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A Light in the Dark: The Clearwater LED Story

Starting a business saved Terry Boike’s life.

 

After working in banking for almost 20 years, he was forced to medically retire.

 

“Because of a rare illness, I couldn’t do that job anymore. It’s a skin disease, so I can’t comfortably wear work-appropriate clothing, just t-shirts and soft shorts.”

 

Terry suffers from an autoimmune disease. It makes it difficult for him to walk, or really move around in general.

 

They look great along a dock, and even under ice. We sell them up in Michigan during winter, and they really illuminate the ice sheets

 

“It’s a real challenge. You never know when it’s gonna flare up. It’s up and down, so I get my son to help me out when I’m having a bad day.”

 

But, having worked all his life, Terry was getting bored.

 

“I bought a house on the water when I retired, and I noticed everyone had these green lights. So, I went to buy one and it was about $500. I thought ‘wow, what’s in this thing?’”

 

What Terry saw were fishing lights. They’re generally used to attract fish when fishing at night.

 

“But, they can be used for other things too. They look great along a dock, and even under ice. We sell them up in Michigan during winter, and they really illuminate the ice sheets.”

 

Terry learned to tinker with machinery as a kid, and developed some great problem-solving skills.

 

“We could figure out how to make something work that someone else would throw away. I had a lot of confidence in my ability to build these types of things. After seeing how these lights worked, I knew I could do this.”

 

Finally, he found something to do. With the help of his son, Clay, he would start Underwater Green Fishing Lights.

 

Lighting the Bulb

 

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Once he figured out how they worked, Terry decided to make a business of it.

 

But, a client base and business model don’t just appear out of thin air.

 

“I was looking at Craig’slist of all places, and this young Aggie was selling his company that made underwater green fishing lights. But, by the time I got to him, he’d sold almost all of it off already.”

 

“I ended up paying $500 for the logo, a website, and a bunch of parts. Then, it cost me $5,000 to fix or replace every light he ever built.”

 

Terry wasn’t satisfied with the product. He wanted to make something worth his customers’ money.

 

Now, we guarantee our lights last underwater for 3 to 5 years. That’s no easy thing.

 

“I wanted to protect my new brand. After the guy taught me how to build them in 30 minutes in an unlit warehouse, I knew I’d have to figure it out on my own. But, the business was all the better for it.”

 

So, Terry and his son Clay started building lights and, consequently, their business.

 

“We started building them real slow to see what worked and what didn’t. Turns out, the secret is sealing the bulb.”

 

Together, Terry and Clay created a bulb that stayed sealed and brighter for longer than any product on the market.

 

“A lot of research and experimentation went into it. We had to figure out the best cord length, brightness, everything. Now, we guarantee our lights last underwater for 3 to 5 years. That’s no easy thing.”

 

It took Terry and Clay another two years to work the kinks out.

 

After that, things really took off.

 

Growing Up, Growing Out

 

After a few years of experimentation, Terry’s business was booming.

 

“In years 4, 5, and 6, we grew a ton. We actually doubled in sales, and hit the magic number so we could expand. We looked into overhead lights, floodlights, and other avenues to move into.”

 

Underwater fishing lights flooded the market. But, with bigger business comes bigger problems.

 

“Our biggest blessing was our biggest challenge. Our lights were way more reliable than anyone else’s, so everyone wanted them. We grew exponentially, so quickly, that we outgrew our business model.”

 

Terry’s business grew so fast that he and Clay were forced to start a new business, Clearwater LED.

 

“Underwater became a million dollar business in less than 6 years. It took all my time just to run it, and I wanted to do more with Clearwater. It has a lot more upside, and it’s our own brand that we created. We can play with the marketing, and establish our own client base.”

 

Terry’s business grew so fast that he and Clay were forced to start a new business, Clearwater LED.

 

So, that’s what they did. But, that meant communicating with suppliers and manufacturers in China.

 

“The problem was, here in the US, I couldn’t find anyone making an LED fishing light. By chance, I met a young man over in China who lined us up with a factory. He ensures the quality of the factory, product, and everything for us.”

 

With an employee, suppliers, and manufacturers in China, Terry was sending a lot of money overseas.

 

The problem was, his bank wasn’t cutting it. Plus, with his illness, it wasn’t so easy to take a trip to the bank.

 

There had to be another way.

 

Work from Home

 

Some days, Terry can hardly leave the house. Everyday tasks have become so difficult, that even driving in his truck can be a struggle.

 

So, when his bank told him he had to go into the branch to make an international wire transfer, he wasn’t too pleased.

 

“For me, to go to the bank is not always an easy task. At times, my wires would just sit because I’d have to put off going to the bank depending on how sore I was. But, we all know that if you’re gonna do business overseas, you’ve gotta pay on time. Nobody touches anything to do with your business until you pay for it.”

 

If Terry takes a week to get into the bank, that’s an entire week of manufacturing and profit his business loses out on.

 

For Terry, the ease and convenience of Veem saved him time, money, and the pain of traveling all the way to the bank.

 

Even with almost 20 years of experience in banking, Terry couldn’t find a better way to pay his overseas suppliers. With his bank, there simply wasn’t another option.

 

“Plus, they still hit me for $50 a wire, even though I worked there. The system’s broken and there’s no way around it. I could transfer from home, but then they’re still charging me way too much per payment.”

 

On a particularly bad day, Terry was bedridden. But, his manufacturer needed a payment sent. So, he went online and started researching.

 

“I just happened to find Veem through my web surfing. They offered me exactly what I needed. I didn’t have to leave the house to send a payment, and they didn’t charge me.”

 

For Terry, the ease and convenience of Veem saved him time, money, and the pain of traveling all the way to the bank. At this point, he won’t even work with anyone unless they use Veem.

 

“I recently closed a deal on the condition that the supplier use them. It’s just so easy to use, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to. I’ve had no problems.”

 

With all this extra time, Terry and Clay can keep growing, and developing a better product.

 

“We’re still evolving our lights and expanding our brand. Without Veem, it might not have been possible.”

 

Starting a small business has done much more than make Terry some money.

 

“It’s honestly saved my life. I was miserable, and being able to work with my son everyday, doing something I love, has meant more to me that I’d ever have imagined.”

 

For Terry, there’s more to small business than the bottom line. It’s about family, and following your passions.

 

Recently, Clay passed away as the result of a terrible car accident. To honor his memory, Terry is starting an initiative to help young business-minded people like his son.

 

“We’re starting a Non-Profit Foundation in Clay’s name to help young veteran entrepreneurs setup and operate business. The focus of the foundation is to promote a worldwide business model to leverage a global economy versus simply looking at the US as your only market.”

 

Terry plans to funnel 90% of Clearwater LED’s profits for this program.

 

“We must turn this tragic event into something positive. My son had a crazy big heart, and helped so many people. He’s inspired this initiative as he inspired me to go into business with him. He was, and will always be, my motivation.”

 

This story is dedicated to Clay Boike. Fisherman, Entrepreneur, Friend, Son.

 

The future is bright for the Boike’s.