Al Walker, owner of Foss Foam Products of Florida, Inc., not only heads the largest manufacturer of sailboat rudders in the United States, but also is an inductee of both the Florida and California Wrestling Hall of Fame.
"I owe a lot of my success to athletics," he explained. "I was a wrestler through high school and the University of Alabama before wrestling internationally. I traveled all over the world representing the United States. I won nationals and placed in the world championships. The lessons I learned of dedication and sacrifice enabled me to succeed in other areas. I learned you're going to fail or not meet your goals but you keep working and reformulate another plan until you succeed."
Foss Foam Products of Florida has certainly done that. "Our reputation is that we are the best," Walker said. "We've had boats beached in hurricanes and dragged off without our rudders breaking. Our secret formula means that you can't break our rudders with a sledge hammer, they flex, yet have memory and are also lightweight. The closed cell doesn’t allow water to permeate them so the rudders are impervious to gas, diesel and boring critters. The foam core is the number one thing that makes ours the best. It's superior material to what anyone else is using."
Walker also identifies active ownership as a competitive advantage. "Hands-on on ownership is the next thing that contributes to our product being superior," he said. "Our quality control is unmatched. Many larger companies processes get watered down or altered when ownership is not involved in the processes."
Walker's advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to stick with areas of experience. "I recommend starting a business in an area you are knowledgeable in," he said. "There are enough lessons to learn about running a business without suffering from a lack of expertise in that field. Also, be prepared to work a couple of years pouring everything back into the business in order for it to succeed."