The most rewarding aspect of building Chasing Tides has been learning from other like-minded individuals. Often, as we converse and hear the stories of those we partner with, we snicker and grin like school children.
It’s kind of like that scene in Billy Madison, when Ms. Vaughn announces to Billy’s third grade class, “We’re gonna start today by reading together a short story entitled ‘My Sister Fanny’,” and all the little kids giggle while Billy looks at them like a bunch of idiots.
We do so not out of disrespect, but out of admiration for the storyteller, and affirmation of our cause. It hits us in the moment and we think, this person, this story, right here, is why we started this - which for whatever reason makes us giggle. Let’s just call it excitement.
Tim Wilhelm, founder and President of Manta Racks, is one of the people we felt this way about.
Manta Racks produce a series of rack systems that attach to your boat’s prefabricated fishing rod holders and transport wakeboards, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and floatable water mats. These rack systems keep the deck of your boat open and undamaged.
The story behind Manta Racks is implacably original, and stems from Tim’s childhood, decades ago. Forgive us, Tim, for aging you.
We learned from Tim persistence pays off, humility is indeed a virtue, and that there is a wild population of non-indigenous rhesus macaque monkeys inhabiting portions of the Silver River in Florida....Tim knows some shit.
Ascribing his work ethic to his parents and grandparents, Tim regaled us with tales of his childhood where chores and responsibilities came before backyard football and evenings on the water.
“Work ethic was part of our upbringing. With this said, I wanted to create a business that allowed me to have fun while working. I knew that I had to work hard to achieve my dreams,” he told us.
So, we weren’t surprised to hear that Tim has been developing for years what Manta Racks is today. In his words, “I say that it has taken me 20 years to become an overnight success.”
The three of us grew up on the water as well, and I can still feel the pain of my wakeboard sliding into my ankles as my dad would get our center console on plane. After experiencing a similar occurrence following a day wakeboarding with his son, Tim had his eureka moment.
What immediately followed the joy and excitement of the “Ah-Ha!” moment to help solve a problem, and in this case the creation of an invention, is the sobering reality of how to make the idea come to life.
With regard to creating Manta Racks, the challenges were many. Tim explained to us obstacles one, two, and three; where to start, who can make a prototype, and how to pay for it all. Beyond that, he needed to get a patent and determine at what point in the process could he start selling the product.
“There are so many challenges,” Tim said. “Believing in yourself and doubting yourself are probably the biggest challenges in the process.”
Logistical and self deprecating challenges aside, our man Tim also had a full time job and a family to consider while trying to get Manta Racks up and running. Working in the corrugated box industry as a sales rep for 30 years, Tim was able to use the transient nature of that job to aid in the development of Manta Racks.
“My job was flexible. I traveled for work and when I didn’t travel, I worked out of my home,” he explained. “I arranged to meet my day job customers with picking up my parts orders or visiting potential Manta Racks customers.”
Tim’s work ethic coupled with the desire to build his dream job left little room for time off and vacations. “Working three major boat shows was our vacation for six years. You work seven days a week, and there is no 8-5 work schedule,” Tim recalled.
After years of burning the candle at both ends and Manta Racks being in the position it is in now, we were curious to know if Tim is able to step away and enjoy his creation and the activities that influenced Manta Racks in the first place.
No shock to us, because Tim is a machine and knows his shit, he said “...as they say do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. I don't want to step away.”
He continued, "I created a company where I can be on the water fishing, paddle boarding, surfing, or wakeboarding and in some way call it work.”
To which we replied, “teach us Tim! Teach us the way!”
Throughout our conversation, Tim’s enthusiasm for the process, dedication to his family, and point blank honesty about the difficulties of being an entrepreneur were appreciated more than he will know.
Quite frankly, they were motivating as hell and energized the three of us to keep down our path with Chasing Tides. And of course, a wizard such as Tim Wilhelm, has to have some advice for the people out there trying to build businesses of their own.
He said, “...talk to every entrepreneur that you can. They will point you in the right direction and give you advice, but they won’t do it for you.”
But, the most simple advice he can give an aspiring entrepreneur is, “...if you want to accomplish your dreams, you have to do it yourself, believe in yourself.”
Continuing, “...most people don’t follow their dreams, so when you tell people what you are doing, they won’t understand what it takes and the sacrifices you make to follow your dreams. Don’t get offended by their reaction.”
We could go on for hours about how much we enjoyed getting to know Tim. He’s the kind of guy that you instantly feel comfortable speaking with, and in just minutes we felt like we had known him for years.
Tim Wilhelm oozes authenticity. His genuineness and encouragement of us were inspiring. It’s comforting to know there are people out there like him, people not afraid to go against the grain, roll up their sleeves and get something done simply because they believe in it.
Not to sound cliché or fill your bowl with cheese sauce, but we truly believe that if everyone out there spent a little more time doing what they love, the world would be a happier place.
We hope you’ll see Tim’s story as inspiration to just go make something happen. Don’t know where to start? Cool, do it anyway. Obstacles in your way? Cool, do it anyway. People questioning you? Cool, do it anyway.
However it shakes out, as Tim told us, you'll learn something about yourself, and that is worth the effort in itself. Go check out Manta Racks, and if you make your way to ICAST 2021 in Orlando this week, be sure to find Tim and introduce yourself!
Photos provided by Manta Racks