as I get to work side-by-side with them every day. Additionally, I am in one of David Parker’s 20 Groups. David and our 20 Group Members have always and continue to be a huge influence on me.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River have some great boating destinations, but my favorite is throwing the anchor at Duck Island here in Westbrook, Conn.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The marine industry is an industry you can be proud to tell people you work in. It’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it’s challenging. You get to meet some awesome people, and with how closely knit this industry is, you never know who you’ll be working with tomorrow. I don’t think there is another industry out there where someone directly gets to help families create lifelong memories. There is nothing more rewarding than helping a family get on the water, then hearing their stories about their adventures.

Molly Ditzler
Director of Engineering, Pursuit Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?

My love of the water and fishing. I enjoy boating and knew that helping to engineer boats would be a rewarding career.

What was your first job?

Naval architect for Gurit. I did structural engineering primarily for composite super yachts.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

In my previous job, I had the opportunity to take over the maintenance and later lead a team that fully redesigned VectorLam. VectorLam is a cloud-based composite design program whose primary feature is laminate design for boats.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

In my first job out of school, I was fortunate to work for Al Horsmon. He taught me a lot about composites and structural engineering of boats. While my previous positions were focused on structural engineering, my new position has expanded my responsibilities to the entire vessel. For the last eight months, I have been working for Chris Gratz. While it has not been a long time, I have already learned a tremendous amount from him about leadership and the vast considerations that go into boat building. I am excited to continue to learn from him for years to come.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire people to be critical thinkers and empower them to take risks. We learn from our failures and cannot be afraid to try new things.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I believe half the battle is picking goals. I reflect on past projects and try to think of what tools would have made the job easier or more successful. I look for different skill sets that will help me improve the next time. I then set out to learn those skills and look for ways that I can grow as an engineer.

Who was your hero as a child?

My father was and still is my hero. Whenever I wanted to go fishing, he was always willing to drop everything and go with me. He has always supported me and encouraged me to follow my dreams.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I enjoy playing on the beach with my family, swimming and reading when I get the chance.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

It is an exciting industry with new challenges every day. I have found it to be a rewarding career choice and recommend it to any young person who loves boating and solving problems.

Emma Galati Tsantles
Certified Human Resource Professional, Galati Yacht Sales

What first drew you to the marine industry?

It’s not what drew me to the industry as much as what has kept me in it. I was lucky enough to be born into my family’s business and grew up around boats my entire life. When going into college, my parents pushed me to do my own thing and to not feel the pressure of joining the family business; however, that didn’t keep me away. Every summer while I was in school, I interned at the family business in multiple departments to learn all aspects of the company. I wanted to learn everything, accounting, marketing, sales, HR, and so on. Once working in HR, I decided that’s what I was going to do, and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else or working anywhere else!

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I have experienced many accomplishments in my career, but I would have to say I am most proud of becoming a certified HR professional. I was one of the youngest in my class and it was a goal I had set for myself to complete right after I graduated college. With becoming a certified HR professional, it has only helped me to grow in my career from the start to now. With keeping my certification, I have to complete 60 hours of HR-related coursework every two years which keeps me on top of constant changes.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have many mentors in my career, especially working in a family business because not only are they mentors in my career, but also my personal life. My dad, aunt, and my three uncles are the most inspiring people in my life. They are the hardest workers I know and I do my best to live up to their expectations every day. They created a legacy for the third generation of this business, and learning from them and working under them has truly helped me grow in my career. My aunt specifically has mentored me in my HR career and I am so grateful to have learned so much from her.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge I have faced in the marine industry is proving myself to the generations above me. I have overcome this by becoming a

well-rounded individual in all aspects of the marine industry. By doing so, I am able to relate to all positions within the industry giving me a bit of an edge when it comes to working in HR within the marine industry. Although I work for my family’s business, nothing was given to me. I had to earn my way into the position I hold now as a Certified HR Professional and continue to prove myself each and every day.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

This question is very personal to me. The people I hope to inspire are the next generation of family members that will hopefully join the business one day. I hope to inspire with leading by example, just like my dad, aunt, and uncles did for their children. I want to uphold the legacy that my family started and pass it down for generations to come. I also hope to inspire other young professionals not only in the marine industry as a whole, but at Galati Yacht Sales. We currently have over 1/3 of our company under the age of 40. Working in HR, I do my best to inspire each of those young professionals every day with leading by example.

Who was your hero as a child?

My parents are my childhood heroes. They have given me everything they have just to make my life easier. They are always there for me and I would do anything for them. They have shown me what it means to lead by example and have both taught me life skills that I only hope to pass down myself.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

My favorite non-boating hobby is traveling. I definitely have the travel bug and I try to leave the country at least once a year. I have traveled to 15 different countries and only want to see more.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I can only speak to my own experience, but I can say that this industry is very encouraging to young individuals, and it has truly inspired me. I feel that the marine industry chose me in a sense, and I couldn’t be happier. The marine industry is taking the world by storm as we are up and coming, innovative, and creative. The marine industry as a whole is an inspiring industry to be a part of and young professionals would be lucky to be a part of something so great.

Mandi Galinis
Key Account Manager, Boats Group

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Who doesn’t like being on a boat or near the water? I didn’t grow up boating but have always enjoyed being close to the water. In college, I spent a lot of time near freshwater, canoeing Florida natural springs and beginning to fish. Once I moved closer to saltwater, I started to fish more and spent more and more time on boats. With this interest, I looked for jobs in the Marine Industry and found Boats Group.

What was your first job?

In high school, my first job was as a gymnastics instructor at the local rec center.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Being selected by my peers for 40 under 40 is a huge accomplishment! I am also very proud to have been promoted at Boats Group to work in a role where I help our largest customers.  I am also recently married and am so proud to have a husband who pushes me to set big goals and grow in my career.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Professor Bill Steiger was a massive influence in starting my career. He helped me define what a successful life looked like and guided me on getting it started. I am very thankful for his leadership and the support of mentors and members of the UCF professional selling program. I am also very grateful for my current mentors, Jamie Tate and Michael Dahl at Boats Group, who have encouraged me and allowed me to grow in this industry.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

For me, it was learning the lingo. Marine terminology is essential in this industry, and when I had started, mine was limited.  I quickly immersed myself in all things boating here at Boats Group to familiarize myself.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire people in the marine industry who came into it without extensive knowledge or connections. Learn as much as you can, work hard, and you will find that there is endless opportunity in this industry.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I learned all the basics on the first boat I called my own, a 15-foot canoe.

Who was your hero as a child?

My grandma always was and is still larger than life to me. She is a strong woman who ran businesses, always puts family before everything and has a lot of fun-- also, my parents, who have always set an example for my siblings and me.

Lee Gatts
Director of Government Affairs, Water Sports Industry Association

What was your first job?

My first job was a landscaping business that I started when I was 15 years old and I continue to operate that business today, but when I was 16 years old, I was working for a man that ran the sound system at my church. He owned a small business that installed home theater, auto, and marine audio systems. This is where I began to spend a lot of time on various types of boats and gained an appreciation for the craftsmanship and technical features that the marine industry had to offer. That was about 15 years ago, and it amazes me to look back now and see how advanced technology in the industry has become in such a short amount of time.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m proud to have passed many pieces of legislation while working in the recreational boating industry to protect businesses and boaters alike, but one specific issue in Georgia comes to mind. I had just started working in the boating industry and received word that a very burdensome regulation had taken effect, essentially prohibiting anchoring on a large portion of state waters. With the help of a few stakeholders throughout the state, I was able to write a piece of legislation that restored those waterway access rights for boaters and passed it into law. It was certainly a huge moment in my career, but it was made even more special when I received a package in the mail from a boater. Enclosed in the box was a white hat with a message that said, “thanks for being one of the good guys.” I keep that hat in my office as a trophy and a reminder of the impact that we as an industry have on so many lives.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Yes, I’ve had a few and consider myself very fortunate to have worked for some of the best leaders from Tennessee in my lifetime. In the early years of my career, I worked for Governor Bill Haslam and shortly thereafter U.S. Senator Bob Corker. Both men are outstanding examples of leadership and for me to have the opportunity to learn from them at such an early stage in my career was incredible. During my time working for both men, the principle of always doing what’s right was imperative. Each in their own way stressed to me that there would be a few moments in my career where I would be faced with a choice of doing what is easy/politically correct or doing what’s right and potentially a more difficult challenge. They stressed to lean into that challenge and to always do what’s right for the people.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

There are moments when I think we’ve all felt a bit “out of our depth” on an issue, but I’ve found that the people in this industry are eager to help those willing to learn and communicate effectively. We are literally living and working in a generational industry boom moment, and it would be so easy for many industry leaders to simply say that they do not have time to help when I ask for it, but that has never been the case for me. As a young professional, it’s tough to ask questions that you think are too simple, but the kindness that has been shown to me during my time in the recreational boating industry has been above and beyond what I ever expected.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to remind folks in the industry that the work they do impacts so many families and individuals on an incredibly high level emotionally and spiritually. During the covid pandemic, it’s our products that have brought lifetime boaters a sense of normalcy during uncertainty and for others new to boating, a newfound joy that disconnects them for a moment from the worries of the world. The prescription of being on a boat and enjoying the great outdoors is exactly what so many needed during these difficult times, and I want to encourage and inspire those in our industry to continue striving for excellence in every product they make and to remember that the work they do truly changes lives.

Who was your hero as a child?

I had many different sports-related “heroes” growing up, but my mother was and still is to this day one of the greatest examples and heroes in my life.  When I was five years old, my parents went through a divorce and as I get older, I certainly understand and appreciate more the many sacrifices that I know she made in her life to ensure that I could have the best childhood possible. She inspired and empowered me every step of the way to be the best at whatever sport, school subject or hobby that I took interest in. She has always been my cheerleader and #1 fan, pushing me to be the best version of myself. To me, that’s a real hero.

Graham Goldsmith
Director of Sales, Boatsetter

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Some of my most cherished memories are of time spent on the water with family and friends.  I was drawn into the industry to help as many people as I can to share in those types of experiences.   

What was your first job?

My first job was working in construction doing framing and finish work during the summertime.  It gave me an appreciation for hard work.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

On a personal level, it’s my family.  My wife and two young kids continue to teach me new things every day.  On a professional level, I’m proud to have had the courage to make a move to the marine industry in my early 30s.  Rebuilding myself in a new field was challenging but has come with a lot of rewards. Boatsetter has grown by leaps and bounds and we have built an amazing team that I am proud to be a part of. 

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

The charter business, as a whole, is a little antiquated and tends to shy away from technology.  Working for a tech-based company that is often seen as a catalyst for change in the industry has led to some apprehensions to work with me and my team.  Perseverance, professionalism, industry knowledge and humility have enabled us to overcome many obstacles.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Being involved in a startup has led me to always continue to challenge myself and learn new things.  Continuing to adapt and evolve has enabled me to successfully lead a team that has been helping our company grow at a tremendous pace. 

Who was your hero as a child?

My parents. They did everything they could to provide me with every opportunity in life and I couldn’t be more appreciative.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I enjoy spending time outdoors! Anything involving hiking, skiing, golf, fly fishing, diving, and spearfishing.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I believe the boating industry is at an inflection point. The average age of boat ownership is high and access to experiences on the water can still be a challenge. That is changing now and you have an opportunity to help shape the future of boating. That and boats are awesome!

Alicia Grattan
Customer Care Manager, Sea Tow Services International

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y. you cannot help but be attracted to the marine industry and be near or involved in some way. It’s just in your blood!

What was your first job?

My very first job was working for Sea Tow International in Southold, NY after school sweeping the office floors, taking out trash and putting together Sea Tow Membership boxes when I was 15. I had no idea that an afterschool job would turn out to be an eventual career. 

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Learning to be resilient in every situation life and work life has thrown at me. Most recently, as the pandemic set in, we needed to take our 24-hour Customer Care Center fully remote and digital within 36 hours. I have to say with a nimble and fully trained team, we were able to do this and continue to keep our service levels high. At the same time, keeping moral and energy up until we could be back in the office.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have been fortunate enough to come across many mentors and positive influences who have helped shape who I am. The entire Sea Tow team has influenced me in some way and my hard-working parents as well.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

I think a younger professional does not always get taken seriously at first. Actions always speak louder than words both personally and professionally. This is advice that I continue to impress upon new team members that are joining Sea Tow and coming through our training program here. Stay the course, work hard and continue learning each day.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

By helping people enjoy boating every day! I know this may sound cliché, but it is part of our mission statement here at Sea Tow- In all things we do, we help people enjoy boating. It is really an easy mission to stand behind.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I like to envision myself already successful, then make the plan of action. Then comes the hard work and patience- then success.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

Growing up on the water, I have been on many boats. I seem to be more of the “need for speed” and have always gravitated towards power boats, but as I have gotten older, I can really appreciate a sunset sail too. I have preferred not to be in the captain’s chair, but I could make it home if I had to!

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Peconic Bay, Long Island. Breathtaking views right here at home.

Who was your hero as a child?

My grandmother – her sense of humor and strength despite incredible hardship is something I’ve always admired.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The marine industry is exciting and continuously relevant. People in this industry are from all walks of life and are super interesting to work with and listen to. 

Ronnie Hanline
Creative Manager, Malibu Boats/Axis Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Coming from an athletic background, I’ve always found the athleticism in watersports inspiring. That, combined with the freedom it provides, is an endless source of inspiration. Long summer days, exploring the unknown, watching the sunset hit the water and living in that moment. The time spent with family and friends building life-long memories are constant reminders of why I thoroughly enjoy this industry.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I would be remiss if I didn’t say staying in a medium which I’ve always loved. Art and Design have been such a huge part of who I am. Seeing people experience emotion or reaction to something you create is indescribable. I feel God has truly blessed me with a talent in which I use to bring happiness to others. It’s something that gets me up in the morning, that keeps me turning through the hard times. Having a passion for your craft, truly makes you happier. Find that passion and build on it, perfect it and be open to making mistakes.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

No one person specifically. I’ve had great opportunities to work with smart business leaders which understand the value in marketing and design. Past and current jobs alike, they have instilled a fail fast attitude. That greatness is not one person, but a team of people. That standing still in not acceptable and taking criticism is part of building character.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

Being an outsider coming into this industry, I felt it was 10 years behind from a marketing, innovation and customer expectation aspect. These are truly hand-crafted products which deserve the same level of detail in the marketing and delivery of that product. Being open to new, innovative marketing and design ideas to challenge the status quo.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Communication is key. Setting goals for yourself is one thing. Setting goals that you and your team can accomplish is another. Knowing and understanding your team by getting in the weeds when they are. Sitting down and talking through concerns and thinking about the bigger picture. Knowing what you can and can’t do and how you measure that success.  When you do hit your goals, celebrating as a team knowing that your plan was executed well.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

As a child, Mountain Island Lake.

Who was your hero as a child?

I looked up to artists as a young adult. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are icons of the Marvel Universe and of my childhood. They helped shape my imagination and pointed me toward art and design.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

This is an industry of dreams. People love being on the water and helping grow that love is exciting.

Danny Harf
Sales Consultant/Marketing Coordinator, Regal and Nautique of Orlando

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I found my passion for water sports around the age of 10 when I first moved to Orlando.  I love being outdoors and especially love being on or in the water.

What was your first job?

I started on the pro wakeboard tour at the age of 15 in 1999 and competed and traveled the world as a pro wakeboarder until 2019.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I had a lot of success as a professional wakeboarder but I am most proud of my ownership in Square One (Ronix wakeboards) and being able to smoothly transition to a full time career in the industry that I love with Regal and Nautique of Orlando.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Paul O’brien, Herb O’brien, Brian Gardner and Jeff Husby.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge has been being a professional athlete and dealing with injuries and setbacks along the way. I decided I wanted to take control of my future and not wait for my wakeboard career to end before seeking out the next phase of my life.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I think other professional athletes will see what myself and other former pros in the sport have done and realize that there is a future in the industry beyond riding the board.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I develop and write down both short and long term goals and work toward those goals  every day. I don’t take many days off now! Between raising our daughter, working for Regal and Nautique of Orlando and Square One, my plate is pretty full, and fulfilling.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

Nautique

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Radar Lake, Wash.

Who was your hero as a child?

Kelly Slater.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

Family, surfing and golfing.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!

Colin Hassenger
Project Engineer/Project Manager, Edgewater Resources, LLC

What first drew you to the marine industry?

The joy of working near the water.

What was your first job?

Construction labor for my dad’s company.

What accomplishment are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of my integrity both inside and outside of work.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?  

The principals of Edgewater Resources and retired senior engineer colleagues have played a major role in who I am today in my career.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?  

Being taken seriously was a challenge when starting out, that was overcome by making sure I also had value to add to the conversation. If you can prove you add value, your age becomes insignificant.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry? 

To show them that you can become knowledgeable about your career if you are willing to listen to experience and push yourself to understand the pieces that you find challenging initially.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success? 

By trying to make myself as prepared as possible and by pushing myself to understand as many pieces of a system as possible, even those that aren’t in my scope.

What boat did you learn to boat on?  

My family had a 1987 Chapparal 187 XL when I was growing up and we adored it.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?  

Lake Michigan during sunset is truly magical.

Who was your hero as a child? 

My maternal grandfather and my father have always been legends to me.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? 

Hiking, construction and spending time with my family.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry? 

The marine industry is dynamic and working near the water is inspirational.

Nick Henry
Co-Founder & Vice President, Allied Strategic Partners

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Some of my favorite memories growing up revolved around boating with my family and friends on both Grapevine Lake and Possum Kingdom Lake in Texas. I always had a passion for boating, but it wasn’t until an exciting opportunity presented itself to work for Suntex Marinas that I realized I could turn my passion into a career in the marine industry.

What was your first job?

My first job in the marine industry was as an intern on the Asset Management team at Suntex Marina Investors. I joined them in 2013 when they only had around 10 marinas and they were growing rapidly. This put me in a great position to learn the industry because we were a small team, so I gained a great deal of exposure to multiple facets of the business (operations, asset management, financial planning & analysis, accounting, construction, fundraising, debt structuring, HR, insurance, property tax, working with government agencies, etc.). I spent a few years on the acquisitions team and assisted with the acquisition of 16 marinas valued over $200m. I eventually worked my way up to leading the Asset Management team. Suntex was really good to me and my career, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the opportunity they gave me and the foundation they helped me build. I consider many of them family.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I would have to say the accomplishment I am the most proud of is also the hardest career choice I ever had to make, when I ultimately decided to leave to co-found Allied Strategic Partners in 2021 with my partner, Quinn Heidenreich.  Allied Strategic Partners is an investment firm focused on driving growth in high quality marine and waterfront hospitality businesses. We acquired 4 properties in 2021 and have big plans for 2022!

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have been very fortunate in my career to have multiple key mentors that have led me to be in the position that I am today. Stephen Lehn was my first mentor and put me under his wing from day one. He taught me to have faith and integrity with everything you do and how to instill confidence in others. Johnny Powers taught me what it means to be a leader, a visionary, how to stay true to your core values and to never take yourself too seriously. Bryan Redmond taught me everything I know about acquisitions and is one of the most strategic-minded person I have ever met. He taught me the value of persistence and creativity, as well as the importance of conveying confidence in everything you do. Mike Warntjes and Mark Jaraczewski taught me with hard work, trust and teamwork you can accomplish anything. Lastly, Quinn Heidenreich has been a true mentor to me in all aspects of the word and always has my best interests at heart. I couldn’t be happier to start this new venture with him.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

Coming out of college, I didn’t know that a career in finance in the marine industry was even possible. I really just stumbled into it. I hope to spread the word about the great opportunities that are available in the industry for like-minded young professionals and be a sounding board for anyone else who is looking to get into the industry. I have overcome many obstacles in this industry over my career and would like to do what I can to help others avoid those obstacles all together.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Setting measurable goals is extremely important. I make sure the goals I set are obtainable and can be broken down into manageable targets I set on a weekly basis that will ultimately lead me to achieving my larger goals over time. Organization, consistency, and accountability are key to achieving your goals.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I first learned to boat on my parent’s Monterey on Grapevine Lake near Dallas, Texas. 

Who was your hero as a child?

My parents have always been my heroes. They are my rock. They set an amazing example for me and instilled good morals and values growing up. My dad didn’t just show up to all of my sports games, he typically coached them all too and he is a great life coach as well! My mom is the most genuine, warm-hearted person you have ever met and is a boss in the boardroom as well. She has been a top executive at multiple companies in the hospitality industry but always prioritized family over everything else. She is always my first call when I need advice. They both worked extremely hard to make sure that me and my brother had everything we wanted and more. I strive to emulate them as I start to build a family of my own.

Ryan Hinely
Shareholder/Vice President, Bluewater Bay Marina Complex
Executive Director, Marine Industries Association of Northwest Florida
Vice President, Marine Industries Association of Florida

What first drew you to the marine industry?

My family has operated Bluewater Bay Marina Complex since the late ‘80s and took ownership in the late ‘90s. It is our livelihood. I grew up on those docks- it was my entire childhood and all I knew and loved. I have spent most of my life learning marina operations and all that encompasses the Florida boating lifestyle. As the oldest of the third generation, it was inherently my responsibility to learn the business to ensure the continuance of my family’s marina tradition. I currently co-operate our marina complex with my uncle, Brett Hinely (second generation).

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The total restoration of a 1961 Hatteras 41-foot Knit Wit (Hull No. 2) that I own with my best friend, Robin Noah. It took us over a decade to restore “Sideways” to her former glory. We learned the engineering and mechanics of a boat, from the inside out, with our own hands- an invaluable experience for someone in my position. This would have been an impossible feat to accomplish without the mentors that patiently watched over us and taught us their craft. We were blessed to have the industry’s best, Dennis Mayhew and Scott Carbonneau, to see us through the whole process. 

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

At an early age my dad introduced me to Scott Burt, Operator of Bay Point Marina in Panama City Beach. I was mesmerized by his beautiful facility and how well it operated. He has since lead multiple successful marina operations throughout the US. We are still friends to this day.

Most importantly, my uncle and current president of our marina, Brett Hinely. He has been instrumental in developing my career as a marina operator. He has taught me countless invaluable lessons in life, business and the marine industry. I have great admiration for him as he is a fair man who demands results. Without his leadership, structure and dedication, our marina complex would not be as successful as it is today.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I was taught early on by a mentor “plan your work and work your plan”. Success is a planning process. I allot quiet time daily to set and review goals, while planning out their detailed execution. This includes staffing, budgeting, scheduling, and overseeing each process taking place. I use each experience and its outcome to refine my processes and planning for the next goal. With the proper planning, you can literally move mountains.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I was fortunate to have all different types of vessels at our facility. Learning how to operate each type is a necessary skill for a marina operator. The boat that taught me the basics of vessel operation was our 13-foot Boston Whaler with a Yamaha 40 outboard. This vessel is still in operation and used at our marina today.

Who was your hero as a child?

My dad, Scott, who is still the best boat captain I have ever met (and I have met a lot). He taught me everything I know about how to run a boat and how to catch fish. I am forever indebted to him for the knowledge he passed down to me. Secondly, my grandfather Ray, who was the original operator turned owner of our marina complex. He was a colonel in the United States Air Force who flew F-4’s in Vietnam. He is a humble man who received a ‘Silver Star’ for his service in combat. He is still an essential part of daily operations today at 88 years young.

Zach Hutcheson
Vice President of Finance and Accounting, Correct Craft

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I grew up around boats and have always had a passion for being on the water. Rowing, fishing, surfing and wakeboarding were some of my primary hobbies growing up. When I had the opportunity to join Nautique Boat Company in 2014 I knew I had to jump on it, and I’m very thankful that I did.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I’m so proud of what we have been able to accomplish at Correct Craft in the last few years. To see the impact culture can have on an organization is very rewarding.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have been lucky to be surrounded by people that continually invest in me as a person and in my career. Bill Yeargin, Angela Pilkington, Sean Marrero, Thomas Bates and many others at Correct Craft have all taught me the importance of being a “learner” and not a “knower”. They have believed in me and have given me incredible opportunities. 

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope I can inspire the finance and accounting leaders in the marine industry to get out from behind their desks and have an impact within their organization. Expand your perspective by leaning in to sales and marketing, operations, and product development to really know and understand our industry.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

First, I take the time to do it. I enjoy running and will use that time to clear my head, make sure I’m focused in the right areas, and set short and long goals for myself. I check in my goals regularly to make sure they are still relevant and I’m on track In addition to goal setting, focusing on mindset may be the most important thing I can do. Having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset allows me to adapt, change and embrace challenges. I try to make sure I don’t get trapped into having a fixed mindset. This is especially important when working for a company like Correct Craft that has grown so significantly in the recent years.

Who was your hero as a child?

Definitely my parents, and I’m so lucky to be able to say that.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I enjoy running and training for marathons.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

There’s no better industry to have a career in. Having the ability to work in an industry that brings friends and families together on the water is very rewarding. Also, it allows me to be around boats every day, and there is nothing better than that.

Daniel Indelicato
VP of Operations and Facilities, Centurion and Supreme Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I grew up spending many summer days on the lake with my family and friends. Whether I was fishing or wakeboarding, I vividly remember the joy I experienced while boating. Combining both work and something that one is passionate about made sense so when the opportunity presented itself, I couldn’t pass it up.

What was your first job?

When I was 16, I got my first job as a golf cart attendant at a Country Club in Ripon, Calif. My job entailed washing and charging golf carts and driving a caged golf cart with a ball picker attachment to shag all the golf balls. As much fun as it was, I honestly do not miss being peppered by golf balls for hours in a day.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?  

Not really an accomplishment, but a privilege to be given the opportunity for the last few years to support and strengthen the production supervisor team.  We started with a team that was frustrated, dysfunctional and lacked communication between departments and direct reports. However, through many meetings and invested time focusing on a common purpose of “One team, one Goal”, the walls began to come down and communication began to improve. Though this took some time, this team wanted to change and wanted to learn and grow as individuals and as leaders. I’ve challenged them to focus on taking the skills they are learning in these meetings to make a bigger impact within their departments. Watching them develop into great supervisors has been extremely fun to watch and very fulfilling. Their growth as supervisors has in turn allowed our team to deliver record setting months both in units built/shipped and sales.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have been very fortunate to have some great mentors’ impact and help me over the years. My first job in the boating industry was as a sales representative for Boat Country Inc. located at the time in Escalon, Calif. The owner, Brent Lemcke, took me under his wing and really taught me a lot about running a business and how to interact with customers. Currently, I have one of the greatest leaders in our industry with Paul Singer (President of Centurion and Supreme). Paul mentors not only myself but others daily and his “servant leadership” approach has influenced how I approach employees in the workplace. 

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

Jon Gordon once said, “Everyone wants to DO what the great ones do, but very few are willing to do what they DID to become great." I’m a firm believer that your effort and is cemented into the what you’ve left behind and I hope others see the hard work that I have put in. There have been many of days where I find myself in the trenches with my workers leading a charge. I strive for my character, my reputation and my behavior to inspire others more than anything else.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I’m an avid outdoorsman that loves spending time in God’s Country. Depending on what season it is you will find me field or in the forest hunting our local game (deer, turkey, pigs, quail or dove).  I’m also an avid golfer and though I don’t play much anymore I still enjoy a round of golf here and there.

Dan Karsko
Founder & CEO, KnowWake

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Catching and selling minnows in the back bays of Atlantic City, N.J.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Serving in the US Air Force for 12 years and deploying to the Middle East is something I’m proud of as well as an experience that continues to help me personally and professionally.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Jamie Shortill from Strand Venture Partners is a true friend and challenges me every day to be better. Navin Goyal from LOUD Capital is one of KnowWake’s earliest believers and I’m forever grateful for him and his team. Also, and most recently, Paul Dugsin and Supreet Manchanda from Raiven Capital have helped us reach the next level in our mission to make boating safer, easier and more enjoyable for all. Thank you everyone!

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

It’s cold and salty out here, but someone told me a while ago that if you can’t stop thinking about it, don’t stop working on it - so here we are.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

To always keep going forward. The idea for KnowWake came in 2013 to simplify wake zone information and make boating destinations easier to find. By 2015 we had an app with traction in Florida and went to our first boat show. Now, we’re available in 34 countries and 500 freshwater lakes and rivers.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

I’m lucky to have explored so many great areas growing up and charting for KnowWake. Every body of water is unique and fun and picking one isn’t easy – there is however, something about the Gulf side flats of the Florida Keys that feels and smells like a favorite. I love fishing with the clock system and distance and then, BAM, it’s on and possibly something different every cast!

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

Aviation and camping off-grid.

Shannon Law
Founder, aflote

What was your first job?

My first job was a lifeguard post at a local pool. It wasn’t a bad way to spend my summers. In my career, I kicked off an internship at a growing marketing agency in Toronto, Canada when I was 25.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Yes! I worked on a couple other startups in equity positions. However, it wasn’t until I started working with a dear friend, Sonya Gill, founder of TheLNK, that I became inspired to branch out and create my own legacy. I admire everyone who has the courage to take steps toward entrepreneurship.  My friends and family continue to encourage me and push me, even if they are not fans of the long hours I work.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire other women to get involved in this exciting industry! There are so many career options to explore. It has been a male-dominated industry for many years, but we ladies love boating as well!

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I am overly organized in goal-setting. I have my ‘big rocks,’ those massive milestones, and my ‘small rocks,’ the smaller wins that will get us there. Sometimes we need to pivot based on changing circumstances, input, and sentiment, but the massive milestones are always in sight and I don’t mind moving a few smaller boulders to get there.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I learned to sail on a 26-foot MacGregor. Our family would trailer the boat down to Florida every March Break. During the summer we would explore the waterways of Georgian Bay and the North Channel.

Who was your hero as a child?

My parents were extremely hardworking. I always admired that. My father worked very irregular hours, but always made time for my brother’s and my extracurricular activities. To this day, I still don’t know how he had the energy to coach my junior basketball team!

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I believe that the marine industry is ripe for disruption and, until recently, was very underserved in certain technology areas. This provides a great foundation for those with new ideas to bring innovation to a booming market. I cannot wait to work with the upcoming cohort of marine industry disruptors.

Stephen Marshall
Jobe Sports E-Commerce USA, Jobe Sports International

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have quite a few so I’ll just name them in no particular order as a thank you: Austin Hair, Danny Tolentino, Rob Stimmel, Sophie Noorts, Jeff Littlefield and the Regal Marketing Team, Spencer Matsumoto, Tyler Holloman, Kyle Norris, The Kuck Family of Regal Boats and of course my entire Jobe Sports team across the pond!

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

When I first started working as the marketing manager for Regal Boats, I had serious imposter syndrome. Here I was... young, brilliant, handsome and humble working for a multimillion-dollar organization with hundreds of employees counting on me to do a great job to keep the engine running smoothly. What helped me to overcome that fear was teamwork. No one can have all the right answers all the time. So, when I admitted that to myself and to others, I found could together work diligently towards a common goal. I think Marie Forleo says it best: “Shame always shrivels when you say it out loud.”

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

This one is easy, lead by example, stay true to yourself and blaze your own path. I think the marine industry has a hard time not looking inward or to the past to find success. In other words, I’d love to see more people from outside fields such as tech/design/marketing become boaters and water sports enthusiasts, than to see people from the boating industry do their best at tech. I hope that as a member of the boating community I can inspire people from outside our niche to join us and take the next revolutionary step in our industry.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

This is a real struggle for me as it is in my personality to almost always look at the big picture and not sweat the small stuff/details. I know where I want to go but I’m not so great at knowing how to always get there, so it’s important for me to surround myself with a great team that is strong where I know I am weak.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Lake Wylie in South Carolina or Lake Conway in Florida. I’m much more a fan of the fresh than the salt. Tides, current, rough seas and I don’t get along.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The marine industry is a perfect place to not only hone your skills but also blaze your own path. I believe anytime you can mix your passion, whether it be in tech, hospitality, customer service, manufacturing or whatever it may be and mix it with being on the water… you’ve got the recipe for a great and prosperous career.

Joanne Martonik
Senior State Marketing Manager, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I’ve always enjoyed the water and love to swim, boat, fish. Some of my best memories are going to the beach with my family and enjoying the fun, beauty and mystery of the ocean. I have always been interested in conserving our natural resources. I was immediately interested in working at the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation as the mission is to conserve the aquatic natural resources I hold dear.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of volunteering for a year in the AmeriCorps VISTA program. I worked in Helena, Mont. to help people take financial education courses and help them save money for their education. It was a very rewarding experience knowing I was making a difference in people’s lives.

Not only was I able to help others in this position but living in Montana showed me how important the land and water really is to me. With so much beauty around me, I knew I wanted to help protect it. This sparked my first conservation-related job at a land trust in Helena.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have had many people influence my career over the years. Their combined impact has helped me get to where I am today. I didn’t start out in the marine industry but with encouragement from others, I was able to refine my skills and focus on different opportunities. 

Through them, I learned to speak up for what I believe in, to be true to myself and that hard work pays off,

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced while growing in my career is having my ideas disregarded. Without as much experience as others, they assume I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve been able to overcome this by reinforcing my opinions, so they are heard by everyone at the table. I work to ensure my passion is seen which has helped me be taken more seriously.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to show others, especially women, there is a wide array of things you can do in the marine industry. You don’t need to be a boat captain or fishing enthusiast to play a part and have an impact. My work to increase participation in fishing and boating has had challenges but also great rewards. I hope to show others that my work is making a difference and making the world a better place and they can do the same. 

Who was your hero as a child?

My dad was my hero as a child. He instilled in me a passion for being outdoors. He was the first person who took me fishing and canoeing and taught me to respect nature.

Rusty Morgan
Vice President of Sales & Operations, Americas, Propspeed USA

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I grew up in the Midwest, near Chicago, but my grandfather was a passionate sailor, winning gold in the ’52 Olympics and racing locally on Barnegat Bay in N.J. He was really influential in showing me how building a ‘culture of care’ in maintaining a boat can be a lesson for the rest of life.  Not many 9-year-old kids get excited to spend a day sanding varnish and replacing mast fittings, but I loved it!  Fast forward to when I was trying to work out the best way to make a career out of my Geology degree, I realized that I had already spent 10 years in the trenches of the marine industry and loved every minute of it so I never looked back.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career? 

My grandfather, Britton Chance set me off, but I have been extremely lucky to work with many people who really helped me see that cooperation, and flexibility are the key to making things work.  John Craig, both at the AC and StFYC and Ian Murray at the Cup were phenomenal to work with.  Watching and learning from how they deal with the immense pressures of high stakes racing was eye opening and really guided how I manage chaos today.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?  

Getting over imposter syndrome and realizing that it’s ok to be curious and ask questions. I think that there is so much skill and knowledge that exists in the industry that it can be very intimidating, but if you are a sponge for knowledge you find that people are very willing to share. As a kid, you have to accept that you know nothing and lean on those around you.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I would like to be an example that if you say yes to something you have little experience in, learn on the fly and try your hardest, you will absolutely fail. But… you can take the experience of making a mistake and add it to your tool bag.  Keep at it for long enough, stay humble, and you will become successful.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I try and wake up every morning as a time traveler. I need to exist six months in the future and build a plan that will give me tools to succeed down the road so that today is already in my rearview because I had already anticipated it.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

Duckboats! If you’ve never sailed a 100-year-old wooden dinghy that sinks slowly but surely as the day goes by, you haven’t truly lived.

Who was your hero as a child?

My grandfather. He used to trick me into running aground just to teach me how to kedge off a shoal. Once I forgave him for being entertained at my expense, I realized the value of the lessons he taught.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I want anyone with a technical, or customer service bent to realize that there are a huge variety of trades within the profession. There are an endless supply of unusual problems to solve, so it never gets stale, but more to the point, the world is 75% water, and that means your skills are now transferable across the globe. I want anyone coming into the industry to know that there is a place for you regardless of your skills, background or location, and there’s not a more fun area to work that I know of.

Lindsey Olmstead
Rental & Marina Manager, Hagadone Marine Group

What was your first job?

My very first “official” job was a salesperson in a women’s clothing and accessories store called “One More Thing” - but as a young entrepreneur who began dreaming at a very young age, I had a babysitting, house-sitting and dog walking company. The majority of my pre-marine industry career was in retail for companies like Nordstrom, Faconnable and Le Creuset. I have brought a lot of my retail experience to Hagadone Marine Group through our Marina Shops at Boardwalk Marina and Silver Beach Marina - we now sell a line-up of beautiful water apparel and gifts to our tenants, customers and tourists. 

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

There is no doubt that the challenges I’ve faced within this industry have helped me build resilience capacity. Navigating through the various obstacles these past years has helped me to build a strong foundation to continue succeeding in the marine industry. Being on a team where the majority of our other department leaders have many more years’ experience with this company than me, I’ve found it challenging to be respected for the experience I bring to the table from my years of yachting and retail management. I’ve conquered this challenge by not only having an open mind and willingness to learn from them - as we all have something to learn from others - but by also continuing to exceed revenue expectations in my departments, bringing thoughtful ideas to the conversations we have about growth, and by executing projects with a level of professionalism most assume would come from someone much older than me.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

5 days, 5 months, 5 years. My targeted goals are for the short term, near future and long term. I make a list and I have a “Daily Goals Review” in my calendar that I read daily with my coffee. I look at these and remind myself with every goal to one - be a part of the solution, two - remain confident in my expertise, and three - emotions are contagious.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I learned on my father’s Eden Gig rowing skiff that I helped build for fishing in the high lakes of Oregon. I also gained a lot of insight and knowledge from my mom’s Catalina sailboat on Lake Coeur d’Alene - as well as various friend’s boats throughout my years of growing. While I learned “basic” boating skills on those boats, I learned the “serious” navigation and rules of the sea on a Stevens 90-foot Motor Yacht “Trilogy!”

Who was your hero as a child?

As cliche as it might be, my mom was my hero as a child - and still is! I have learned so much about both boating and life itself from her and continue to learn from her to this day. We all have so much to grasp from our parents, and I hope to do the same for my kids as they grow up.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The marine industry is a special one. Not only is it endlessly connected with so many various career paths, but also the opportunities are endless and there is always something new to learn and grow from. The earth is covered in 71% water and everything in the world is connected by water - commercially and recreationally, the marine industry is intertwined with human life since the invention of the first canoe. The industry is growing exponentially and will never go away, only evolve!

Shaun Reale
Regional Sales Manager, Gulf Coast, Sportsman Boats

What was your first job?

A bag boy at Kroger, but my first job in the marine industry was a Sales Coordinator for Yamaha Outboards. It’s a desk job: answer phone calls, process paperwork, help the sales reps in the field and the bosses in the office. Not a glamorous start but it’s a good foundation for learning the industry, some of its most used products and making solid connections.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My family. I am married with two boys, I could not be happier with or more proud of what my wife and I have accomplished.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have a lot, too many to name just one or two of them. Managers, coworkers, friends, each of them has mentored and influenced me throughout my career and continue to do so. I cannot thank them enough for the time they spend with me.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

By working hard and doing what I say I am going to do. You would be surprised how far simply answering the phone, making yourself available or returning a call or email to a customer goes.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

A 210 Sea Ray. Growing up my family and I spent a good amount of our summer breaks at my grandparents’ house in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. We’d take the boat out all day in the bay systems skiing, tubing and just boating around. The family time spent on that boat are some of my most cherished memories.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Key Largo so far, although I have a lot of boating and exploring still to do. The water while we were there was beautiful, crystal-clear green and blue. You could see straight to the ocean floor!

Who was your hero as a child?

Spider-Man of course! Now it’s my parents. As cliché as that sounds my mom and dad both had full time jobs and worked hard. That taught my brother and I a lot about hard work and responsibility. Dad would be gone to work before Mom got us up and out the door for school in the mornings. Their dedication to the family and taking care of us is something I have tried to emulate with my family.

Stephanie Shirley
Associate General Counsel Labor & Compliance and TIDE Program Director, Brunswick Corporation

What first drew you to the marine industry?

The overall on-the-water experience – while I didn’t grow up boating, I have always enjoyed water related activities from swimming to hanging out at the beach.  I absolutely prefer warm weather leisure activities, which is what gets me through the brutal Chicago winters after spending many years living in South Florida.  Since joining Brunswick, I have had the opportunity to interact with the water in a new and unique way by experiencing our fantastic portfolio of brands and products.  It has also made me appreciate the array of benefits you experience with being out on the water and interacting with nature.  

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

My mom and dad have been key to my professional and personal success in different ways.  My mom taught me from an early age to be fiercely independent and ensure I grew a career where I was both passionate and financially successful.  My dad has always been a stellar example of incredible work ethic and passion, while also instilling me a strong sense of accountability and honesty – he is in his 70s and still wakes up every morning at 3:45 a.m. to exercise before he goes to work.  

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

I wouldn’t phrase it necessarily as a challenge, but an opportunity – to follow your intuition.   There have been several moments throughout my career where I didn’t follow my gut feeling on a decision or a particular topic, and it led me to an outcome that wasn’t ideal.  I learned and continue to learn from each of those events, which only solidifies for me that our intuition is an often-overlooked superpower.       

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

My experience within the marine industry is a good example of its tremendous opportunity.  While the traditional roles are important to the industry, there are so many other career avenues and opportunities where people from diverse backgrounds and experiences can play vital roles.  I also hope we can continue thinking about and/or challenge ourselves to think about how we can attract a wider audience to the industry to enjoy the full benefits of what being out on the water offers. 

Who was your hero as a child?

My parents – I would not be where I am today without the sacrifices, support, and encouragement of my mom and dad.  

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

There is so much opportunity across the marine industry to have a successful and enriching career, whether you work within one of our manufacturing facilities or you are supporting the business in other ways like I do.  We are also making, creating and providing unbelievable and fun products and services that get people to interact with and enjoy the water.  Marine is the way to go, especially at Brunswick, for all professionals looking for a challenging and rewarding career that values innovation. 

Shawn Smith
Process Engineering Supervisor, Cobalt Boats

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

Certainly! I’ve had a number of mentors and influences, starting here at Cobalt with a gentleman named Gary Schulz. Gary was a hard worker, which I’ve always tried to be, and he was also levelheaded and could solve any problem. Over the years, I’ve worked with many other people here who’ve inspired me, including Terry Clark and Charles Tillery, along with my current boss, Ivan Luna, and Jason Turner, our President, both of whom have given me some wonderful opportunities to learn and grow with the company.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenges I’ve faced come from working with people to help them see how a new idea can make things better for all of us. Change is difficult and in my role – and my department’s role – we’re constantly trying to improve workflow processes, enhance efficiency and accomplish more each day. That means listening to other workers, getting buy-in from all the stakeholders in a process and, ultimately, helping them see that the new approach will make sense to them. In many cases, that comes down to understanding different individuals’ personalities and figuring out how to get everyone on the same page.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to set an example to others that, by working hard and being a team player, one individual can make a real difference in a company. When I started at Cobalt as a worker on the factory floor, I had no idea that I would someday be an engineering supervisor. But there were people here who gave me a chance to improve and learn and grow, and I’m sure others in the industry can do the same.

Who was your hero as a child?

It might sound a little crazy, but my hero as a child was Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. I was impressed that he grew up in a difficult situation, an orphan on a desert planet, and that he had to overcome a tremendous number of obstacles to achieve his goals. Along the way, he stayed true to his values and eventually become a Jedi master, so maybe that’s one of the places I saw where hard work could pay off.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

Along with camping with my wife at the lake in the summer, I enjoy riding our side-by-side with her on trails out in the country. Indoors, I enjoy designing and 3-D printing a whole range of useful items around the house, to replace damaged parts or to add functionality when I see a better way for something to work.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I’ve found the marine industry to be a fast-paced and exciting place to be. Every year, there are new boat models with innovative features that sometimes push the boundaries of current technology. And I’ve seen that if you’re a young person with new ideas and a willingness to learn, you can be successful in your job while also staying on the cutting edge of change.

Whitney Smith-Burnash
Director of Operations, Silver Spray Sports Inc.

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of choice, as I was born into a waterskiing family and started skiing at the age of 2.  

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I held the Midwest Collegiate Women’s Waterski Slalom record when in college and won the US National Championship title in slalom waterskiing in 2019.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

My mom and dad are amazing role models and have created a very successful business around making customers feel like family. They are also my biggest supporters in everything I do.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I like to think of myself as positive and outgoing.  I like to dream big and set goals high for myself; continuously challenging myself on any given task.  I find that I do not get easily discouraged if I am unable to achieve my goal in a given area. Always reminding myself that I need to be flexible as things are ever-changing.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

A 1989 Ski Nautique.

Who was your hero as a child?

Helena Kjellander - growing up in a waterski family, we spent many weekends participating in waterski tournaments.  I watched Helena compete and learned from her.  She was a positive role model for myself and other young girls.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

I think it’s important to love what you do. Who doesn’t want a job doing something they are passionate about? If you have a passion for water and boating you have a lot of great job opportunity’s available to you in the marine industry. This is an industry full of fun and passion that is focused a lot around families.  

Keisha Spicer
Strategy & Business Development Manager, Heyday Wake Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I grew up boating with my family in East Tennessee. My favorite memories of childhood include time on the water, competing with my brother for the kneeboard trick of the day, wakeboard time,and of course, to see who could hold onto the tube the longest before being pushed off. When we would arrive home, my dad and I would wash the boat together in the driveway, often turning the task into a water hose fight. Those are core memories that I cherish, and I knew I wanted to play a part in making those same memories for other families.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I could not have experienced the growth in my career without the self-proclaimed A-Team of Heyday. This group of passionate people took me under their wing, taught me, encouraged me, and refused to let me fail. Without their influence and support, I would not have experienced the same levels of success.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope others are inspired to let the passion guide the mission. We have the distinct honor of providing the tool that creates incredible memories, and I hope that others let their love for the water guide them to the right decisions for families that are counting on us.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I set long-term, high-level goals first. From there, I break the goals into short-term, achievable tasks. This helps me stay on track to achieve the larger strategy, but by breaking it down into smaller steps, avoids the potential to become overwhelmed.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

1988 MasterCraft TriStar 220, open bow, with the 454 Big Block.

Who was your hero as a child?

Not unlikws growing up. He was strong, dedicated to his family, full of energy and always guiding and teaching my brother and me. His work ethic was hardly outmatched, except when it was time for play. He was the role model for the person I wanted to one day become. Thankfully, my hero hasn’t changed, and I’m still trying to live up to the man that I saw hang the moon.

Hunter Spitler
Regional Manager, Southernmost Region, Suntex Marinas

What was your first job?

My first job in the marina industry was at Freedom Boat Club in Bradenton, Fla. as a part-time dockhand. I worked for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office on my days off.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

One of my most recent accomplishments involves being part of three major marina acquisitions within the past six months. Being involved in the entire acquisition process, from the initial walk-through and RFP, to learning the current operation, to now running the day-to-day business has been an eye-opening experience and something that I have learned tremendously from. An important part of each acquisition is reinvestment into each facility, ranging from heavy redevelopment projects to simple items such as new fuel tanks, dispensers, landscaping, etc. These reinvestment projects are crucial during the first 90 days of the purchase, and I’m proud to serve as project manager for each of these endeavors.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

In the marina industry, I have three significant mentors: Jeff Stukel, Kat Ross, and Sam Chavers. These three people have taught me a lot, encouraged me to be the best marina manager I can be, and have been the most influential in my career. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for them.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope someone such as myself receiving this award will inspire the younger employees within Suntex and other marina companies. If you set your mind to something and put in the hard work, one day someone will see that, and your accomplishments will be recognized. I truly love what I do and strive to learn as much as I can so that I can better serve our customers.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I try and set realistic yet challenging goals for myself. We always face challenges but it’s how we handle and learn from them that makes achieving a goal that much better. The team that you surround yourself with is a huge part of success. In this industry you need a core group of people who can assist in every aspect of the business.

Who was your hero as a child?

My dad is my hero. He worked at the Sarasota Police Department and ran his own business with my mom. I am very thankful for my parents and the work ethic they instilled in me.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

Some of my non-boating hobbies are spending time with my wife and daughter, family and friends playing golf, hunting and grilling/smoking on my Big Green Egg.

Jason Taylor
Store Manager, A&S Boats

What was your first job?

My very first job was a paper route when I was 12 years old which continued until I entered the work force at 16 at True Value Hardware. My first job in the boating industry was with A&S Boats and began in 2015.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Some of my biggest accomplishments which I am most proud of are opening and operating my own satellite retail and installation company when I was only 19 years old. Another one would be when I was given my own boat dealership, which is a branch of our main boat dealership, after being in the industry for only 2 years.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

My biggest mentor in my boating career hands down is the owner of A&S Boats Mark Passeri. Without his guidance, knowledge, trust, and family like embrace I would not be where I am today. Some other people in the industry who have had a substantial influence on me on the service, warranty, and general marina day to day operations are; Jeff King, Rick Stevens, Mattew Morse, and Bill Gardella.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I’m happy to show everyone that it really is a lifestyle. It is filled with modern technology and adventure that, when enjoyed and done right, never feels like just another boring job.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Plan, plan, plan. Every day there should be a company meeting with a written-out list and objectives, so everyone is on the same page along with a projected and yearly plan as well. Always be looking for new innovative ways to stand out and grow.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

My very first boat was a 1961 Spitfire which I had redone at the age of 15. I also had kayaks and inflatables.

Who was your hero as a child?

Growing up, my father was my hero. He built his company from scratch and provided our family with everything to live a good and happy life. He was always there for us and still is.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

There are many good reasons to choose a career in the marine industry. Right now, boating is on the rise and there are many ways to grow within the various aspects of the business. From performance to new electric environmentally healthy motors, the possibilities are endless.

Cory Waite
Director of Digital Marketing, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA)

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I’ve always lived around water, growing up on Lake Erie and now in Chicago with Lake Michigan.  Being so close to water and having grown up around it made it an easy decision to join NMMA and enter this industry filled with amazing people, products, and opportunities.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

In my relatively short time at NMMA, I’ve been proud to launch all of our Boat Show websites on a new platform that are more user friendly and easier to navigate – particularly on mobile phones.  Additionally, we rolled out a beta version of our Digital Boat Show Guide for the 2022 boat shows that offer the consumer the chance to shop and browse the boats that will be at the show – before, during and after. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for our Discover Boating 2022 Campaign themed “See You Out Here”.  I’m very proud of the work we’ve done to introduce new consumers to the boating lifestyle.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I would say my first boss who hired me out of college was a huge influence on my career.  I took a job at a small internet marketing agency and it’s where I learned all things related to digital marketing – from SEO to paid search to writing effective email subject lines.  I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today without the help and support of learning these skills from him.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

Working for NMMA, I’m working with my team to be on the forefront of changing technologies when it comes to online and digital experiences and how they can help our members connect with consumers.  There is so much potential to improve these connections across the digital space – from our websites, boat shows, advertising, social media and more.  With our Discover Boating campaign, we are inspired to not only continue speaking to current boaters but to also grow the number of new boaters that are being introduced to the lifestyle for the first time across our marketing channels.  It’s an exciting time to be in the marine industry!

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I think it’s super important to set goals for yourself and be constantly gauging your progress.  I try to set goals that will ladder up to the overall NMMA strategic goals and corporate values.  When evaluating success of meeting my goals, I ask myself “did these goals ultimately deliver value for both our end users and for our members?”

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

With COVID numbers easing, it’s been awesome to get back to being able to travel again.  Traveling and learning about history and other cultures is a huge hobby of mine.  At home, I enjoy spending time with my new wife, friends, and family.   During the warmer months you can find me on the golf course trying to break 100.

Leslie Walch
COO, Hurley Marine, Inc.

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I was born and raised on the beautiful shores of Michigan’s Little Bay de Noc. My dad, who had grown up on the Great Lakes, instilled a love and passion for boating in my sister and I from a young age. The adventure of the outdoors and the grounded feeling of stepping onto a dock made me realize that a career working in the boating industry is what I’m passionate about.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I have quite a few accomplishments that I’m proud of. But one of my greatest accomplishment is being a mom. I’m truly blessed to have a smart, talented and kindhearted little ten-year-old daughter who looks up to me. I treasure her and strive to make her proud. She inspires me to work hard and reminds me of the kind of person I want to be as I continue to grow and learn in this ever changing industry.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire other young women to step out in faith and confidence in themselves for the opportunities that are out there waiting for them. If they believe in themselves and love what they do, there is no end to the possibilities. I hope to inspire them to continually look to improve upon their knowledge, try new roles, step out of their comfort zone and to give it their all.

Who was your hero as a child?

My Grandma June was my ultimate hero. She was such a wonderful genuine person. She has molded me and inspired me to be the person I am today. She was the most amazing idol and I am so glad I got to spend the time I had with her. She would be very proud of me!

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I would have to say that gardening and golfing are two of my favorite non-boating hobbies. Since summers are short in the Upper Peninsula, I truly do appreciate getting outside and enjoying the outdoors.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The marine industry for me has been such an amazing and exciting industry to work in. I have been afforded experiences not offered by any other career. Going to international boats shows has shown me how much potential and opportunity there is in the Marine field. It provides the opportunity to travel almost anywhere in the world, to meet and work with people from a variety of different nationalities. It provides an opportunity to work in such a unique opportunity and an ever-changing environment. If young people are looking for a great career with room to grow, this is the industry to be in!

Kelli Wallace
Sales Assistant & Member Services, Marina Holdings LLC

What first drew you to the marine industry?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time on the water with my dad. I have a lot of great memories of boating with him and of him teaching me how to fish. When I heard of a job opening at Yarmouth Boat Yard, one of Marina Holdings companies, I jumped at the chance to apply.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m really proud of what I have achieved working here. In 2016, I started out as a Detailer working with the service team in the yard. In a few short years, I have advanced to become the Office Manager. I’m really appreciative of the opportunities that I have been given. It’s great to work for a company that strongly believes in promoting from within and giving existing employees the opportunities, training, and support to grow with the company.

Did you have any key mentors or influencers in your career?

Steve Arnold, our owner, is a great role model. He leads by example. He’s always looking for ways to grow and improve himself and his companies. And he’s a huge supporter of empowering his employees. He encourages us to enroll in training to expand our skills and he offers valuable career advancement opportunities for which I am grateful.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

I guess the biggest challenge can be the times when people may doubt that your qualified in some way. I’ve learned the importance of believing in myself and my skills. The key is to remain calm, confident, and respectful while also advocating for yourself and offering your knowledge and expertise.

Also, I have three small kids and balancing work and family life can be challenging. But one of the best parts of working for Marina Holdings is our owner Steve’s belief in being flexible and supportive of his employees. His adage is “family comes first”. He stands by this, offering flexible work hours for parents which has been extremely helpful for me.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

I am always determined to succeed so when presented with a challenge, I face it head on, giving it 100%. And I am not afraid to ask for new responsibilities.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

I love gardening and spending time with my family.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

It’s really rewarding to work in an industry that is so fun. We’re able to make a living helping people get out on the water. There are so many great jobs in this industry and I’m the perfect example of how someone can advance their way up the business ladder.

James Wielgosz
Director of Federal & Provincial Government Relations, National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) Canada

What first drew you to the marine industry?

I am somewhat new to the marine industry – I started at NMMA Canada about two years ago. In my prior role working at Ontario’s economic development department, manufacturing was among the key files I handled. I got to see first-hand the amazing companies that make goods in North America, from airplane fuselages to fiber optic cables and of course boats and marine products. I was drawn to the idea of helping businesses more directly and growing our capacity to make things right here in Canada. At the same time, I have enjoyed boating and fishing since I was a kid. My grandparents had a beautiful lakeside property near Barry’s Bay in the Ottawa Valley, which has many beautiful lakes and waterways. I loved to visit and enjoyed boating with family and friends. I saw this role at NMMA as a great way to pair my personal and professional interests.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

I have had several solid professional mentors over the years, most notably my boss at the Finance Department in Ottawa, Shawn Fried, who always challenged me to be better and found ways to encourage and build up our team. Despite starting at NMMA Canada just before the pandemic hit, I have also enjoyed strong support and mentorship from our president Sara Anghel, my peers at NMMA and other leaders in the industry.

Who was your hero as a child?

My grandfather was a big figure in my childhood. Even though he passed away when I was very young, I was brought up on stories of his exploits as a Second World War fighter pilot and leader in the Polish-Canadian community. He also owned a beautiful recreational property in the Madawaska Valley in eastern Ontario where I was first introduced to boating and fishing as a kid. Those fishing and camping trips with my dad are among my fondest childhood memories. So in a way, I have my grandfather to thank for kindling my love for the water and the outdoors.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

First off, the recreational boating sector is engaging. For someone who wants a new challenge, there’s a ton to learn about how the industry operates, the huge range of products and services available and the many ways that boating is impacted by government policies and regulations. It also helps that boating as an activity is just plain fun! There aren’t too many other industries where you can have a lunch meeting in the middle of the lake on a beautiful summer day and call it work. As well, I would say the sheer diversity of the industry opens up endless possibilities for a young professional starting out. You can go into sales, engineering, advertising and media relations, government advocacy, the list goes on. Look at me: I spent most of my career working as an aide to cabinet ministers on Parliament Hill and at the Ontario legislature, and I was able to seamlessly bridge into working for NMMA. There is truly a place for everyone in the marine industry.

Tim Williams
President, RazorFish Boats

What first drew you to the marine industry?

To say I was drawn to the marine industry would be a mis-statement. I was born knowing that the water and boating would be part of my life. At 12 I built my first boat, which promptly sank with me in it. It demonstrated to me how design and safety must be in perfect union to have a great product.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Working with my wife to design a new product and get it up and running into a business. She works hard at her job to make sure the family and business are stable, while I do all of the dreaming, designing, and building for RazorFish. We are a completely family-owned business. The computer I am working from says powered by Intel. Every RazorFish should have a sticker that says powered by my wife. That would be truth in advertising.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

For sure. Everything I am is because of people in the marine industry. Both of the teams at White River Marine Group and EdgeWater Power Boats molded me into who I am today. In particular Tim D. and Brian H. at White River were two people I always look up to.  Their ability to work hard and solve any problem that came up was inspiring. Brian and Tim taught me a lot about how to make a boat.

As a young professional, what are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the marine industry and how did you overcome them?

The biggest challenges I’ve come across have started with the words “this is how we have always done it." That usually isn’t the case. Boat builders are usually taught from other boat builders, who were taught from boat builders. I liken it to making a xerox of a piece of paper and then making a copy of the copy. Every time the copy is made from a copy it picks up bad habits, short cuts, and eventually the paper is hard to read. To fix that, I made documents that the builders can understand.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I hope to inspire people to chase their dreams. Don’t be afraid to try. You are never going to be smart enough, have enough money, or have the right timing; so just do it. Get out there and start small or get help. Just get out there, work at your dream.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

For power boating it was the typical 1970s tri-hull. I’m pretty sure they all came out of the same mold, no matter the brand. My uncle always took us out with him. We fished and tubed mostly. For sailing, my dad owned a Starwind 223 when I was kid. It was a great little boat for weekend trips and sailing.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

The intercoastal and surrounding waters of Florida. Florida has so much to offer year-round. Growing up where it’s cold, we hit boat season hard and fast. The great thing about Florida is it’s year-round. Different fishing seasons get hit hard and fast, but boating in general is nice. We are always exploring new areas from scalloping in the Gulf to fossil hunting along the Peace River.

Who was your hero as a child?

Really didn’t have one. As a kid I was pretty much in my own little world. My wife would probably tell you I still am in my own little world. Coolest person I got to hang out with would be Dave Gerr of Gerr Marine. I took some classes with Westlawn while he was running the program. He would let the students work the booth with him at marine trade shows. I would listen and be inspired while he talked about boats and the books he has written with people at the booth. The guy is a wealth of knowledge.

What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies?

My wife and I have two small kids and are renovating a home. I only dream of hobbies at the moment.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

Hands down, no question about it, the people. For the most part, everyone is great to work with. The people are usually outdoor type people, seeking fun adventures. Second, would be the industry is fast paced and always changing. As an industry, we have everything from high tech digital electronics to space age composites. It requires a lot of different types of people with different talents to manufacture the vessels that make dreams reality, protect countries, and deliver the goods that make daily life possible. Our people are the greatest part of the industry.

Brandon Wood
Salesman, South Florida Marine

What first drew you to the marine industry?

In short, my family. Although being 24 years old I have been in the marine industry for quite some time. My family purchased a small boat repair shop when I was very young and has grown that into South Florida Marine. I always was around the dealership and felt very comfortable around boats as well as the people who enjoyed them. I was drawn in by the fact that most of the industry is based off want, not need. I don’t want to sell life insurance, which seems boring and unfulfilling. I want to sell something where the customer calls me and explains that he is having the time of his life using our product.

What was your first job?

My first job was at South Florida Marine. I was a detailer that cleaned boats after the service department was done working on it.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

My singular moment might be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business from FAU. But in reality, my biggest accomplishment are a collection of sales and small accomplishments that has helped the business that I work at become better.

Did you have any key mentors or influences in your career?

My father. He has taught me countless lessons that has helped more than any textbook or business class has. He creates opportunities for all employees here at South Florida marine and gives the tools to act on them. Much of what I have accomplished in this industry would not be possible without him.

How do you hope to inspire others in the marine industry?

I only hope to inspire though actions. I have worked hard to get to this point in my career and really hope that I can continue my journey. I have become a salesman very young but not without going through the gauntlet and making sure that I am knowledgeable enough to successfully sell a boat and not just take a boat order.

How do you set goals for yourself and set yourself up for success?

Many of my goals are very small, daily goals. This helps plan my days and weeks out. As for large goals I may set a few, things like sell “X” number of boats or make sure that over 95% of our boat sales customers have a good first boating experience.

What boat did you learn to boat on?

I learned to boat on a Mastercraft Prostar 197. Learning on a boat that couldn’t just be bumped into the dock was not easy but has helped me in the long run.

Where is your favorite place to go boating?

Hands down I love nothing more than to go to the Bahamas to boat. The water the atmosphere, the weather, there is nothing better.

Who was your hero as a child?

I was always a bit of a nature nut, so my hero was Steve Irwin.

Why should young professionals choose a career in the marine industry?

The fulfillment of the marine industry is unlike any other. You’re not trading stocks and bonds that make people money, you’re not selling them a car to get them to work. You are selling a desire, a desire to get on the water and enjoy time with friends and family. Even if it’s only two days a month, many times that is going to be the two days they cherish most and it feels so great to be part of that for them. 

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