Tearin’ Em Up! Charters LLC of Sarasota County
Tired of working 80+ hours per week as a chef, United States Army Military Police Corps veteran, Doug Ricciardi decided he wanted something else out of life. “I always loved fishing,” he said. “My dad’s a chef but my grandfather was a fisherman and a crabber, so I was the one when I was a little kid hanging out at all the fishing piers showing the people how to take the fish off the hook.”
Out of his love for fishing and the water, Tearin’ Em Up Fishing Charters was created in 2006. Ricciardi’s business specializes in fishing with families and “bringing people out on the water and having a good time.”
Owning a business has its ups and downs. For Ricciardi, it was as challenge from the start, considering he didn’t know how to drive a boat.
“They don’t teach you how to drive a boat in captain’s class,” he laughed. “They teach you the rules of the road. So, I got bumpers. I bumped into everything at first.”
Used to being a producer and creating business for himself, Ricciardi started to get nervous when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “Airports were closed,” he said. “Hotels were closed. No one was coming down to fish. Originally, I applied for a SBA loan and I wasn’t able to get it, so they got me in contact with the SBDC at USF and Bradley Mix.”
Mix, a business consultant based in Bradenton, was able to assist Ricciardi through the process of applying for both the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Mix also stepped him through how to apply for PPP forgiveness. “Brad was able to get me some funds to help me get a new motor,” Riccardi said. “I also bought two trailers and I wouldn’t have been able to afford this had I not gotten the EIDL loan.”
Mix also connected Ricciardi with Gina Smith, a search engine optimization specialist with the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida. After two sessions with Smith, Ricciardi was able to save $500 per month in advertising costs by optimizing his website. “My Internet presence has doubled if you look at my analytics from when I met with Gina to what it is now. I was at 100 percent of last year in July, which has helped me book every day,” he said.
What does come naturally for Ricciardi is the customer service aspect of his business. “It’s really not about catching fish, it’s about making a connection with people,” he said. “I’ve had plenty of trips where I caught a million fish and the people were miserable, and I’ve had trips where we caught no fish and the people love me.”
Moving forward, Ricciardi hopes to sell both of his boats and purchase a bigger pontoon boat that will feature fishing and a grill, enabling him to do shore lunches. Regardless, he intends to continue utilizing the Florida SBDC at USF moving forward.
“I wouldn’t be here without the help of Brad and the SBDC at USF because he gave me the confidence to look into the things that I needed to do to help bring my business together and keep it together, both with educational resources and financial resources,” he said.