Southwest Florida native Tim Hart has always wanted to showcase his stomping ground’s best assets: its wide-open waters and the people who surround them.
Hart, branch manager of VanDyk Mortgage, has helped folks settle in the area as a mortgage professional beginning in 2001. Since 2016, he’s spotlighted the region’s appeal with Rates & Reels, a YouTube show featuring Hart and a different Southwest Florida leader each episode, on a boat, catching fish and chatting about the guest’s industry.
It’s similar to how locals would spend a sunny day off together, only there are a camera and interview involved.
Hart loved fishing shows since he was a kid and imagined that one day he’d have one. Growing up in Southwest Florida, he also developed a desire to “spotlight people who are doing good things in the community.”
“One day it just clicked,” Hart says. “Why don’t I just do both of these at the same time?”
He thought: “It would give me a reason to stay in front of people that I already know—past clients, referral partners, friends, family—and also get in front of people that guests know in a cool and creative way.” Plus, the show could lure newcomers to the area and remind residents about its prime qualities.
“I’d get to spotlight the weather and the water,” Hart says. “People move here for exactly what we’d do on the fishing show.” To Hart, who helps people become homeowners, it seemed like a “complete victory all around.”
The first episode of Rates & Reels debuted in September 2016 and featured Mariner High School football coach Travis Smith.
Hart hired a video crew to shoot and produce the show. “You have to realize when you don’t have the time, energy or skills to edit this stuff or are not good at it,” Hart says. That was easy for him to deter-
mine. The difficult part was getting over initial stage fright.
“Putting yourself out on video for anyone in the world to see is nerve-wracking at first because we’re our own worst critic,” Hart says. The initial episode was well-received, though, and Hart continued with guests like Big Mama of B103.9, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson and State Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.
Rates & Reels features Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson
The Rates & Reels YouTube channel now has more than 45 videos, with some variations of the show. Hart now includes a segment called Rates & Grills, featuring chefs cooking up fresh catches in local restaurants, with plans to produce more of them.
He’s also planned a few special episodes, like a Father’s Day bit featuring a song from local country group Ben Allen Band.
Currently, Rates & Reels is more of a marketing expense for Hart rather than a side-business venture. And while it’s difficult to track the show’s exact return of investment, he says, “it’s helped my personal brand immensely.”
Hart’s future dreams for Rates & Reels are not all that lofty.
“If the show takes off, it takes off, but for me, it’s just to continue the same thing I’ve been doing,” Hart says. “I didn’t enter it with expectations to be on a sports channel or anything like that; it’s just something to continue to promote our community and the people in it.”