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The Hustle

Name: Mark Thomas (Boaters Republic)

Posted By Andrea Perez

It was Mark Thomas' love of being on the water that inspired him to establish the Boaters Republic - a boating and fishing outfitter. This family-owned business offers an wide variety of clothing, accessories, fishing gear and products to help marine enthusiasts get the most out of their time on the water. Since its humble beginnings, Boaters Republic has moved to a bigger location and opened a new retail location in South Tampa. Both stores offer over ten clothing brands and three brand collections for men and women. Their brand Ship Chic, a coastal living boutique, focuses on quirky "must have" beach accessories. For Thomas, the process of starting his small business came after too many visits to big-box stores. "The experience when buying such fun stuff should be better," he thought. So, he made it himself.

Years in Tampa Bay


Hustle (job)

President and Owner of Boaters Republic

What do you do?  

We are an Outfitter that focuses on selling everything you might need for your life on the water except for the boat itself. We offer clothing, sunglasses, flipflops, boat supplies, fishing gear and kayaks, and paddleboards. My main job is to make sure our stores project our WHY to everyone that shops with us. I help make sure that everything we do is centered around helping people enjoy the water and to do it with style.

Why do you do it?

I love the water and the whole lifestyle associated with living near it. I love to find cool brands and products to be able to help customers have an even better time on the water.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I was sitting in line in West Marine, (the Big Box for Boating) and I had a crazy thought that I could compete with this giant Box store. I noticed that the store didn’t match the excitement of the gear they were displaying. They were very cold, and Kmart like in the way they displayed their product and I thought that the experience when buying such fun stuff should be better. My wife and I put a plan together and ended up opening a small location on 4th St. just north of Noble crust and I worked the first three weeks straight until we were able to hire someone to help. 5.5 years later and we have two much bigger stores and 35 employees, and I ’m stoked to say that we still have many of the customers that I met in those first few months of being in business.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

Probably the most unknown aspect of what I do is I pray a lot. I believe that in order to run a successful business, you have to do things well and get some divine intervention. Retail is a tough business to be in especially these days with the Amazon’s of the world changing the way we buy things. There are more times than not that I feel like David vs. Goliath.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

Keeping all of the plates spinning. Owning a growing small business is kinda like someone gives you eight sticks and starts spinning a plate on each one and you have to keep them spinning while also trying to walk forward. As a small growing company, everyone has to take on a lot of jobs and they have to do it quickly and well. The biggest challenge is to keep the vision in mind and work towards it. It is very easy to be consumed with each and every fire that arises and try to put them out.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

Honestly the video from Simon Sinek about “Start with Why.” When everything you do starts with your WHY, the business puts out a sound and feeling that tends to draw people that believe the things that you do.

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