If you haven’t had the pleasure of talking with BacTANK T3's founder Barbara Nolan, you should probably flush some paper towels down the head just so you have an excuse to give her a call. This down-to-earth woman will have you laughing with her stories, humor, and wit—punctuated, of course, by her professional knowledge. With a background in microbiology and 22 years of experience helping houseboaters firsthand with all sorts of holding tank complications, The Nolan Bio Labs, Inc., president recently celebrated her 80th birthday the only way she knows how—on her houseboat.
Bobbing in its slip at Holiday Marina on Lake Lanier, Ga., The Last Hurrah welcomed over 20 guests onboard for the big day. And despite an overly friendly wasp and a couple of stings, everyone had a blast.
“We had a good time! It worked out really well,” Barbara laughs.
Along with cousins, next door neighbors, and friends Barbara recently shared cake with, she’s had the pleasure of making many more friends in the industry throughout the history of her company.
“I started this business because at the time they were using formaldehyde in the holding tanks on boats, and the Surgeon General had deemed that as carcinogenic,” Barbara says. “A boat surveyor friend of mine, Bollin Douglas, decided that something had to change. She asked, ‘Can you do anything?’ So I went back and researched the industry and how it should be done. I’m a chemist, so I put together the products that we have now.”
By utilizing clean spores that release particular enzymes, BacTANK T3 products clean up specific issues in a holding tank’s waste—naturally eliminating the odor to boot.
“I probably wouldn’t be where I was if it wasn’t for Houseboat magazine and Mike Harris, the publisher when I first got started. He did a lot for me in the beginning. Others who really gave me a head start were Wiley Sanders and marina manager Lynn Gerrigan. And Tom at Sunset Marina on Dale Hollow Lake really helped me more than anything.”
Tom was plagued by a septic tank problem for his new floating restaurant, Barbara figured out what Tom needed, sent it to him, and then jumped in the car to help unstop it herself.
“It saved him an awful lot of money and he has been a good friend of mine since then, and that’s been 15, 20 years ago,” Barbara shares. “So that’s how I got started, and I knew how to sell so I just methodically went down the line of marinas and sold to them. I went to every boat show I could go to. We made a lot of friends because we had to do a lot of heavy lifting. Nobody’s willing to work as hard as I am. And it wasn’t a nine-to-five job!”
Nowadays her company has evolved and Barbara also works with yachts and captains across the east and west coast from her office right onboard her renovated 80-foot 1969 Stardust. A better office couldn’t be found.
“The Last Hurrah floats like it’s brand-new. I put thrusters on the back so I don’t have any trouble driving it. I’ve got five bedrooms, and you can walk around all the beds to make them up and stand in the bedrooms. I’ve also put in a new air conditioning unit and an ionization unit that gets rid of dog hair,” she shares.
With an excitable yellow lab named Katy joining her family, it’s a wise investment.
The big question is now that she’s celebrated her 80th birthday, is Barbara going to slow down?
Don’t hold your breath!
“There’s a lot more I could do if I hadn’t hurt my back on a quarter horse, but I’m not going to give it up,” Barbara adamantly says. “I’m going to be here still developing products and taking technical phone calls. It’s been a lot of hard work but I love this job. I’ve never done anything where I can wear shorts and flip flops like this one. I have thoroughly enjoyed what I’m doing; it just doesn’t seem like work.”
It’s obvious that in Barbara’s case, it’s far from being the last hurrah.
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