BlueWater Chairs: Anchored in Excellence

Tom Ackel the CEO of BlueWater Chairs and SouthState Bank Relationship Manager Don Putman

Building a Business in The Yachting Capital of The World

In a world where customer loyalty is as fickle as the wind, BlueWater Chairs has managed to not only keep their own customers coming back, but also turn competitors’ clients into loyal BlueWater Chairs advocates. Nestled in sunny Fort Lauderdale, the yachting capital of the world, BlueWater Chairs has built a renowned international reputation on 35 years of trust, superior manufacturing, and good-conscious service.

Today, BlueWater Chairs manufactures some of the finest fighting chairs, marine helm chairs, rocket launchers, bar stools, and other teakwood furniture items in the industry. However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
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Navigating Hardships

From an early age, Tom Ackel, BlueWater Chairs owner and CEO, knew he was passionate about one thing: being on the water. Entrepreneurship wasn’t always top of mind for Ackel, but by the time he was 19 years old, he purchased a small fishing lure business and was determined to make a living doing what he loved.

It wasn’t long before Ackel realized the uphill battle in front of him. As a young business owner, he was wearing all the hats to stay afloat: processing bait, rigging, making lures, managing cash flow, trying to attract new business – it was a greater challenge than he originally anticipated. The combination of bad technology and poor manufacturing made a poor foundation for the business to build on, so it wasn’t long before Ackel’s first business closed its doors.

A New Concept

By this point in his life, Ackel was a regular attendee of boating and fishing expos. When he spotted a carpenter selling fighting chairs made of metal, he was inspired to create something similar – but his own elevated version. Later, the first BlueWater Fighting Chair was born.

Exhibiting true craftsmanship in both beauty and design, Ackel brought his vision to life by creating a prototype fighting chair using stainless steel, teakwood, and a state-of-the-art gloss finish. At the time he designed the chair, he didn’t have a client; however, a local bait shop owner asked to display the fighting chair in his booth at a Florida boat show, and Ackel made his first sale before the expo was over.

Reeling in the Right Partner

BlueWater Chairs didn’t always have their business accounts with SouthState, but when Don Putnam, Relationship Manager at SouthState, became a BlueWater Chairs customer, it was only a matter of time before Ackel moved his accounts.

Ackel and Putnam struck up a bond quickly. BlueWater Chairs was in a period of growth, and they needed additional financing to propel themselves forward. They needed more space to scale production, quality equipment to stay ahead of their competitors, and a line of credit for more efficient cash flow management. When Ackel shared his long-term goals for his company, Putnam was eager to provide strategic direction and show him the difference between solely conducting transactions at a bank and leveraging SouthState as a business partner.
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When it comes to banking, I needed dependable products and a banker I could count on - that’s exactly what I found with SouthState and Don.

Tom Ackel, BlueWater Chairs Owner and CEO

“People and companies all have different sales skills. BlueWater Chairs is built on superior manufacturing and good conscious business – these qualities are important to me. When it comes to banking, I needed dependable products and a banker I could count on,” said Ackel. “That’s exactly what I found with SouthState and Don.”

Over the course of their 10-year relationship, Putnam has helped Ackel finance his facility and factory, streamline his payables and receivables, and obtain a line of credit for enhanced cash flow management. From real estate financing to insurance advice to design inspiration, Ackel knows he can count on SouthState and his banker.

“BlueWater Chairs provides a white-glove experience to clients – my business is not plug and play. The size of SouthState makes it highly ideal to partner with them when I need personalized attention to my business. They have big bank advantages with a small bank feel.” Beautiful yacht moored in Fort Lauderdale

Focused on the Long-Term Horizon

Since selling the first chair at a Miami boat show, BlueWater Chairs has come a long way. In their 35 years in business, they’ve created custom yacht furniture for legendary singers and songwriters like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett. They’re a highly renowned organization in the South Florida community, servicing clients in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and more.

BlueWater Chairs has built an international reputation for themselves, but their commitment to good-conscious business practices remains steadfast.

“Tom embodies the spirit of innovation,” said Putnam. “It has been a privilege to work alongside him to support his vision for BlueWater Chairs. Our partnership goes beyond banking – it’s a testament to the power of trust and collaboration.”

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