Meet Our Operational and Marketing Guru: Courtney Gates, Co-Founder of Impact Fenders
The IMPACT story is really a love story. If you’re thinking that we’re coyly leading to a circuitous tale about “loving” being on the water, you’re partially right. Boating is both the impetus and the inspiration that binds all of us at Impact.
But the rest of the story is about two teenagers from Lake Arrowhead, California. Lake Arrowhead is a small mountain town about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, with (as the name implies) a beautiful high elevation lake. These two kids found each other through water skiing. They graduated and went their separate ways: he to Colorado, she to Great Britain.
After 25 years, Courtney Gates and Brian Slaughter reconnected. The spark, as they say, was still there. Fast forward a few years, and the two kids from Southern California are now happily living in Southwestern Colorado, blending their families, founding and running a boat fender startup, and (still) waterskiing at every chance.
IMPACT is a small, scrappy team, so we take on everything ourselves: operations, manufacturing, sourcing, sales, marketing, you name it. We love meeting all of you in person at boat shows and connecting over social media. Until we have that chance, we want to introduce you to the people who are revolutionizing boat protection, beginning with our wizard of marketing and operations, Courtney.
IMPACT Boat Fenders: Hi Courtney! Thanks for your time today. In addition to co-founder, what’s your official title at Impact?
Courtney Gates (CG): I’m not really big on titles, but officially it’s COO (Chief Operations Officer).
IMPACT: Where did you grow up?
CG: Lake Arrowhead. It was a great place to grow up.
IMPACT: How did you find your way to Colorado?
CG: After 25 years in the U.K., Brian and I reconnected. I’d always wanted to live in Colorado, and here we are!
IMPACT: Twenty-five years in the U.K.? Then we must ask you the most important question. Monarchy: Thumbs up or thumbs down?
CG: I’d be a “no” in this day and age. It seems just like another group of celebrities.
IMPACT: Well, there goes our royal audience! Just kidding. Another critical question before we get too deep. What’s your sign?
IMPACT: And do you fit the typical descriptors of a Leo?
CG: I do! I feel like a big cat that likes to lie in the sun.
IMPACT: Speaking of sun, spring is coming up fast and that means boating! What is your water sport of choice?
CG: Hands down, it’s slalom water skiing. I was on the team at San Diego State, and I still love to run slalom.
IMPACT: What’s your personal best?
CG: 6 at 22 off (a 75-foot rope)
IMPACT: Dang! That’s impressive. How old were you when you first water skied?
CG: Five, behind my grandparents’ boat, in Arkansas. I fell instantly in love with it!
IMPACT: Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever skied?
CG: That’s easy. It’s Bomere Pool, which is a private lake near Shrewsbury in the U.K. First of all, you have this 15-acre lake, with a slalom course right up the middle. There are only two boats allowed on the water at a time, and only one of those can actually be moving. So you ski for 15 minutes or 6 passes, then rest. It’s an ideal set up, with a clubhouse, hot showers and everything. Actually, Bomere is where I achieved my personal best!
IMPACT: It sounds fantastic! If Bomere is your favorite, do you have a “bucket list” of places to ski?
CG: Not really. Though, I’d love to go to a hotbed for water skiing, like Florida, for coaching. I’d love to ski and get coached all day long.
IMPACT: What boat do you and Brian have now?
CG: We have a Malibu Response TXI that we absolutely LOVE. It’s known for its really small wake.
IMPACT: When you were growing up on the water, did you ever think that you’d revolutionize boat protection just a few years down the road?
CG: Well, thank you for the revolutionary (!!) compliment. And the answer is no, I had absolutely no idea!
IMPACT: What’s the best part about running a growing company?
CG: That it’s in the marine industry. We both loved growing up as kids on the water. It’s a sport we love in our personal lives, so it’s great to be immersed in it with our business. Plus, we get to go to really cool places and meet fun people. Just like us, they love their boats and want new products. Even though running a business is a lot of work, it actually gives us freedom.
IMPACT: What’s the hardest part?
CG: Ugh…Trying to do everything perfectly! Luckily, we have a wonderful crew of talented and committed people.
IMPACT: This may be like asking which kid is your favorite, but what’s your favorite Impact Fender color?
CG: Easy. Red. It’s vibrant and you don’t see anything else like it.
IMPACT: IMPACT customers are loving that the fenders are multi-use, especially compared to the old-school cylindrical jobbies. How are they being used in addition to boat protection?
CG: So many creative ways. They’re fun to float on in the water. They’re really great on the beach. Especially in the sailing world, where you don’t have much space to work, people absolutely love kneeling on them to work on their boat motor. A friend of mine uses her Impact Fenders as dock bumpers between her boat and a stand-up paddleboard. Oh, and they’re great lumbar support for driving the boat and relaxing. (Tip: Choose the medium size because they bend.)
IMPACT: What’s your favorite “unofficial” use for an Impact Fender?
CG: Ha! Definitely sledding . We’ve tested all the colors, and the medium royal blue is the fastest by far.
IMPACT: For real? The colors have different speeds on snow?
CG: Yep! We were highly scientific in our testing methods.
IMPACT: For those of us who aren’t in year-round warm weather, we’re coming into boating season. You and Brian will be traveling all over the country to attend boat shows. What do you say to people who are shocked to see an entirely new design to replace the old-school fenders?
CG: It’s about time. And they agree. The absolute best comment I’ve heard from a customer (and long-time boater) was, “You re-invented the wheel!”
IMPACT: IMPACT Boat Fenders and dock bumpers are effective solutions for sailboats, powerboats and pontoon boats. We’re really going to put you on the spot here. Of those three genres, which group is the most fun: sailors, powerboaters or pontooners?
CG: Oh boy. Well, I’m a water skier with a powerboat, and I aspire to be a sailor someday. But I’m gonna have to give this one to the pontooners. I mean, come on: It’s a floating bar with a bunch of fun-loving people.
IMPACT: So what would you bring to a pontoon party?
CG: Hmm…I love to have a good time and to laugh, so I hope I’d be welcome as-is. But I also make a mean guacamole, so I’d have that as a back-up.
IMPACT: We’ll bring the chips! Thanks for your time, Courtney!
Be sure to stop by the IMPACT booth at your local boat show and say “hi” to Courtney and Brian! Check on Facebook and here at the blog for the shows we’re attending. Here’s to a great boating season. Hope to also see you on the water!
The IMPACT Team