A Gulf Coast boat builder discovered a far-out opportunity in his recession-forced heartbreak. 'Don't be afraid to try something different,' he says.
Scott Gerber's ego, not to mention his bank account, got whipped when the economy tanked.
His boat business, Legend Custom Yachts, went from a $5 million, 60-employee enterprise in the boom to a barely hanging on company with two contracts in early 2010. Gerber, who has built boats in Monte Carlo and Norway, in addition to Sarasota, admits he prolonged the end much more than he probably should have.
“At some point, no matter how blind you are, the writing is on the wall and even a fool could see it,” says Gerber, who shut down Legend in July. “That's the way I felt. It was painful.”
Gerber, however, discovered purpose in his pain.
Indeed, Gerber latched onto a new business opportunity through what he considers a Divine Intervention entrepreneurial twist. It's called Tube Dude: Colorful metallic stick-statues made out of aluminum and other materials used for boats.
“If times had been good, Tube-Dude never would have been born,” says Gerber. “But I'm a firm believer that this will go big.”
Tube-Dude has three employees, including Gerber and his former partner in the yacht business. Gerber has sold about 100 Tube Dudes so far to a variety of restaurants, doctor's offices and retail stores in and around downtown Sarasota.
Tube-Dudes cost from $1,000 to $1,500 a dude. And Gerber doesn't plan to stick only to Sarasota. Instead, his business plan is to sell franchise rights to other entrepreneurs, in Florida and nationwide. He says he already has interest from 15 people in Florida, including the Panhandle and Jacksonville. “They see the potential,” says Gerber.
Gerber also sees potential in renting out Tube Dudes for parties and events. That would be another revenue stream and a great marketing tool because the dudes, above all else, says Gerber, get people talking. “I've had lots of people tell me they love my Tube Dude,” says Gerber.
The chatter, in fact, started soon after Gerber made the first Tube Dude, just before a July 4th party at his house. He and his business partner built the dude in what was left of the Legend Custom Yachts factory while the duo cleaned up the floor and reminisced. “We hadn't had fun like that in a long time,” says Gerber.
Neighbors and friends who stopped by Gerber's house on July 4th and saw the original Tube Dude on a dock raved about the creation. Says Gerber: “Literally every person who saw the dude said 'I want one.'”
Soon after Gerber started to focus on how to make Tube Dude a viable business. Gerber realizes he still has a long way to go to turn the business from novelty to solid sales. But he's glad he gave it a shot, considering how low he was upon the demise of the boat business.
He also learned a valuable recession-survival lesson in the process. “Don't be afraid to try something different,” Gerber says. “You might surprise yourself.”