How This Wife and Husband Team Turned Their Boating Hobby Into a Thriving Business Brynn and Antoine McLeod discuss the development, launch and growth of STREX Fasteners.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what's your business?
Brynn McLeod: We are Brynn and Antoine McLeod, the husband and wife team behind STREX Fasteners, a system that makes the process of covering a boat much easier and faster. We're originally from Anchorage Alaska. We met and started dating in high school over 20 years ago and have been married and business partners for nearly 10 years.
Antoine McLeod: Now we live on a lake near Seattle and when we're not working, we're typically on our boat with family and friends. We came up with STREX Fasteners because we were tired of the old way of putting on our boat cover when we were done having fun on the water.
What inspired you to create this business?
Brynn: We thought that there just had to be a better way to cover a boat. Pressing on and snapping in dozens of metal buttons not only took forever but was also very painful on my hands and fingers.
Antoine: Once we realized that there was really nothing on the market that addressed this common problem we knew that this was a great opportunity. We started working with Brynn's father, who is an engineer, on different designs and after testing out several prototypes finally landed on the STREX Fastener design that we offer now. The best thing about our patented design is that they are very durable yet flexible and they make covering a boat super easy.
Brynn: And we are currently working on several new products that utilize our one-of-a-kind STREX systems: a universal pontoon boat cover with integrated poles that circumvents the need for costly custom canvas covers and eliminates the hassle of crawling underneath the boat to attach it. The other is an OEM design that would provide new covers with the same benefits as our retrofit product.
What advice would you give entrepreneurs looking for funding?
Brynn: I'd say to first start with friends and family. If you have an idea that you believe in and a business plan that clearly shows how you intend on returning their investment chances are you can find someone close to you willing to help.
Antoine: These days there are several Venture Capital and Angel Investor online platforms that can help just about any type of business find funding. I recommend doing your research and trying to find an investor that not only meets your financial needs but aligns with your vision as a brand or company. Once you have identified a good investor that matches what you're looking for, provide them with your pitch deck and arrange a meeting. From there it's up to you to deliver a compelling pitch.
What advice would you give for preparing for a pitch meeting?
Brynn: The key to a great elevator pitch is to keep it short and to keep their attention.
Antoine: Practice your elevator pitch over and over again until it becomes second nature to deliver. Then, after you have perfected it, practice your pitch some more.
How did it feel the first day you opened for business?
Brynn: I was super excited once we finally launched our product. Just to think about all the progress we made from the early days of creating prototypes to seeing our final product in its packaging ready to be delivered seemed surreal. Once we started getting orders and sending products out, it finally set in that we did it.
Antoine: I was nervous about everything. Was our website working correctly? Were our ads performing well? So many different things could go wrong. There's definitely some self-doubt that sets in because you wonder if your idea is really good or not. But it's in times like those that you just have to believe in your process and trust that all of your hard work will pay off.
What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Brynn: Being the new guys in the industry. Most people in the boating business know of each other from different trade shows and marine organizations. We literally had to start from scratch and try to develop relationships with as many professionals in our line of work as we could. What we have found is that most people in our industry were more than willing to help out newcomers like us. It really just took us getting out of our comfort zone to set up meetings and cold call anybody that we thought or hoped would listen to what we had to say.
Antoine: There are so many moving parts that come with this kind of endeavor from handling logistics to payroll to customer service and countless other responsibilities. When you start thinking about all the things you have to do just to get up and running its remarkable that anyone starts a business at all. What I have found helpful is to prioritize keeping everything about your business hyper-organized so that you can feel that you are in control of things while being more productive and hopefully a little less stressed out.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
Brynn: Self-starter. Someone who is adventurous and willing to take big risks.
Antoine: Free thinker. Someone with big ideas and the guts to pursue them.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
Brynn: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." That's Theodore Roosevelt. I love this because there have been so many times in my life that it's been really easy to make excuses like "We don't have enough money or experience to pull this off." This quote reinforces to me that it's not about your resources but your resourcefulness.
Antoine: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." — Wayne Gretzky. This quote always inspired me to not fear or shy away from failure. I believe that athletes and entrepreneurs have a lot in common including failing often. In business and in sports failing is a part of the game, and those who win are usually the ones who keep trying until they achieve success.