U.S. Representative Tom Allen recently met with John and Brendan Ready (left to right), co-owners of Portland-based Ready Seafood, and Lauren Delong , who is vice president in charge of trap sales for Ready Seafood. The Ready brothers were in Washington, D.C. to accept the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National 2008 Young Entrepreneur Award. Photo by Ramona du Houx
Article by Ramona du Houx
Brothers John and Brendan Ready of South Portland are running two successful businesses on Hobson’s Wharf in Portland. Their lobster business is bringing in the catch.
They were recognized nationally in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Young Entrepreneurs of the Year. The SBA cited their “big dreams, new ideas, perseverance and the willingness to take risks.”
In 2004, the two started Ready Seafood, a wholesale lobster distribution company that ships lobsters domestically and internationally.
Their new innovative venture, that is turning heads, focuses on the uniqueness of Maine, with a membership business. Each of the 400 members purchase a lobster trap fished by a Maine lobsterman for a year. These ‘partners’ get everything the trap catches, as well the rest of the staples of a lobster bake, and the opportunity to learn about their lobstermen.
John Ready knew the first time he went out with his uncle, Ted Gilfillan, lobstering at about age 8 that he had found his calling. In grade school Gilfillan paid the boys in lobster traps, and soon they were working on their own small wooden boat, watched by their mother with binoculars. By the time John was a senior in high school, the two of them were fishing 800 traps. They both went to college and graduated with degrees in business.
When they returned to Maine they leased their 5,500-square-foot facility behind Becky’s Diner and increased the capacity of their lobster holding tanks from 5,000 to 50,000. Now they have 10 employees and help support six lobstermen in addition to themselves. The business has grown into a $10 million seafood company.
Catch a Piece of Maine lobsters are credited to the online account of the member ‘partner’ and at any time an owner can have lobsters shipped anywhere in the United States. The ‘partner’ receives a DVD about the lobsterman who will be fishing the owner’s trap that also spreads the word of Maine loberstering. And with every four lobsters, members are sent steamers, mussels and a Maine-made dessert.
In their first year in business more than 200 members have paid the $2,995 required to join Catch a Piece of Maine. It is becoming a unique high end gift for companies to give clients. Members are guaranteed at least 40 lobsters.
The innovative venture helps to sustain lobstering in Maine. The membership fees enable the lobstermen to buy more traps, and pay for the increasing cost of supplies. Ten percent of the profits from Catch a Piece of Maine go directly to the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.