Lake Wales company fishing for business with Florida SBDC at USF
Texas Aquatic Harvesting of Polk County
Jim Vaughan is a fisherman at heart. Luckily, he found a way to mix business with pleasure, when he started Texas Aquatic Harvesting 20 years ago. “We build aquatic weed harvesters that harvest aquatic weeds out of lakes and rivers,” Vaughan said.
Originally started in Texas, the company moved to Florida due to demand for harvesters in the state. While business is good for most of the year, the company has experienced difficulty at times due to a protected endangered species that nests during the summer months.
Looking for opportunities to expand business, Vaughan reached out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida, for a business assessment and no-cost international trade consulting. “Internationally, they don’t use herbicides to kill their weeds so their lakes clog up with aquatic plants and they have to cut the waterways open,” he said.
That’s where products like the Tiger Cut, the newest aquatic harvesting boat designed by Texas Aquatic, comes into the picture. In addition to utilizing the Florida SBDC at USF to do research on what it takes to export products, Carl Hadden, a certified business consultant, completed a business assessment on the company to find additional opportunities.
“Some of the recommendations that came from the business assessment had to do with entering new markets,” Hadden said. “Through the research, we uncovered that in the northern states they have weed problems in the summer. So one of the things the company is looking at now is potentially – instead of laying people off here during the summer – going up north and doing some of that work in the northern states.”
Operations Manager, Mikel Hulon, is excited about the outlook for the company, based on the recommendations given in the assessment. “One of the main aspects of the plan that we saw is to broaden and improve our Web base,” Hulon said. “That’s something we’re working on today that we’re focusing on first.”
The Website will serve to educate the general public about what Texas Aquatic Harvesters, such as the Tiger Cut, can do. The cutters are manufactured in Lake Wales. While the company works on the recommendations given in the business assessment, Vaughan is focused on the future.
“We’re currently around $2 to $3 million,” he said of sales. “We’d like to be $8 million over five years and we’re looking for something to fill in those [summer] months like manufacturing, where we can be building boats in the shop.”
He and Hulon expect to utilize Hadden’s experience to assist the company in marketing and sales to find additional avenues.
”Carl looked us in the eye essentially and said, we can help you,” Hulon added. “I believe if we follow the steps that Carl’s laid out for us, I believe this company can do nothing but move forward and grow greater in the future.”