Wanda Kenton Smith
Chief Marketing Officer, Freedom Boat Club; President, Kenton Smith Marketing
Education: B.A. in Journalism, Auburn University
Years in the marine industry: 36
Was it difficult to navigate a career in this industry? Why or why not? Throughout my 36-year career in this industry, I have been extremely fortunate to be associated with many very smart business leaders who were willing to mentor, share and encourage me on the career front. Terry Snow of World Publications (later bought by Bonnier), Rob Shirley, founder of MasterCraft Boats and Paul Kuck of Regal Marine were major early mentors and influencers in my industry career. They, and countless others along the way, inspired me, provided opportunities and believed in me. I’ll always be grateful for the support and friendship of colleagues that made it easy to navigate a career.
While the industry itself may seem very large to an outsider or newcomer, it is really a pretty tight, interconnected community. We’re so fortunate to have many great folks within our ranks.
If you had to choose one memorable achievement in the marine industry, what would it be and why? I’m most proud of two achievements and they are equally important to me. Founding Marine Marketers of America gave voice for the first time to marketers working and making a living in our industry. Our voice as a group had never been heard or recognized. Through the launch of the Neptune Awards and other initiatives, I believe the contributions of this organization have and continue to make a positive impact on both the marine marketing community and the boating industry at large.
Secondly, I’m very glad to have been able to raise awareness of vital new markets and the importance they play in our industry’s present and future growth.
I first began this discussion in the 90s and think I was the first to address the need for the industry to recognize and value women in the sales and boat purchasing process. I had the opportunity to produce training videos and materials that were used to educate thousands over the course of several years about the critical role women play in influencing not only the brand of boat or related gear of choice, but whether the family invests time in boating at all. I continue to wave and promote the banner of inclusion and through my role with the RBLC New Markets Task Force, hope to continually educate and motivate others to invite and welcome the fast-growing cadre of affluent African Americans, Hispanics and Asians to boating.
What are some of your favorite non-boating hobbies? I’m a motorcycle enthusiast who loves to travel and explore new destinations. I’m an avid reader. I love to write. I also really enjoy singing contemporary Christian music and sing with my church’s praise team.