Crew Life » Career & Training » How to Set up a Successful Yachting Business

How to Set up a Successful Yachting Business

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My wife, Claire, and I set up Superyacht Tenders and Toys seven years ago. I had been captain of motor and sail yachts and worked as a yacht manager. I'd also run an RYA training school and had a business degree. Claire came from yacht racing and had worked with me on yachts but had also been a corporate lawyer in London.

Like a lot of great ideas, ours was borne of frustration. As a yacht manager, I found myself working hard to outfit a new-build superyacht with tenders. I found there was no one able to recommend boats that fit my brief and who could also manage the tender builds and offer support. I had a lot of experience, but I didn’t have the time to do all of the research to cut through the noise of every tender builder's claim of providing the ideal boat for my yacht.

Clearly there was a gap in the market for our brand of expertise, knowledge and passion. Claire and I sat down and put together a business plan for Superyacht Tenders and Toys. We included toys because we saw growth in this area on the back of an increasing health-focus for owners. Plus, we figured sales of toys would fill the gap between tender orders and project management. And we love water-sports, which made it fun for us.

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We also knew that owners, captains and project managers needed better service than was being offered at the time. I'd had to work with suppliers that made me realise why customer service was the key to success. It wasn't hard to see where improvements could be made, and so with this in mind we focused on customer service, prompt responses and informative reports throughout the builds.

We focused on value for money. As a yacht manager, I knew all about transparency and the required three quotes for each piece of equipment, so we chose to set our prices at the best value possible for the client. Our first quote would be our best price to win the order, then we'd offer the best customer service in the market.

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We believe that this approach has helped the company to grow year-on-year. In 2017 we were recognised with the most prestigious business award in the UK, the Queens Award for International Trade. We met her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and other senior royals at Buckingham Palace alongside prominent business owners who know a lot more than us! In February this year the Sunday Times Lloyds SME Export Track 100, ranked SYTT 45th in the list of Britain’s 100 small and medium-sized companies with the fastest-growing international sales over the past two years, and just this week we won the 2018 ‘British Marine Best Company To Work For (under 20 employees)!

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At Superyacht Tenders and Toys we had been receiving a lot of orders for deck equipment. We knew it was a market segment that had room for growth and that had been poorly marketed and serviced to date.

There are very few quality deck equipment builders that also offer realistic value. ‘Marine’ use seems to mean that suppliers and manufacturers can overcharge and get away with it – especially if it’s made out of carbon! There are some excellent manufacturers and products out there but we saw a gap for quality at a fair price, backed up by world-class customer service.

In response to client demand, we had already designed our own tender whips, transom fenders and pillar fenders. Although these aren't new products, our designs are innovative. Our tender whips are manufactured using a spiral weave rather than the usual hollow core. This is stronger in all directions than the options previously available. We added stainless rather than plastic cleats and sleeve, up-specified ropes and added carbon manufacture and custom colours to increase robustness and make them more suitable for superyachts.

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In the first year we sold over 200 sets and had zero failures, all with no marketing. So this year we set up Shipyard Supply Co. to focus on design, manufacture and supply of deck equipment. We offer the same great customer service, value for money and best price quoting as Superyacht Tenders and Toys, with the scope to offer anything that yachts and yacht builders want. Headed up by Luke Porter, ex-Oyster Yachts project manager and ex-yacht crew, the plan is to grow the range of products offered, while Superyacht Tenders and Toys continues to service and grow our client base for tenders and toys.

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There are many manufacturers that offer individual products, but few suppliers from which you can buy a full range of equipment. On new-builds, items are bought and delivered from hundreds of suppliers. Shipyard Supply Co. adds value by grouping items together for shipping through a single point of contact for the whole order.

We have carbon and fibreglass manufacturing facilities on site and access to a range of excellent services for stainless and other manufacturing in the United Kingdom. We offer carbon tender pillar fenders, tender mooring whips, spreader bars and lifting equipment, davit cranes, bathing ladders, tender boarding poles, transom fenders, fender hooks, games decks and a wide array of other custom fabrications. sytt 3

The future looks bright: In our first month of business operation we had orders for carbon bathing ladders, a carbon diving board and a full suite of tender pillar fenders for the world’s largest yacht in build. As with Superyacht Tenders and Toys, Shipyard Supply Co. will design and supply anything the client asks for: if something is needed that doesn’t currently exist, the team will design and deliver it.

It's been said that it's almost as hard to get out of yachting as it is to get in. I would recommend anyone with a dream of setting something up to research it thoroughly before committing yourself. Work in a related business to understand the market, and if everything stacks up then take that leap.

No one in yachting is a stranger to hard work and attention to detail. It gives us a good head start and the drive to succeed. Just like in yachting, our business is built on relationships, on keeping each and every client happy and showing added value in everything we do.


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