Article as seen in "GLP Living Magazine"
If there is a through-line to Wes Horbatuck’s life, it is water. From childhood summers in the Sound at Groton Long Point to beach afternoons on the Pacific Ocean off San Diego, Wes is drawn to water. Water also is the driver of the young entrepreneur’s business, Driftline, which sells wetsuit-lined boardshorts and an expanding line of other water wear.
Wes lives in San Diego, and often returns to Groton Long Point. “While I do love San Diego, there is still something so magical about East Coast summers,” he said. Family ties, long-standing friendships, and the ambiance and lifestyle of the New England coast are the attraction.
Wes’s connection to GLP began when his grandparents discovered the retreat 30 years ago. His memories of childhood summers at GLP all center on water. “My sister and I grew up with the whole GLP process with the yacht club. I can still remember my first buoy swim and learning how to tread water there,” Wes recalled. “My best friend and I used to go snorkeling and crabbing by the rocks.” Simple water fun expanded to competing in regattas, surfing, wakeboarding and other sports during his teenage years. Wes served as a summer sports Instructor and admitted he was known as the “King of Dodgeball” there.
Wes centers his trips east on the GLP home that his mother and uncle inherited from their parents. His parents, Anne and Wes, and sister Lindsay Horbatuck share GLP summers with Wes’s uncle, aunt and cousins. He also loves the beaches in Rhode Island like Fenway Beach in Weekapaug where he learned to surf. He maintains connections in New York, too.
Wes majored in finance and accounting at Elon University in North Carolina, then earned his MBA at New York University. He worked in the family mortgage and insurance business, but knew he would strike out on his own at some point. “I was always an entrepreneur at heart,” He said. “I always wanted that to drive me.” In his early 20s, Wes and his GLP friend Will Cruthers developed Scrimshaw, a music surf blog. “We made our own T-shirts and candles, interviewed bands, put time into developing it,” Wes recalled. That business ran its course, and taught Wes some valuable lessons that he has used in his current business, Driftline.
“In Scrimshaw I really learned time management,” Wes said. He learned the importance of carving out creative time, how to be financially focused, and how to work with people. “I was interviewing all kinds of different people, surfers, musicians, artists,” he recalled. He uses those same skills today with accountants, lawyers, product designers and customers.
Wes achieved two goals in one move when he was hired by Compass Analytics, a financial company he always wanted to work with, and negotiated with them to work remotely from San Diego, where he wanted to live. It was in the San Diego surf that Driftline took shape and became a business.
Wes developed Driftline with his college friend, Greg Orfe. The two share a love of water sports and at the same time have complementary business strengths. “I live in the clouds, always thinking about the next steps and futures,” Wes explained. “Greg then brings it back to reality and makes it something we can execute on. He’s really good at operations. I’m good at the finance and marketing.”
Drifties, their patent-pending lined board shorts, was Wes and Greg’s initial product. Wes came up with the concept three years ago as he sought a solution for better comfort in changeable temperatures of the ocean sports he loved. “Growing up on the East Coast it’s usually cold and we’re in wetsuits, then shorts in summer,” Wes said. “On the West Coast it can be 80 degrees but the water might be in the 60s. I was getting frustrated with either sweating or being too cold.” He experimented with a solution. “I took a pair of my old wetsuit trunks and melded them with a pair of board shorts.” Drifties were born.
Wes and Greg began the process of finding a designer who would refine the idea, applying for a patent, finding a suitable manufacturer, selecting colors and styles that would appeal to customers. “I never knew how long it took to create a piece of apparel,” Wes observed. They launched Drifties about a year ago, with an eye toward the future. “While we were releasing order number one a year ago, we were working on the product we just released,” Wes said. The partners continue to tweak the fit and color palette of Drifties and expand their products. “Obviously we have T-shirts and hats. We have cool ideas for the future. Right now, we’re planning summer 2021.” Wes said.
Last summer their marketing plan included events where customers could see the product in action. San Diego hosts paddle and related water events year round. “We had events scheduled every weekend,” Wes said. When spring of 2020 arrived, the pandemic impacted them significantly. “We had to do a 180 shift in how we market it,” Wes said. They began a hyper-local Facebook marketing campaign that targeted the water community the partners knew: GLP, San Diego, Rhode Island. “That turned out to be incredibly successful,” Wes said. He is grateful for the support the GLP water community has given to Driftline. “The unwavering support has been sensational,” he said.
Wes works hard. He continues to work full-time for Compass Analytics as well as full-time on Driftline. He uses the expanse of the country’s time zones to his advantage. He rises early on Eastern Standard Time to work as a marketing manager for Compass. By the time his responsibilities at Compass Analytics are finished, he is ready to get started on Driftline business when afternoon hits at Pacific Time.
He is satisfied with the work he does for Compass Analytics, but for Wes, the creative rewards of building Driftline are beyond passion. “It’s more than just a job. I HAVE to do this. I created this idea. It was born from my brain,” Wes said. He and Greg are reaching benchmarks of success. “Last week we were put on Forbes list for Board Shorts,” he noted. But the real measure of success for Wes is as visceral, personal and exciting as catching a perfect wave. “I went surfing yesterday and saw a guy wearing our shorts,” he said. “That, for me, is better than hitting Forbes.”