For most of us, the prospect of going down with a sinking boat nine miles offshore and having to make a grueling 16 hour swim to shore would be our final chapter. For Troy Faletra, native Floridian and founder of ThrowRaft, this harrowing experience was a catalyst that resulted in a new business, five patents in 41 countries, inspiration for a published book and the creation of a new U.S. Coast Guard industry standard. What follows is a tale of grit, determination and perseverance, and one that many of us can draw strength and motivation from. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but Faletra's journey proves that, with the right attitude, anything is possible. The key is to believe in what you're doing and to never give up.
"We officially launched at the Miami Boat Show in November of 2015," he said. "However, our work began seven years prior to that. I grew up on the water and started fishing and surfing at a very young age. I've been around boats my whole life and understand the importance, but also the limitations, of traditional life saving devices. The standard life saving ring is great if there's someone on the boat to throw it to you. For guys like me that take small boats by themselves to Bimini, it's important to have something reliable if we go overboard. The concept for my product is centered around this idea. I wanted something for survival and something the end user could just go to the store and buy."
Faletra is in his element on the water, but he's also no stranger to entrepreneurship. He comes from a family of entrepreneurs and explained that certain traits trickled down to him. He's always worked for himself either in construction, yacht management or as a fishing guide. When he originally conceived of the idea for a throw-able inflatable life saving device, he wasn't sure if it would make it through the Coast Guard's approval process. Nevertheless, he reached out and got the feedback he needed to move forward.
"The Coast Guard said to build it, test it and write a proposal for a new category and standard," he said. "They said if I did that, they would get it in front of the UL Standards Technical Panel. I did all of that and went to Homeland Security Headquarters in Washington DC to present the proposal. They liked what they saw, but wanted to see more testing. We did all of our testing at IMANNA Laboratory in Rockledge, FL, one of only three facilities in the United States that can test Coast Guard life saving equipment."
Besides testing, Faletra also went through an extensive patent process that culminated with five patents in 41 countries. His perseverance and determination to get his product patented and to market, despite unimaginable setbacks such as, the death of his father and best friend, a divorce, and, at one point, having to live in his own vehicle, was so remarkable that Faletra's patent attorney, John Rizvi, Esq., was inspired to write a book about how to successfully launch new products and/or ideas and how to get them to market ASAP. The book is called, Escaping the Gray: When Launching Your Idea Full Throttle is the Only Option.
When ThrowRaft launched in November of 2015, the occasion represented more than just the introduction of a new product. For Faletra, who never once second guessed his passionate pursuit, the occasion marked the creation of a new industry, and with that, a flurry of interest from some unexpected areas.
"We're getting a lot of interest from the first responder world," he said. "All of a sudden, fire departments, ocean rescue, and law enforcement agencies are calling us. We're also getting interest from the recreational aircraft community. If you fly over water, you have to meet the Coast Guard Carriage Requirement. Our original product, the TD2401, meets this requirement. In fact, it's the only inflatable replacement to meet the standard."
It's been a long time coming to market, but Faletra already has his sights set on future objectives. He'll continue to expand into the recreational, commercial and aviation markets through strategic partnerships and distribution channels. He's looking at the possibility of raising additional capital to bring some new devices to market, but stresses the importance of partnering with a working investor. He wants someone to bring more than just money to the table. He's also focused on building out his newest venture, Bombora, a lifestyle brand centered around an innovation in the world of stand-up paddle-board life jackets. As recent recipient of the 2018 Miami International Boat Show Innovation Award, Faletra is in a prime position to capitalize on his momentum and extend his reach as a modern day innovator of marine safety products.
What advice does Faletra have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "You absolutely have to see your dreams through," he said. "If you work for someone else and you're not happy, it's time to make a move. Don't be afraid to fail and accept that it's likely going to happen before you ultimately succeed. If you have something you believe in and you're passionate about it, go for it and don't look back. It's also important to have positive people in your life that will give you feedback. Don't take criticism too personal. Listen to what they're saying and take things away from that. Above all, don't quit. Quiting is too easy."
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