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How do two former fishermen who grew up in rugged Alaska and Montana end up as founders of an e-commerce marketing business?
Daniel grew up in Homer, Alaska as the son of commercial fishing legend Tom Stafford. Since he was 3 years old, Daniel was out on the boat with his father, gone for a month at time. It was an amazing experience. Fishing all summer, homeschool in the fall and winter. Repeat.
Daniel remembers getting a big set of fish and the crew rolling it aboard. The boat tips way up and you’re holding on for dear life. One set was 15,000 tons and worth a million dollars. It took 20 minutes.
Fishing is addicting because you live for those moments. You grind away all season through many crappy days in a row – catching minimal fish, getting up at 4am, putting on your wet rain gear, stacking the net. But then you get a big set that makes it all worth it. Fishermen somehow only remember that big set.
This is what Daniel knew – going out, earning with physical and manual work.
Rob was born in Montana. His father’s calling as an artist resulted in a non-traditional nomadic childhood. The family was tight knit but because of the artist lifestyle, money was even tighter.
The family took advantage of the freedom this kind of work provided and seized the opportunity to travel. As a kid, Rob remembers it feeling like a big adventure. But as he got older, it became more difficult.
Making new friends and then leaving them again and again took its toll. Sports like wrestling and football were always a passion for Rob. In Oregon, he found a band of brothers among his teammates during middle school. As the family decided to uproot again and eventually moved to Costa Rica, Rob decided to move in with a friend. He began to see himself as completely independent and saw how critical making a living was going to be in his future.
(Their stories are separate up to this point.)
When their paths cross, Tom Stafford encourages Rob to join the fishing business. Daniel and Rob do some traveling together and Rob falls in love with Brittany, Daniel’s little sister. Both guys get married and decide it’s time to lower the needle on risk and provide.
But how they get to that point is where things get really interesting.
Rob’s Story… Continued
On Rob’s honeymoon, Tom Stafford calls to report a sick deal on a boat.
It’s important to point out that there is absolutely no guarantee that a fishing boat is going to make any money. This doesn’t stop anyone in Alaska, however. It’s totally normal for people to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt knowing that it’s going to be unbelievably stressful, competitive and high risk.
So, naturally, Rob goes into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt before the honeymoon is barely over and he and Brittany do the fishing themselves and they do it well. They place among the top 5 fishing boats in the area in the first year. Then, between Brittany getting pregnant, some injuries, the long months away, and the need to take other jobs to make ends meet, the idea of being away so much quickly becomes difficult for Rob.
After his daughter is born, he’s on his boat alone at the end of the season. He is thinking about his new baby and that he’s been gone for 4 of her first 7 months. At the same time, he sees another boat. There is an older guy drinking a lot and fishing. Rob asks himself, “is that going to be me?”
People quit at different times, but he decides right there. That’s it.
Daniel’s Story… Continued
Meanwhile, Daniel starts his own fishing business too. Debt, marriage, new baby coming in the middle of the fishing season all make life pretty stressful. Daniel feels a ton of pressure being a new captain and the son of Tom Stafford at the same time.
As Daniel is on his way home to meet his wife to prepare for the birth of their first baby, the crew is watching the Walking Dead. A wave catches the boat and turns it hard to the right. The bow goes under and takes on so much water that Daniel immediately realizes there is no way they are coming back from this. Daniel climbs out the window, luckily with his cell phone in his pocket, as the boat is rolling. He soon finds himself standing on the bottom of the boat and calls his dad who was fishing a mile away.
All crew members but one – Patrick – surface. The pressure of the water had trapped Patrick in the door. He’s taking his last Titanic-type breaths when the pressure equalizes, and the door opens for him. The door kept his pants, but let him go.
Because the boat was underinsured, it was a financial nightmare. Daniels basically loses everything including the drive to fish. But he has to provide, so he goes back to work.
Gone for the first month of his own son’s life, he also begins thinking, “do I really want to risk my life to make money every day?”
Taking a Leap of Faith
These two guys realized that the next season of life had to be different. Marriage and family seemed to require less risk. Passion was non-negotiable.
Daniel had always thought that he was just going fish and do what he had always seen those around him doing. He read Think and Grow Rich, shared it with Rob, and that changed everything.
They realized how much they loved making videos on the boats, so they decided to take that first step to create a video production company. They held relentlessly on to the belief that they would be successful.
The first year was tough. They barely made 100K. It was just Daniel and Rob and one other guy. Between three people, expenses and start up fees, they each only made 10K that year.
They took the leap of faith, but it was tough. Now here they are with a successful ecommerce business. We’ll talk more about how they got from point A to point B in the next episode.
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