Author: Colby Uva
Running A Business & Spending More Time Fishing
When I was 19 years old I started Bullbuster.net. I was in undergrad at the time and completely obsessed with landbased shark fishing. Instead of studying for finals or mid-terms I spent the time browsing the South Florida Shark Club website learning how to catch sharks. I was living vicariously through people who were out on the water while I was spending my time studying. My sophomore year of college, I had literally had enough. It didn't make sense. The day before my chemistry mid-term I said to myself "I am out". I called up my buddy Johnny and asked him if there were any charters for the week (he worked for Masita Charters in Miami). He said yes, and the day of my mid-term I met Johnny at 5am at the dock to ready the boat for the customers.
That morning I sent a text to my family letting them know that I was done with school and was starting my career as a fishing mate. Boy that was an amazing day. I think we caught 6 sails, I felt free. When I returned to the dock, I had about 20 texts from my family and so many other people telling me that what I was doing wrong that I would regret it, etc. etc. etc... The Captain of the boat (Carlos) sat down with me at the dock and told me that he thought it would be best for me to continue going on with my studies, that hashing it out as a fisherman was hard, and even he did it as one of several businesses.
The only one that did not say anything to this affect was my dad. I met with him for lunch, we sat down together on the side of the road in the car to talk, as we have in many of the most important moments in my life. My dad did not have any words against my decision, he told me "do you what you think is right, that path is always there for you if you want it, you choose what you do with your life". I thought about what my dad said and I ended up going back to school, but I gave myself one condition, that would mean that I would need to spend more time fishing.
The next day I walked into the office of my college chemistry professor, Dr. Prabhakar. He probably doesn't remember me, but I remember him. I told him that I had quit school yesterday and become fisherman. I told him that I was going to give it another shot, and I asked him if he would let me take the mid term. To my surprise he let me. I don't remember the details, but I am sure there was some deduction on the score or something, but I was back in the game.
That semester I got more involved with shark fishing. A friend Raymundo (now a father and owner of Captain Jax Bait & Tackle) told me about a commercial warehouse where I could get line cheaper than from other places. I was literally shocked at what the difference in price was between the commercial warehouse and what I was buying in a store. I had been catching bull sharks, but to me Bullbuster now literally meant, this is bullshit.
I had enough orders at the time that I didn't have enough cash to buy the actual inventory and I would borrow $300 or $500 from my dad to buy the inventory and then pick it up and then deliver it along the highway. My deliveries were usually from Miami to West Palm Beach.
At some point I figured out that this business model was not working out, because of the gas and the time it took to drive to the warehouse, then deliver and then come back to Miami. Most of my deliveries were during rush hour, and the traffic was fun to say the least.
I made it through my fall semester of undergrad ( I think having Bullbuster as a new goal literally helped me through the drudgery). I needed to press the reset button. I embarked on a study abroad program to the Galapagos Islands.
I was so anxious to get out of regular college life that I bugged the coordinator, Dr. Larry Peterson endlessly asking him if I had been accepted. It got to the point where he finally told me, "Colby you are fine, as of now we have less applicants than we do spots." I am sure at the time this was stressful to him, but for me it was a relief.
When they asked if I had any requests for my host families, they asked questions, like :
What Personality Do You Match With:
What Amenities Do You Want:
Do You Have Any Food Restrictions:
I had one answer to all these questions, I said, I want to live with a fisherman.
I was lucky enough to land a job as a son of local commercial fisherman Manuco. I learned many lessons from his way of life and his lifestyle as a fisherman, but I will not get into them here.
Over my Christmas break I spent many hours at my dads office. Maybe too many for his taste, planning the new company. I had an ex-girlfriend who was an artist so I tried commissioning her to come up with a logo. Soon I had my initial logo, at least a pencil sketch of it. The initial logo involved a pair of Jaws, a Bullshark and two rods with 14/0 senators crossing the jaws. I was overjoyed by the result.
I have come to find over time, that visually, I am easily pleased compared to most people. Maybe I'm just lower maintenance, a simple machine. When my dad showed this design to his wife (my step mom)'s brother who was a graphic designer, he told us that "everything was wrong with this logo". It had to be simple and iconic like the Coca-Cola logo or the Nike Logo. He asked me to send him some inspiration so I did.
Martin (that is his name) sent me what I now know to be a meme ( I don't think the name officially existed back then), but it was a meme that compared Coke's logo with Pepsi's and showed how Pepsi's logo had changed over time, but Coke's had stayed the same over the years. According to Martin, this was the way to go with a logo. (I may have made a few tweaks to ours from its original form, but I have kept the idea in the back of my head over the years).
While I was in the Galapagos, even though I had VERY bad internet connection, I remained in communication with my dad. Between him Martin and Martin's wife Laura we began to come up with the companies website. Bullbuster.com was not available so we settled for Bullbuster.net.
I actually did not know this at the time, but my Co-Founder and best friend Eddie was also starting marketing activities on the ground back in Florida. It was a two fold approach. He had printed flyers out for the upcoming website and he not only was keeping our Shark Fishing team strong, but under his leadership he had brought Team Bullbuster (The Shark Fishing Team) to a whole new level with unprecedented results.
I was in an internet cafe on San Cristobal Galapagos when I saw the hammerhead he and the team had landed an 11'2'' hammer (the biggest one our team had ever landed, well actually still to this day has landed (although I believe its time for us to go back out and beat this)). I literally yelled out loud in the internet cafe "HELL YEAAHHH!!!" Apparently I did this so loud, that I startled everyone around me, they were just staring at me, with no explanation as to why I had yelled out loud. ( I am not always the most self aware person.) But damn I was so proud of them.
I came back in town with a girlfriend, but I let her know that this month was going to be dedicated to shark fishing and she was going to have to live with it. It was time to rally the troops and get the team back up and running.
The team had changed while I was gone, and as I stepped in to take back control I was met with some opposition. Eddie told me that he felt he had more invested in the team than others and he felt it was only fair that the team members with more rods get more chances at fish. This was not the team culture I had tried to implement before but my team member with the most rods was about to back out. I made my decision. I do not see decisions as right or wrong, because they must be made, but all decisions have consequences, that is the nature of a decision.
I brought this up to the rest of my team and was met with opposition by my other team mate Zack. I had known Zack for 15 years, his father had literally taught me how to fish. Zack disagreed with the new team rule, but decision had been made. After some time arguing over the concept, I lost my cool and raised my voice "The decision had been made thats it, I yelled at Zack fuming". That is a moment I regret as our friendship has not been the same since.
The tournament still needed to happen and we needed the team to make it happen. So I sent out some messages out to multiple people I knew. I was lucky to get a confirmation from Ryan Peters, a friend of mine from high school. When I say lucky, I mean extremely lucky. Ryan ended up fishing with me for 28 out of 30 nights of the tournament. Steven Stallings ( our youngest team member known as Pewee by the lbsf community after a category had been created just for him in the last tournament) was in middle school and had class, and Eddie had a pretty serious girl friend. Alex Marikos had some school. So in the end, most nights were me and Ryan putting the time in the time on the sand.
I really don't know how Ryan did it. I would sleep during the day and get up mid day to get ready for the tournament. I would drop off Ryan at 6 am in the morning and he would get up and go to work at 8am to do it all over again. Ryan is a true pirate (he actually ended up living on a boat for about 2 years after the tournament).
To me, this years Big Hammer Challenge was to be a grand launch of our Bullbuster product line. The initial shipment of monofilament had arrived and I brought it to the tournament. My plan was to win this years tournament and use this win as a grand start to our company with the publicity it would received.
I brought the newly branded Bullbuster line to the Captain's meeting and let people hold it in their hands for the first time. I thought to myself, " this is really happening".
In reality, for all the time that we put in that year, it didn't end with us catching any sharks that even put us close to winning. Most days were just Ryan and I fishing. One night we had a double header with sharks that swam in opposite directions and ended up enlisting some girls who were walking down the beach to take the pictures for the fish to count in the tournament.
After the tournament, we launched Bullbuster.net actually to be exact it was June 1, 2011. That month we did $1,000 in sales, the next month, we did $1,700 in sales, the next month we did $2,700. In my mind we had hockey stick growth coming on from there.
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