A Simple Fisherman’s Journey
By Richard Lentz
One of the most frequent questions that we receive over the years relates to how the company Seagate got started. However in order to explain this, it is necessary for me to provide a few details about my own personal history and the events that shaped my life - inevitably leading to the creation of Seagate in 1981.
The term “simple fisherman” is how I have referred to myself on radio and t.v. interviews, most notably on the Doug Kaufmann show. This is because of my somewhat humble beginning, though in reality this has not been such a simple journey at all.
Growing up in New York City in the 50’s and 60’s, it seemed inevitable that my life would take a pathway followed by most people in this “City” --- you study hard to get in to a good college, so that you would get a good job in Manhattan, settle down have the 2.5 kids and all the required loans and mortgages. The better the job, the higher the pay, and the closer you got to living in “The City”, also known as the island of Manhattan. A commute on the subway to a cubicle on the 20th floor of some office building passing papers back and forth to secretaries and lawyers, was the measure of success. However, the early days of television which also coincidently were my early days, provided two life-changing shows- Sea Hunt with Lloyd Bridges plus the Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. These shows provided a glimpse of a different world and started the making of my plan to work and get paid to live on boats and dive around the world. I became aware that there was more to nature and wildlife then pigeons, squirrels, alley cats, and rats.
My early fishing experience began at 10 years of age, going out on the day boats from Sheepshead Bay, fishing fluke and bluefish with my grandfather and a lot of other old guys. There happened to be an abundance of fish offshore of Coney Island during those years because New York City floated their garbage in barges and dumped it all in the ocean in this area. However, the camaraderie of spending a day each month out on the ocean pulling up fish and watching the giant freighters making their way into New York’s harbor traveling from distant ports, reinforced the images from Lloyd and Jacques that there really were other worlds waiting for me to explore.
Going out on a day-boat once a month with a rod & reel and grandpa at the age of 10 does not make you a fisherman. Certainly this cannot compare to growing up in places like the New Bedford or Gloucester, Mass. fishing towns, where you were expected to work on the family boat fishing George’s Banks for a living. So the next step was to get the education and experience. A degree in oceanography with a minor in economics, and then a Masters in Fishery Economics with some engineering was the point where this was no longer going to be the ”simple fisherman” venture. Eventually, I did spend a lot of time working on commercial fishing boats off of New England.
While pursuing my studies and practical experience, I also continued with my other goal to become a diver. Diving from research ships and fishing boats during the summers helped to pay for college expenses. Thousands of hours were spent underwater during the early 70’s collecting bottom samples on oceanographic cruises, installing pipelines and unloading platforms for new fish processing factories, and when time permitted just diving for pure enjoyment.
Learning how to fish on purse seiners, trawlers, and bottom draggers while at the same time studying the physiology of fish and plankton species, learning the geology, chemistry, and physical characteristics of the oceans, and the economics of renewable and non-renewable resources rounded out the education. So ultimately, the plan was not to become a commercial fisherman, hauling nets. The goal was to work for a natural resource-based fishing company and direct their feasibility studies, construction, and operation of new fishing boats and processing plants around the world for the development of new fisheries. During the 1970’s this was still a realistic vocation. Fishing was an industry that did not have negative connotations.
From 1974-81 after graduating college, I worked for Zapata Corp. based in Houston, helping to design, build and eventually manage new fishing operations in North America and Mexico. The largest project I worked on for Zapata was doing the feasibility study and the construction of a fishmeal factory with a fleet of 6 purse-seiners in Ensenada, Mexico. However, by 1981 Zapata began to sell off their various subsidiaries leading to the eventual disappearance of that company. So I decided that at the age of 29, that this was the moment in life to pursue my entrepreneurial spirit and build my own company which became Seagate.
A first lesson every new entrepreneur learns when starting their new business is that no bank is going to provide any financing. The second lesson is figuring out how to max out your credit cards, and take a second mortgage on your house (while raising children) in order to finance your work. This was not a very comfortable period of my life, using any extra money for buying machinery for the factory while keeping the old cars running, Christmas presents at minimum and having my wife Michelle juggle finances and using credit cards to buy groceries for the growing family. So failure was not an option. Building a company this way takes a lot longer. Add to that the complications of setting up the plant in Mexico, added to the adventure. Even for those that have the resources of a large U.S. corporation to help, it would still be challenging. Fortunately, having learned to do this sort of thing on someone else’s payroll certainly helped.
Seagate began seafood processing in the 1980’s which led to the production of marine-based health food products by 1993, and eventually to organic farming and to the 35+ products that are grown, fished, harvested and processed by Seagate.
While this did not exactly become the life of a simple fisherman, hauling nets and tasting the salt air every day, it also did not involve commuting on a subway train. So, life is good. The Seagate story up until 10 years ago had been about me. Fortunately I am no longer alone in this endeavor. I now have an excellent staff in San Diego and in Mexico who run this company day-to-day without my constant supervision, or some might say interference. I also have the next generation of our family entering the business led by my son Evan, who has a different set of skills and tools that are necessary to deal with expanding Seagate in the 21st century.
I take great pleasure in developing, producing and manufacturing all of the diverse products in my Seagate brand. We proudly maintain the highest quality that comes from our absolute control over the harvest and production of our own raw materials. We are now helping many people to be healthy, stay healthy, to treat a variety of afflictions, and to do so naturally. I feel that I have had this other purpose to my life besides just catching fish. It has been a long road, over 50 years, since catching that first bluefish with my grandfather 20 miles south of the entrance to New York’s harbor, where you can find a small point of land that is, not a coincidence at all, called Seagate.
For those who made it this far in the narrative, please enjoy some of my recent underwater photography. My life-long interest in diving still continues after over 42 years. However, my diving is no longer commercial. I take every opportunity to dive with my camera (and wife Michelle) around the world and capture the sights that I first saw on t.v. and which now give me great enjoyment to be able to share with you.