Saltwater fishing guru and entrepreneur Ali Hussainy exudes the confidence of a fighter pilot and the optimism of a bomb-demolitions expert.
He’s easy to listen to and hard to doubt, and his strategies for life and business are equally sound and demonstrably successful.
And, despite considerable hardships, he remains grateful for everything in his world.
“I’m the luckiest guy on earth,” said Hussainy, 50, who operates his thriving fishing and online businesses in San Diego, California. “I could die right now and I’d do it with a smile on my face.”
At the helm of his speedy fishing boat powered by Mercury V8 outboards, Hussainy seems at one with the sea and the magnificent creatures that live there.
However, life as the child of Afghan and Irish immigrants was a minefield of brutal reality.
“I had a weird childhood,” said Hussainy. “I was a chubby kid with a strange name, and I experienced all that goes with all of that. I grew up very poor. As I got older, I was anxious to get some money in my pockets, and I was willing to work.”
His first stroke of luck, he said, was the simple yet lasting presence of his grandfather.
“He was a huge part of my life,” said Hussainy. “He was the one who got me outdoors and he was the one who got me fishing. He was a commander in the Navy, a bomber pilot and an experimental-plane pilot. He was badass! He was a guy I could look up to.”
Still, Nothing Comes Easily
After high school, Hussainy entered but soon walked away from college life, choosing instead to test the surging job market of the 1990s. Though woefully unskilled and undereducated, he landed a promising position in a booming industry that suited him well.
“I got hired by a video game company here in San Diego,” he said. “When I started, there were four employees and they were doing about a million dollars a year. When I left seven years later, we were doing $150 million, we had IPO’d and we had four offices around the world.
“During those years, I did everything from driving a forklift to meeting with Sony PlayStation in Tokyo. That industry was exploding, and I learned a lot very quickly.”
Hussainy said he looked for the best in people back then, but admitted he hadn’t prepared for their worst.
“The owner of that company, who I trusted like a dad, cheated me out of $700,000,” said Hussainy. “He wrote me out of a deal at the last minute. That was a valuable lesson to learn at 26.”
Hussainy exited that company and quickly latched onto an intriguing role at Activision, one of the world’s largest video game publishers at the time.
“I went from being the smart guy in the room to probably the dumbest guy in a very large room,” he said. “But I learned a lot there also.”
When he faced an unexpected transfer from temperate Southern California to the icy winters of the northern Midwest, Hussainy opted to strike out on his own. He remained in San Diego and in 2001 launched Brand H Promotional, a merchandising company that started out strong.
“I was making products like T-shirts and hats and vehicle wraps, and all my clients were in construction or automotive,” Hussainy said. “But 2008 to 2009 was a bad time to be working in either of those areas, and we got smashed. I didn’t have the experience or the wherewithal to understand what was happening to my business or how to avoid it.”
Fortunately for Hussainy, however, in 2003 he and a partner also had launched Bloody-Decks, an online forum for Southern California anglers seeking fishing information.
“My (merchandise) business was decimated but, when one door closes another door opens, and that became the impetus for me to focus on my passion project, the Bloodydecks.com website,” said Hussainy.
“Because I lost everything in ’08 and ’09, I had nothing else to lose. But I didn’t need much to survive and thought, ‘If I’m ever going to make a career change this is the time to do it.’ Within 60 days I grew the website’s revenue about $10,000 a month and thought, ‘Now we’ve got a good foundation; let’s see what we can do with it.’ ”
In Bloody-Decks’ infancy, competition abounded in the burgeoning world of digital communications, and the startup was getting hammered by two more-established fishing forums.
“But those two forums were owned by people who weren’t part of the fishing community and really didn’t understand it,” said Hussainy, now President of BD Outdoors (formerly Bloody-Decks forum). “In those early days of BD, we’d let people say or do whatever they wanted. It was the Wild West back then.”
However, innovative marketing concepts and endless mental elbow grease skyrocketed Bloody-Decks’ visitor numbers, and its business kicked into overdrive. New creative elements were added, including Local Knowledge, a unique fishing show hosted and produced by Hussainy. The visually stunning program, which can be viewed on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and more, delivers in-depth information unlike that on traditional shows, said Hussainy.
From Rags to Global Recognition
Like a massive bluefin tuna, what had begun in 2010 as a local no-holds-barred fishing forum had grown into a powerful media platform for all things related to saltwater fishing, including fishing reports, fishing gear reviews, fishing recipes, saltwater fishing articles, tackle tips and more.
“I think we’re doing a lot of things that have endeared us to a larger audience, and Local Knowledge is one of them,” said Hussainy. “Local Knowledge isn’t a fishing show where a guy goes out, catches a big fish and tells you how great he is. We work hard to tell our audience a story. We’ve heard people say things like, ‘Every Sunday morning our whole family sits down and watches Local Knowledge.’ That’s when we know we have something special.”
Today’s mighty-and-still-growing BD Outdoors website also offers agency-style services to its partners.
“We’ve created brand films for almost everyone in the industry, from Mercury Marine to Aftco, Costa, Penn and more,” said Hussainy. “We take our passion for the sport and our understanding of what people like and we apply that to customer editorial and custom videos.”
Hussainy said the magic that blends the diverse people and pieces of BD Outdoors into a commanding information machine is derived from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
“I’ve built my life around the ocean,” said Hussainy. “There’s nothing like searching for something over the next wave or over the horizon. There’s a peace that comes from being on the water.
“And, perhaps, from clawing our way to the top.”