A startup's seaworthy plan

When Fortune Small Business checked back in with a 2006 student-run startup, we found a company holding steady and landing major clients like Smith & Wesson.

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Betz (left) and Lobsinger stay afloat.

(Fortune Small Business) -- Float Tech, a Troy, N.Y., firm that makes boating outerwear with zip-in inflatable life-jacket linings, began in 2003 as an MBA project at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

When Fortune Small Business met team members Cecilia Domingos, CEO; Jeffrey Betz, COO; and Michael Lobsinger, CTO (see "Stylish and slim life jackets?," March 2006), they had just won Coast Guard approval, an important quality-assurance mark, for their product. Float Tech sold about $500,000 worth of gear in 2006, mostly to marine-equipment retailers.

Once Float Tech's patent came through in July 2006, the firm charted a new course. Domingos left to move with her family, and Betz and Lobsinger hired a veteran CEO to replace her: local entrepreneur Judith Wheeler.

"We're a class-project-turned-company, so we needed someone like Judith with 30 years of retail experience," says Betz, 34.

Float Tech now focuses on licensing its products to larger apparel brands and landing commercial accounts such as Smith & Wesson (SWHC) (which sells branded Float Tech jackets to hunters and fishers). Revenues were flat at about $500,000 last year. But the firm expects that to change as it enters into new and profitable licensing deals. To top of page

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