When the COVID-19 pandemic threw Menomonee Falls residents Alexi and Colin Shepet a curve ball, the couple used the opportunity to launch a business that would quickly grow to service two counties. Dockside Watercraft Cleaners, which was first started in Pewaukee, is now expanding into Walworth County.
Back in 2020, Alexi Shepet was an IT recruiter. Once the pandemic struck and the normal hiring process was hindered, she found herself let go along with several of her co-workers. The Shepets then had to figure out an alternative plan.
“We always wanted to start a business but didn’t know exactly what we wanted to do,” said Alexi Shepet.
It wasn’t long until Colin’s background as a national water skier and the couples' overall love of boats helped them figure out what need they could help fill. The Shepets settled on a mobile boat detailing business based in Pewaukee as their new side hustle and Dockside Watercraft Cleaners was created.
The company offers a standard wash, maintenance wash, and detailing and wax services for boat owners. Color restoration services, power washing, teak wood refinishing and more are also offered.
“The question came to mind of how do these people keep their boats on the water? If you drive your car around, you have access to gas stations and car washes. How do people who keep their boat on the water get their boat clean?” said Colin Shepet.
The Shepets credit the convenience of their mobile boat detailing to their success. A process that could normally take a couple days is reduced to just a few hours, and boat owners do not need to transport their vessel to a shop. Colin Shepet said Dockside Watercraft Cleaners has built up a large amount of trust within the Lake Country area and the company has also taken on a more advisory role for customers.
“We thought it would be so cool if we did 100 boats throughout the summer. Well, 100 boats came very quickly. In the lake world at least, if you do a good job at someone’s house, they’re telling their neighbors. It kind of spread like wildfire in the area,” said Alexi Shepet.
While the pandemic led to the loss of her job, it eventually ended up helping the Shepets in the long run as more people sought to get on the lake and outdoors. Boat traffic increased so much the couple said a weekday on Pewaukee Lake would easily look like a weekend.
Due to the couples’ success in Lake Country, Dockside Watercraft Cleaners is expanding into the Lake Geneva area. There are three employees dedicated to cleaning boats in Walworth County and four to five different people on the Lake Country crew. Eventually, the couple hopes to grow and become more of a regional presence.
“Early indication is (the Walworth County presence is) going well,” said Colin Shepet. “That’s probably going to grow to be a two-crew business, so we’ll double in size in the next one to two years. Then from there we’ll look at probably another expansion market. Eventually, I’d say a long-term goal is to see us have a presence throughout the Midwest.”