Meet Brian Slaughter, Co-founder/CEO/Master Craftsman/Laborer/Custodian/Welder at Impact Fenders
We love meeting all of you in person at boat shows and other events. But in this time of social distancing, everyone’s health and safety is our top priority. So let’s try the digital route!
Today, meet Brian Slaughter, co-founder and the man who (literally) makes it all happen on the production floor.
To meet Courtney, co-founder and operational guru, click here.
Impact Fenders: Hey Brian! I know the biggest thing on your mind right now is that everyone–in and out of the Impact family–is staying healthy or getting well. With serious news piling up by the minute, thank you for taking this time out for a little light news.
We’re all in this together, so we may as well get to know each other! On that note, can you please introduce yourself?
Brian Slaughter: I’m Brian, co-founder and CEO of Impact Fenders.
Impact: Does that describe what you do on the daily?
Brian: Oh no! In that case, I’m CEL: Chief Executive Laborer.
Impact: As a So. Cal kid, how did you find your way to Durango, Colorado?
Brian: My parents bought a house here in 1982, and we’d come out on ski trips. After I graduated high school in 1986, I moved to the ocean (San Diego). It didn’t take long to realize the city was too big, with too many people for me. Plus, I wanted to ski. So I transfered to Fort Lewis College (in Durango) in 1988.
Impact: And you settled in?
Brian: Nope. I loved Durango, but I wanted to check out other places. So I eventually ended up here again, via Alaska and Kauai, then Santa Fe, where I went to grad school.
Impact: What did you study?
Brian: I’m a doctor of oriental medicine.
Impact: Say, what? So we should call you Doctor?
Brian: No. I’m re-certifying, but…no.
Impact: Dr. Brian, when you were studying to heal the world did you ever think you’d ultimately do so through the healing power of being on the water?
Dr. Brian: If you’re asking if I thought I’d be in the marine and boat protection industry, no. But I love it!
Impact: Speaking of the water, what’s your aqueous sport of choice?
Dr. Brian: Slalom water skiing.
Impact: That’s Courtney’s discipline, too. Do you two have a little rivalry? What’s your personal best?
Dr. Brian: Nah. I never raced slalom, so I don’t record for a personal best. I just enjoy it. I raced waterskiing (one ski) a bit, which is more about speed. My high speed is 65 mph. It was fun, but super sketchy.
Impact: Yikes! In addition to going that fast on a small plank, do you have any other hidden talents that you’re ready to reveal to the world?
Dr. Brian: Ha! No…they’re all exposed! [Laughs] Are you still calling me doctor…
Impact: Um, no. There’s a rumor floating around about you and a catamaran?
Dr. Brian: Yeah, I grew up sailing small catamarans and Lasers. I want to learn more about sailing and the ocean so we can sail around the world when we retire. I want to do the whole west-bound route: Caribbean, Panama Canal, Pacific, South Pacific, Mediterranean, then back across the Atlantic. Last summer, Courtney and I took in our first ASA (American Sailing Association) with Peaks and Tides Sailing School.
Impact: Water is obviously a theme in your life, which brings us back to Impact. How’d you come up with the idea?
Brian: Courtney and I were out on Navajo Lake. We were tying on our old fenders, and everything just seemed outdated. It was a very acute moment of realizing that fenders hadn’t evolved for decades, and there had to be a better solution.
That weekend, we went camping and, as usual, used our Jack’s Plastic Paco Pads. Those were our direct inspiration! They lie flat; they’re impact resistant, tough as nails and can be made in a ton of colors.
[Editor’s note: Paco Pads are cult classic sleeping pads in the river-running world.]
Impact: How did you go from idea to what Impact is today?
Brian: First, we went on a research roll, learning about all types of foams, sizes, attachments, metal options so the fenders could bend around a hull…every design detail. We also studied the market: power boats, pontoons, sailing, marinas, every fender under the sun…again, every detail.
I drew up the specs and the guys at Jack’s Plastic built the prototype. Actually, Jack’s agreed to build all Impact Fenders until we bought the machinery and set up our own shop.
Impact: How many iterations did it take to achieve the final product?
Brian: We went through four rounds of prototypes. But you know what? We’re always evolving because we listen to our customers. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. But if there’s a small detail that will improve our products, we have the ability to make those changes almost instantly. We’re hands-on and we produce everything right here in Durango.
Impact: Is it true you have personally handmade every Impact Fender and bumper?
Brian: Yes. Well, until early February (2020), when we hired two part-time people. They’re both incredible craftsmen. So if your fender was made on Tuesday or Thursday, they built them. Every other day? Me.
[Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to coronavirus concerns. Please know that we are manufacturing and handling all Impact products in full compliance with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.]
Impact: The fenders and the bumpers are sleek, with this incredibly clean aesthetic. What would you like people to know that they can’t see right away?
Brian: First, that they bend! It’s one of the most effective features for protecting your investment (i.e. your boat). I also want our customers to know the care and the detail that goes into building a fender of such high quality. The sophistication of the look is intentional, so it looks good on your boat! But ultimately, the simplicity is derived from the logic of the design.
Impact: What’s your favorite part of the production process?
Brian: When I drop them off at UPS to ship to a fellow boater!
Impact: Have you tried to make anything else on all of your machines?
Brian: Yes. But it’s a secret for now. We may or may not be working on some new products.
Impact: I guess we’ll leave it with a little mystery, then. Thanks, Brian! Everyone stay happy and healthy out there.
The Impact Team
P.S. Keep checking back on our website for those new goodies.