What Matters to You, Matters Most: Skip Bennett

By First Republic Client, Skip Bennett, Founder & Owner, Island Creek Oysters
July 29, 2015

What inspired you to start Island Creek Oysters?

My childhood was spent fishing and working in Duxbury Bay, Massachusetts, where I fell in love with being on the water. That never faded. Throughout college and into my early career, I always worked oceanfront jobs, first digging mussels then growing clams. Unfortunately, five years into clam growing I lost my entire crop. It was devastating, but that loss inspired me to do something crazy and grow oysters in a place where they did not naturally reproduce.

"I don't want to think about banking, I want to grow oysters. That's what First Republic has allowed me to do."

You studied finance in college and turned away from a promising career path to farm oysters. Why?

I followed what I loved, what I was passionate about. I was dedicated to being on the water and having the independence to work how I wanted. When I committed to farming oysters, I thought I signed up for a lifetime of poverty and that was okay; in the beginning it was a lifestyle choice. That commitment resonates through Island Creek’s DNA today. People who come to work with us stay because they are not only dedicated to the product, but also the lifestyle. Passion is what sustains you through the difficult times. I truly believe I was put on earth to grow oysters.

Can you speak about the evolution of Island Creek over the years?

Originally it was a clam farm and then an oyster farm, but we needed a vehicle to be able to sell the oysters. We started a wholesale company and then created a brand, and the brand over time outgrew the oyster farm, which enabled us to build our restaurants.  It allowed us to have a pretty bustling e-commerce platform where we can ship oysters to people next-day and sell a lot of merchandise.

There was a moment you referred to as a catalyst for Island Creek’s growth. Can you describe it?

Being from a small town, we always conducted business locally: grocery shopping, home repairs, medical care, and especially banking, were all managed in Duxbury. One of our biggest challenges as a business was managing cash flow and in 2014, we needed a line of credit to continue our rapid growth. Our local bank decided that we did not look good enough on paper, labeling us too volatile for investment. That stung. All the hard work my team and I had put into Island Creek was ignored because we did not pass their risk assessment. A friend suggested that I contact First Republic. What I loved was that a banker came out to see our farm, meet our employees, and hear our story. To First Republic, we weren’t just a formula; we were a viable, profitable business with dedicated people willing to put in the necessary work to succeed. I don’t want to think about banking, I want to grow oysters. That’s what First Republic has allowed me to do.

What has been the most valuable insight you’ve gained from growing oysters?

Redefining what it means to be creative. We tend to only think of creativity as an art, but I’ve learned growing oysters is creative. Every day we create something new, something that will delight, inspire, and bring joy to someone else. As oyster growers, we’re creating a product that people are passionate about - that’s enough to keep me motivated to continue doing what I do day in and day out.

The views of the authors of these articles do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank.

©First Republic Bank, 2015