Steve Potts has been fascinated with boat building since he was 13 years old.
The founder and CEO of Scout Boats shared his story as the guest speaker for the Daniel Island Speaker Series Jan. 27.
The Daniel Island resident’s career started “organically” when as an adolescent he passed by a house with a weird smell on his way to school and found a man making a fiberglass boat in the back. His curiosity eventually evolved into a job and set him on a lifelong path. At only 14, Potts worked at a small boat business, helping to build a little boat called a Scout.
“That’s basically where I cut my teeth as far as learning to build and pay attention to detail,” he said.
Working at various companies he eventually became a plant manager, but the entrepreneur always dreamed of venturing out on his own.
In 1989, Potts and his wife, Dianne, took a leap of faith and started Scout Boats with their $50,000 savings. The couple, along with a helper, started building 14- to 15-foot boats out of an old brick building in Summerville. Scout Boats was named for Potts’ fond memories of the simple fishing boats he worked on as a teen.
Working long, 14-hour days, the company’s future was looking bright. But in September 1989, Scout Boats faced rough seas when Hurricane Hugo struck, basically destroying the structure. The horrific event only made the family stronger. The couple, along with two of their young children, began to rebuild their dream.
“As bad as it was I never had any inclination of giving up,” Potts said.
After salvaging what they could, Scout Boats relocated, but Mother Nature still had one more punch up her sleeve. Two months after Hugo hit, Summerville had a freak snowstorm and experienced 11 inches of snow, damaging the new building.
The family remained focused on moving forward.
“We kept things going. I didn’t know anything more then to get up in the morning and put one foot in front of the other and go to work,” he said.
This drive and vision has made Scout Boats an industry leader for over 30 years, building high-quality sportfishing boats ranging in sizes from 17 to 53 feet.
Despite the pandemic, Scout Boats continues to grow. It’s a true family affair with the Potts’ two daughters, son, and in-laws all working at the company.
He credits family and the diverse group of employees for helping Scout Boats become the industry leader.
“What makes us special — what makes us the company we are — is the extended family we have and everybody that works at it,” Potts said. “I’m so very proud of what each and everyone of these people represent at our company.”
Potts is more than just a prosperous businessman, he is an ardent supporter of the community. Scout Boats is a generous advocate of the Rotary Club of Daniel Island’s annual Charity Duck Race.
If you missed the program, Potts’ presentation is available online at youtu.be/Ttk7b77wEWU.