People constantly ask about how and when Aurora Marine Industries Inc. got started.
Like many things, boats have changed over the years. Wooden boats are now fiberglass or aluminum, inboards are now outboards or stern drives or jets or pod drives, hull designs have changed. Boats are far more efficient and luxurious. When the technology was new, fiberglass boats were heralded by their manufactures as being maintenance free and compared to wooden boats I suppose that there was some merit to their claims, however maintenance has since taken on a totally different paradigm. Like old cars, the mantra for older boats was “If it aint broke, don’t fix it”. That’s all changed for modern cars as well as boats. The new mantra is “If you don’t maintain it, it will break and you will go broke trying to fix it”.
In 1979, I was involved in the investment banking businesses. My partners and I were running several other businesses and investment banking was a side line for me because I had the talent for it. One day during an informal conversation at a clients office, I expressed my frustration and disappointment with cleaning and maintenance products for fiberglass boats. I love boats and boating and never miss an opportunity to participate in any discussion involving them. The known technology and products available were for wooden boats and nothing worked, at least not very well. I had invested in two boxes of cleaners, wax, solvents, brushes, and paint that were destined for the dump and all my labour was wasted.
I believe that your boat and how you maintain it is a reflection of your personality, so a clean, shiny, hansom boat was important to me.
One of the company employees, the senior R&D chemist, approached me and said “Reechard I make for you”. He was an interesting older gentleman who had recently immigrated from eastern Europe and he loved science as much as I loved boats. It was difficult to carry on a conversation of more that 5 minutes with him when it turned into a conversation about chemistry or physics. He could see that new boats were the result of new science, and he seemed intrigued.
A few days later, he presented me with two bottles and told me to try these two cleaners on my boat. I was sceptical but thought what the heck, nothing else worked so this stuff couldn’t be any worse. You can only imagine my surprise and delight when after a few hours the boat started looking new again. Scuff marks and stains were coming out with little effort. I was able to easily scrub away the chalking and restore the colour. I kept trying different cleaning projects to challenge the limits of these cleaners. There didn’t seem to be any. They were wonderful. It was although I had found two bottles of magic.
My neighbours, witnessing the results, came over to see what I was doing and pleaded with me to get them some. The next time I was at my clients, I asked my new Scientist Friend if he would make some more of his miracle cleaners. I offered to pay him whatever he wanted. He said that he would but refused to be paid.
A few weeks later, I approached him for more, but this time when he got back to me, along with another six bottles of his miracle cleaners he presented me with two sheets of paper and said “Reechard, you make your self”. The two sheets of paper contained the formulas for the two magic boat cleaners. The well meaning favour had obviously turned into an imposition.
I was a business man, not a chemist. I looked at the formulas and didn’t know what the ingredients were and couldn’t even pronounce some of the names, but still, I felt like a child that had just been given a treasure map. I was pretty busy so I just filed them away.
The following year, both my personal and business life took a dramatic turn and I found myself at a crossroads. When considering my options, I took out the two sheets of paper and thought this may be the time to change my life and do something that I truly loved. Something for me instead of what was expected of me. I was passionate about boats and the boating life style and liked boaters, at least most of them. My friends and their friends were still pleading with me to get them some magic boat cleaner. I knew there was a demand and always mused about how I could get involved in the boating business.
I approached a small chemical manufacturer and after swearing them to eternal secrecy, showed them the formulas and asked if they could make this stuff for me. They said they could and I placed my first order. I didn’t know if I could sell it but from my experience with other businesses, I knew that the best market research strategy was to actually go out and see if people would buy your product from you. It’s more risky than going out and asking questions but at least you knew very quickly if you had real demand or not. A simple demonstration of how effective these products were to boat owners was all it took. We had immediate demand, and lots of it.
Aurora Chemicals Inc. was incorporated, later changed to Aurora Marine Industries inc. to better to better describe the business that the company was in, and the company’s first two products were ready for market. They were named Boat Scrub and Boat Clean. Boat Clean was later renamed Boat Clean Plus due to advancements made to the formula. All it took to sell these products was a demonstration and when marine dealers saw the results, they knew that their customers as well as their service people, would love these super boat cleaners. It was very easy to sell Boat Clean and Boat Scrub and with all the positive feedback from dealers and customers, it was fun.
More than 30 years later, Boat Scrub is still our best seller and Boat Clean Plus is in our top 3 or 4 each year. They were both biodegradable or green products when they were invented and still are today, which proves that you don’t have to compromise on quality in order to be kind to Mother Nature.
The name Aurora was selected for the company as it met the criteria set out for the company name. Aurora was the goddess of the morning in Roman mythology, signifying rebirth, which was what my partner and I were doing. It started with the letter “A” which was at the beginning of the alphabet and would be listed at the beginning of most directories so that it could easily be found first. It was a universal name and avoided the pitfalls of translation into other languages. (For example: the Nova automobile didn’t sell well in Mexico; in Spanish, No Vaya means No Go. Big Mack had a problem in Paris. The French translation for Big Mack is Gros Mack, which is slang for Pimp.)
Even today, boat owners still proclaim these products as miracles. We constantly get emails and telephone calls from happy customers reporting how pleased they are with these, and other Aurora products. One customer told us that after trying every other boat cleaner on the market that he was resigned to living with the 6 year old stains on his boat. Boat Scrub took them all out in less than 5 minutes.
I take great pride in knowing that we have helped millions of boat owners around the world enhance their boating experience and pride of ownership.
President and CEO
Aurora Marine Industries Inc.