InTheBite chats with Bill Wallace, of Wallace Marine and creator of the Willy Vac.
Bill Wallace is the founder of Willy Vac. An ingenious product that today is found in the engine rooms of all manner of sportfisher, Wallace provides some background on the Willy Vac. He was nice enough to take a bit of time to describe his inspiration for the Willy Vac and all that is happening with the company today. With testimonials from some top of the line captains and an ever-expanding list of satisfied customers, Wallace’s brain child is keeping bilges clean and dry around the world.
More than all of that, however, Bill Wallace is an awfully nice guy.
What’s new with your business?
“I’m spending my efforts and time making the [Willy Vac] machines as small as possible and as easy to service as possible,” Wallace relates. When the intended of home a piece of equipment is the engine room, size matters. “Real estate in the engine room of a boat is hard to come by so the smaller you can make something the easier it is to get into the engine room and to work around it once it’s in there. Owners that buy a boat want as much equipment as they can get into the boat and most of the time that equipment goes in the engine room.”
How was the business started?
“I grew up in the auto industry with a family that owned a business. After I graduated from that, I moved to smaller boats and from those to heavy equipment. Then I opened my own marine repair business in ’98.”
Before long, Wallace’s marine repair business was working with new boats. At one point, some 90 percent of the business consisted of working with boats one year old or newer. This customer base led Wallace to the idea for the Willy Vac.
“I spent a lot of time in engine rooms that were perfectly clean. Keeping them perfectly clean was how this machine was developed,” Wallace explains. “I figured out that something is constantly breaking in a boat. There’s so much water that runs through that equipment. Most of the time, this water ends up in bilge. If you are constantly managing the bilge and keeping it perfectly clean (as Wallace found himself doing), you get a pretty good eyeball on everything in the engine room. If the bilge stays clean there’s not going to be too many problems going on with the boat.”
It took three years to perfect that first bilge machine.
“If you can make it big, it’s not difficult,” Wallace says of designing a machine capable of sucking water out of a dirty bilge. “The problem was making it small and finding a pump that would overcome the vacuuming when the machine was running.” Since that initial Willy Vac model, Wallace has continued to modify the pump to be even more efficient. Today’s Willy Vacs are not only efficient enough to do the job, but they are small and compact. Not only that, they are nice to look at.
What do you like to do outside of work?
“I would say boating would be my biggest hobby. My wife and I do a lot of boating when we can. “
Wallace and his wife live near a wildlife refuge in South Carolina. They can be found out on the boat for the day, heading north or south, enjoying the barrier islands and beaches. It doesn’t hurt that the waterways around them are usually devoid of too much boat traffic. Of course, he still has a passion for motor sports and his love for the spirit of competition still burns strong.
What do you like about the sportfishing industry?
“I deal with captains more than boat owners. The coolest thing for me is that most of the captains are extremely particular people,” Wallace says, describing how meticulous they are in caring for their boats. “Many captains are highly competitive people with sportfishing boats who enjoy competing in tournaments. I think the thing I enjoy most is following the people that have my machines on their boats and watching them do well and succeed at what they do.”
What do you enjoy about InTheBite?
“The personal attention I get from everybody at InTheBite.”