Why He’s Top 40: He’s the founder and CEO of a multinational company that makes boating accessories and audio products.
Unexpected Hobby: Playing guitar around the campfire (he’s self-taught). “If things don’t turn out with Roswell, you’ll see me playing on Whyte Avenue.”
At 19, Robert Oswell moved into his garage, rented out his house, and took out business loans. He’d come up with a novel invention – a shock-absorbing pole (pylon) that could be mounted to a wakeboarding boat to hold a tow rope – and was determined to commercialize it.
An apprentice electrician raised on a farm, Oswell trusted that his work ethic would carry him through. He read business books, wrote a business plan, patented his invention and made cold calls. “I had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” he says.
To his delight, a California boating company expressed interest and flew him out to view the product. Oswell then toured Canadian boat shows and dealers to gather sales. As the company grew, he added dozens of new products – like waterproof TVs and audio systems for boats. “I like lifestyle products – products that will make people happy,” he says.
Roswell has now sold more than $80 million in products since its inception in 1998. While the global economic crisis hit the company hard, Oswell managed to keep the operation intact and even expanded by taking market share from competitors: “Fortunately, I’m still here and have been living the dream ever since.”
Recently, the company expanded into modular wireless home audio products and things are on an upswing. Oswell and his family divide their time between Rockledge, Fla., and Edmonton, which both house manufacturing facilities for the company: “Taking over the world from Edmonton, Alberta – what could be better than that?”