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JACKSON COUNTY

Teenage brothers open seafood market, all on their own

Make no mistake, Drake and Chase Killingsworth are not your typical teenagers.

Drake, 18, is a graduating senior at Gautier High School, where Chase, 16, is a freshman.

They are also businessmen — successful ones, too.

The brothers recently opened Killer Crab Company on Ladnier Road in Gautier. They own and operate two fishing boats and 1,000 crab pots, which provide much of the seafood they sell. They also have trucks they send to Louisiana to bring back crawfish.

Most remarkably, they did it all on their own.

When Drake was about 14, after spending summers and other free time commercial fishing with family members, he expressed an interest in having his own shrimp boat. His father, Charles Killingsworth, had always encouraged his boys to work hard, so he ponied up the money to buy them a small fishing boat.

That, according to Charles Killingsworth, was the last time he had to spend money on his sons’ business ventures.

“My Dad has always been supportive of us working,” Drake says. “My whole family — we come from a fishing background. My Dad, my Grandpa — I started out shrimping when I was 13. I had my own shrimp boat, but I decided I didn’t really like shrimping, so I sold that boat and bought a crab boat. I was probably 15 at the time.”

Once Drake, with help from Chase, started crabbing, he was originally selling his catch to wholesale markets, but once word got out about what the boys were doing, friends, neighbors, family, all began asking about buying some of their fresh catch.

“One thing led to another and I was selling crabs, shrimp and this year I added crawfish,” Drake said. “It’s just taken off.”

But opening a seafood market wasn’t an idea that sprang from the demand for their catch. It’s actually something Drake had dreamed of doing for years.

“My dream has been to own my own seafood market,” he said. “I love selling seafood. I love seafood, period.”

The market sold anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 pounds of crawfish over one weekend and Drake said they ship “every bit” of 10,000 pounds of crabs — something he was already doing prior to opening the market.

Once Drake had his first fishing boat, he would frequently get up at 3:30 a.m. to catch seafood before heading to school. All along, according to his father, he’s been “saving, buying, investing.”

Drake credits his father for installing that work ethic in both him and his brother.

“My Dad taught us to work,” he said. “He’s a firm believer in getting up at daylight and working until dark. He taught us that at an early age.

“When I was 7, I had 10-15 yards I was cutting every week. I didn’t buy the lawnmower, I didn’t buy the gas, I didn’t buy the weedeater. But Dad wanted us to learn to work. He would get off work at Chevron at 5 p.m. and then take me to cut yards. He didn’t make a dollar off of it. He just wanted to see us work.”

Charles Killingsworth said he is sometimes amazed at what his boys have accomplished at such a young age, but at the same time, he knows it’s that work ethic that’s brought them to this point.

“I do think about it, but I guess not as much as some people might be, because that’s just they way our family is. That’s the way I’ve raised them and pushed them. I’ve told them they can do anything as long as they work hard at it.

“It’s always been about work with us. Nobody’s going to give you anything. You’ve got to work for it.”

But make no mistake, Charles Killingworth is proud of his boys.

“Drake’s a real smart businessman,” he said. “He’s real business-minded and hard-working. I knew from an early age he would succeed. Nothing he does, nothing he steps into scares me, because I know he can do it. And his brother’s right there with him.

“He’s done it on his own. All the permits, his business license, all that paperwork that comes with opening a business — he’s done it absolutely, 100 percent by himself.”

Chase acknowledges Drake is, at least for now, the more business-savvy of the two. But Drake says that’s fine, because his younger brother is the better fisherman. Chase started fishing with his brother when he was about 12. He will continue to fish and work in the market while finishing high school.

“Drake’s more like the business said,” Chase said. “I’m the fishing side.”

“(Chase) runs the boats, the fishermen,” Drake said. “He knows more about shrimping than I do. He’s a better shrimper than me. He’s a better fisherman than I am.”

Drake also has hired an accountant. “She keeps me straight,” he said. Older sister Alexa also helps out in the market as her schedule allows.

The brothers say they don’t really have a plan to someday move into a larger facility in Gautier. Drake says the current building is the “ideal” size for what he wants to do. He does, however, have plans to open a second market in Hattiesburg.

The Killingsworths’ goal, they say, is to sell large volumes of seafood at the cheapest prices possible.

“We try to be the cheapest,” Drake said. “We want to make a profit, of course, but we don’t want to try and make a killing off a small amount. Our goal is to sell high quantities at a good price. We sell a lot of product.”

Drake says that, despite his dedication to work the last few years, he will graduate from GHS this month with “all A’s and B’s.”

“There were a lot of days I missed school to make money,” he said. “I wasn’t always there to participate in class, but I kept my grades up. I’ve never failed anything.”

It’s hard to imagine he ever will.

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