How FishingBooker helped me ditch my high-stress job and follow my dreams

Aug 24, 2022 | 7 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 7 minutes
Captain Kurt and his “first mate,” Darla!

As an ex-Marine who spent 20 years in the construction industry, Captain Kurt Jeter of Aqua Excursions has always known that the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward. But sometimes you need a little nudge to make that first leap into the unknown. In Capt. Kurt’s case, this nudge came from his wife Tricia one morning in Atlanta, GA. 

Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic during their daily commute, car horns blaring around them, he wondered out loud why people subjected themselves to this every day. “Then,” he says, “without hesitation, [Tricia] looked directly at me and said, ‘because they’re afraid to take a risk.’ That was all it took. That was it. I took a risk.”

And Capt. Kurt’s risk has paid off – big time. Raised in Panama City Beach with the rich waters of the Gulf of Mexico only a stone’s throw away, he always dreamed of running his own charter. However, life had other plans for him, including a stint in the Marine Corps, getting his captain’s license in the early 90s, and a 20-year career in the construction industry. 

He was bringing home a six-figure salary, but his stress levels were rising – and he wasn’t happy. “The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” he says, was his conversation with Tricia. “I finally actually listened to my wife, and I quit a six-figure job as a construction project manager, and I started my [charter] business.”

Now, Capt. Kurt runs fishing trips full-time out of Hilton Head Island, SC. With a lot of hard work and the help of FishingBooker, he’s now reeling in the bookings and bringing home the same amount of money as he did in his construction job. Yep – after 20 years away from fishing, Capt. Kurt has returned to the industry with a bang, living out his ultimate dream and showing that it’s never too late to have the life you always wanted.

How it started

Like a lot of local families along the Gulf Coast, the Jeters operated a marina, so Kurt’s childhood was all about being out on the water. “In the summertime,” he says, “I would work as a deckhand on the boats, and [I] absolutely loved being on the water.” 

Despite his love for the ocean,. Kurt didn’t get his captain’s license until he was discharged from the United States Marine Corps after being injured. “I was medically retired because of a line of duty accident,” he says. “That was in December of ‘92. By March of ‘93, I successfully received my captain’s license and I started a fishing charter in my hometown.”

He soon found that, while the charter industry was booming during summer, “in the wintertime it was very seasonal. There was not enough business to justify keeping the charter open in the winter. So for the winter, I started building hotels and restaurants.” 

This soon led to a tough choice; after several seasons of fishing in the summer and building in the winter, Capt. Kurt became involved in projects that wouldn’t allow him to return to fishing. “Over two decades went by,” he tells us. “There’s very good income in that field. But I was not happy.”

Taking a risk

Something had to change. After talking to his wife Tricia, Capt. Kurt knew that it was time to follow his dreams of becoming a charter operator. However, the Marine Corps and years of working in a high-stress industry had taught him one thing – he couldn’t go into it blind. Preparation would be a big part of his success.

“I live in Savannah, Georgia, 23 miles away from Hilton Head,” he tells us, “and when I started researching the demographics [in the area], I found out that Hilton Head Island is the third wealthiest island in the United States of America. [Clients] come here and they want to get on the water and they want to fish. They want to get out more than they want to catch something, and that really helped [my decision].”

With a clear understanding of his most likely customers, Capt. Kurt then turned his attention to one of the most important factors when it comes to running a business – marketing. He admits that this was one of the more challenging parts of setting up his charter company. “You know, it’s probably like anyone going into a new market,” he says. “I had left my job. I didn’t have contacts on Hilton Head Island in the fishing business. So I went in knowing absolutely nothing.

“I considered building a website, but then I would have to market that website through billboards or magazine ads or motel and hotel flyers, which would have cost thousands and thousands of dollars. As I was researching, I found FishingBooker. There are many captains that aren’t familiar with websites – nor can afford to hire someone who is familiar with websites. And why would you need one when you have everything at the touch of a button with FishingBooker?”

There’s another part of FishingBooker’s marketing for captains that proved to be useful for Capt. Kurt: “Oh, the SEO – the way that FishingBooker is at the top of everyone’s list [when they] inquire about fishing on Hilton Head Island. I have heard so much feedback from my clients who said that you not only came up first when they searched for fishing, but that it was so easy to use and they will always use you because of it.”

Becoming successful with FishingBooker

As soon as he listed his charter on FishingBooker, Capt. Kurt says that “it was like turning on a faucet. The bookings started coming in and I left my job and went directly to work fishing. Big risks become great rewards like this.”

During his first summer with Fishingbooker, from signing up on April 18, 2021 until the end of the season in August, he received 213 bookings, and was running three or four trips a day. How did he stay on top of them? By using his FishingBooker calendar, which he describes as “smooth as silk.”

Some of Capt. Kurt’s happy customers

It works so well, he says, that “I’ll have people contact me directly on my phone and ask if I want them to book through me directly or FishingBooker. I tell them that I’m dependent on the FishingBooker application, the calendar in particular, and that if you book through me, I might forget you.

“So go ahead and book through FishingBooker. It’s such a total package that it’s worth the 10% commission. That 10% is billboards, websites, resort fliers, and word of mouth all wrapped up in one.”

To date, Capt. Kurt’s number of booking requests has grown to over a whopping 500, with the majority being two, three, or four hour excursions. In his own words, “I’m making a greater income. I’m making more money now than I was with my six-figure project management job.” 

Capt. Kurt has reaped the benefits of partnering with FishingBooker, but a huge part of this is thanks to how seriously he takes his business. Not only has he received the coveted Angler’s Choice Award, but he also has 264 reviews with an average score of 4.9 stars, and proudly displays an Enhanced Check verification badge.

“It adds a level of professionalism to each and every captain that’s listed on FishingBooker,” he says. “There are people who travel the world to go fishing, and they cannot find consistency with their captains. FishingBooker allows them, at the touch of a button, to find consistent captains.”

Something else that’s important to Capt. Kurt is maintaining his reputation – and he uses FishingBooker to help him keep on top of this. “Ninety percent of the people that get on [my] boat tell me that they read the reviews and a hundred percent of those people have told me that they read the bad reviews first.” So how does Capt. Kurt successfully manage his customers’ expectations and avoid those negative reviews?

“I lay everything out ahead of time and send four pre-drafted responses [using Instant Messaging]. Depending on the conversation, I send them response number one, response number two, and so on. When [customers] get on the boat, I ask them verbally, did they read the responses to their booking? And if they didn’t, I’ll go over it with them.”

Looking to the future

One question that crops up time and again during Capt. Kurt’s fishing trips is this: “So you were in the Marine Corps, right?” It’s a question Capt. Kurt has come to expect – his Marine experience is listed on his FishingBooker profile, after all. “My unit’s motto was ‘the key to success in battle is effective communication,’” he says. “And that’s how I run this business. The key to success in battle is effective communication. The key to success in anything is effective communication. 

“This is what I took away from the Marine Corps: the ability to manage time and logistics, and knowing the importance of communication, are paramount. You don’t have to be a veteran to be successful. You don’t have to be a Marine or a military veteran. All you have to do is manage time and communicate.”

These are two tenets that Capt. Kurt plans to take with him as he expands his business – because he’s not just stopping at running a successful charter business in Hilton Head Island! “I [set it up] with the intention of running it on Hilton Head Island in the summer but, starting this year, instead of doing the building construction during the winter, I’m going to relocate the charter to the Florida Keys because their high season is winter,” he tells us. “And I’ll use only FishingBooker down there.”

Making the decision to change your life is no easy decision, but as Capt. Kurt has shown, it can lead to huge rewards – especially if you have support and guidance along the way. The biggest reward for Capt. Kurt? Seeing his dream come to life: “It’s like a second chance for me… Growing up as a young man in the marina business and then leaving for the military and subsequently getting into the construction business, it was the biggest relief to actually get back into the occupation that I began my life doing. Every day, it’s hard to believe that it’s actually work. It hasn’t seemed like work yet!”

Got any tips on starting and running a charter business you’d like to share with us? What does your own story look like? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

Comments (6)
  • Richard Martinez

    Aug 31, 2022

    I had the pleasure of working with Capt.Kurt for a few now. He is a stand up captain, not only does he love what he does.But he cares more about his customers, and always try’s to make sure they are happy. There is not to many captains that I will go up to bat for, but Capt.Kurt has my respect and I’m pound to not only have him in the small fishing community but to also call him my friend. Good job Capt.Kurt and may we fish side by side for many more years to come!

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      Katie

      Sep 1, 2022

      Hi Richard,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It’s great to hear your thoughts about Capt. Kurt! After speaking with him, it became obvious really quickly that he truly loves what he does and cares so much about his customers, going above and beyond to make sure they have an unforgettable day on the water. We’re really happy to hear that you have such a great friendship with him, and we hope you guys get to fish side by side and support each other for many more years, too!

      Kind regards,

      Katie

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  • Brandon Simon

    Aug 25, 2022

    Same situation with me. Quit my career as a pharmacist after 10 years to pursue my true passion; fishing. Bought a second boat and put my 2 weeks in this March and never looked back. Way more gratifying and rewarding than I ever thought it would be.

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      Katie

      Aug 29, 2022

      Hi Brandon,

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Wow, it sounds like you have a pretty impressive story yourself! If you ever feel like sharing it with us, feel free to get in touch. I’m really happy to hear that when you took the leap and pursued your true passion, it paid off for you. Awesome news!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Rodney Summers

    Aug 25, 2022

    It was Capt Kurt Jeter who I reached out to last year at this time when I was looking at starting to get into the charter business. Best decision I’ve made is using Fishingbooker and I owe it all to Capt Kurt for giving me the information and willingness to share his experience with Fishingbooker.

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      Katie

      Aug 29, 2022

      Hi Rodney,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’m really happy to hear that Capt. Kurt introduced you to FishingBooker and that you’ve had a lot of success with us!

      Capt. Kurt had lots of awesome tips and advice to share when I spoke to him, and it seems like he’s always willing to pass these on to other captains and lend a helping hand when necessary. It’s great to see fishing communities supporting each other like this. I wish you all the best in your future with us!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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