We interviewed Doug Schultz, who started the company with Justin Rietema, their first prototype consisting of denim material with foam blocks duct taped to it.
To date, they have sold a few thousand units and have already been accepted as vendors at West Marine and Camping World. In addition to that, Schultz said, “We see private labeling by resorts, boating ventures and watersports related companies as a big part of our future business.”
Here’s what else he told us about…
How the Idea Came About
Justin, myself and our group of friends would routinely go out boating on the weekends on the waterways of Fort Lauderdale. We would engage in tubing, wake boarding and other water activities, and then when finished with the active sports, we could all float around in the water and have some drinks. Most us guys would take a life vest and step into it and wear it like a pair of shorts to float around while the ladies would typically bring noodles, rings and floats to float on/in which added a lot of clutter to the boat. Needless to say, wearing a life vest upside down isn’t very comfortable, they aren’t made to be worn that way, and ultimately there is foam in all the wrong places. So we decided to reinvent the life vest by making a panelized device that can be used for all active watersports, allowing a full range of motion and flexibility, but can also be inverted and worn comfortably as a pair of floating shorts with a easy to use dual slider zipper.
All of our products sell about the same. Our Beverage Bobbers are fun accessories that allow your drink to float next to you. They are a much lower price point and therefore we sell more quantity, but our Scuttlebutt products that provide floating saddle, floating chair and kayak seat configurations all in one product also sell really well for us. All of our products cross over market sectors which helps us with a broader consumer base.
Advice to Future ‘Tank’ Contestants
Keep applying. Keep working at your vision. We started with an idea in 2009 and eight years later, we have two full utility patents and Coast Guard Approval; but that was just the beginning. That was our backstory. Now we hope to utilize this Shark Tank exposure to finally market these products in an efficient way. Just keep working and things will eventually happen for you.
Their 1st Prototype
The first prototype was literally denim material with foam blocks duct taped to it. Then we slowly refined the design until we found a manufacturer that could assist us to get it to the next level. There is a lot of research that went into it. We knew we wanted this to be a Coast Guard Approved Device and that there was no life vests that offered multifunctional ways to use the device. We had to look closely at front to rear buoyancy ratios as well as length and sizes for all aspects since it needed to be fitted for vest and shorts configuration. We spend about three years getting the device ready for market.