Two years ago, on the heels of developing an idea that incorporated their love of words and water, The Little Boat Quote Co. sought the guidance of a seasoned professional to help take their concept to market. Although the founders, Ralph Labriola and Silene Gordon, had decades of experience in the investment industry, they were now embarking on uncharted territory: bringing to market a line of small replica boats, adorned with quote-filled sails that would share messages of inspiration and optimism with consumers.

Ralph, a master woodcarver, and Silene, a freelance writer, created the Little Boat Quotes line of products purely by chance. In their time away from the office, Ralph was carving half-hulls and Silene was writing inspirational quotes. The pairing of their skills happened organically when Ralph created a hand-held sailboat hull with one of Silene’s favorite quotes on the sail. Immediately, they knew that this unique product would resonate with other sea-loving consumers as it did with them.

After brainstorming on dozens of hull and sail design ideas together, Ralph contacted the local SCORE chapter in the hopes of connecting with a professional who could guide them through the manufacturing and distribution process. The pair met Bill Wheeler, a SCORE mentor who would become a trusted advisor and friend, and who subsequently introduced them to Tom Oertel. Together, these mentors have provided logistical advice with regard to developing business and marketing plans as well as strategic advice as to best practices for distribution.

Working nights and weekends on their design and implementation plan, Ralph and Silene brought their Little Boat Quotes product to fruition. Despite challenges -- not the least of which was finding a manufacturer who could create a quality product while also being cost-efficient, learning how to create different sails to expand the product line, and untangling the layers of social media promotion and advertising -- the product is now in 10 stores on Cape Cod and growing by the week. With the start of Summer, a new focus has been placed on securing more retail partners and the response has been highly positive.