Can you give us some details on your background and why you founded Rudder USA?
What are some of your fondest memories of boating, and how did that shape your brand?
I have two memories that I will share with you all. One is pretty embarrassing and one happens to be one of the happiest memories I have of boating.
The embarrassing memory happened when I was in middle school. I had a good friend from school living on the chain of lakes and I wanted to pick her up in an antique classic boat for lunch. Not only did I want to drive us to lunch, I wanted to go to one of the busier spots on the chain. We got there successfully, ate lunch, and were heading back to the dock. After we had gotten in the boat, the engine wouldn’t start. I tried over, and over, and over again and the boat wouldn’t start. And if you are unfamiliar with older boats, they are loud. So not only would the boat not start, but the awful noise it was making caught the attention of the people sitting outside at the restaurant, and soon enough I had a whole patio of people watching me try and unsuccessfully start the engine. It got to the point where I had to call my dad and ask him to drive to the restaurant and help me start the boat, which eventually happened. The whole process took about 30 minutes and I was so embarrassed I didn’t drive a boat for 2 summers after that. Looking back on it now, it was probably a good learning lesson for me and made me more aware of how the boats actually work.
I know most of your products are made in the USA. Can you tell us a little more about your line and how it is made?
I would love to dig a little deeper about what it’s like to be a young CEO and Founder! What challenges did you face starting your business?
Rudder USA didn’t have the start it was supposed to. I started the journey of building Rudder USA between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college. To put it into perspective, that was 4 years ago. I was advised from my father to take it slowly and start with a solid foundation to build the rest of the brand off of and go up from there. It was a side project that I slowly built through my college career because I knew I did not want to start it while I was finishing my degree.
My plan always consisted of me launching Rudder USA in May of 2020. Unfortunately, I, along with almost everyone, faced a major setback due to COVID-19. Here is what happened: For the last few years I had been working with a local Product Development and Manufacturing company in the Twin Cities to help jumpstart Rudder USA. They had helped me with everything from developing the fundamental basics of my clothing designs, all the way to the manufacturing point. Then, at the beginning of May, I received a phone call from the CEO of the company. During that phone call she informed me that the company was suddenly contracted out by the USA government to only make PPE until the end of 2020. She told me I had to pick up all of my fabrics and materials and find another manufacturer to make my clothes. This was within the month of me launching my business and I had to start that part of the process completely over. My plan that I had been creating for years now had turned upside down and I had to act quick and pivot in order to launch in a timely manner. Many phone calls were made, countless late nights were had, and I spent hours driving around the Midwest in order to pull Rudder USA together before Summer’s end.
Even though Rudder USA did not start when it was supposed to, and we were only able to launch 50% of our initial plan, we still persisted. Our launch finally came on August 31st, and thankfully it was a success. Now we work hard to bring our customers what they want and we love engaging and growing our support in the boating community.
Do you have any recommendations for people looking to create their own brand?
Make sure you do your research. It is better to be slow and thorough than to move too quick and self-destruct. Having a great product isn’t enough, but no amount of marketing can hide a bad product.