The yachting industry is not always kind to its young and inexperienced – especially when it comes to the land-based sector. It’s almost as if everyone is expected to come in with 10 years under their belt, along with some physical manifestation of age and fatigue or an extensive contact list.
“There’s this idea of: I want you to be an expert but I don’t want to teach you,” says John Jarvie, the vice president of Oversea Insurance. “I don’t think that’s really fair and it’s not creating a better industry.”
This, of course, is impossible for many people – and especially for the slew of young faces showing up every year at the Monaco and Fort Lauderdale boat shows.
However, in 2009, a group of young people in Fort Lauderdale got together and founded an organization meant to change all that. It was called Young Professionals in Yachting (YPY), and the idea was to offer a welcoming platform where young, land-based professionals could learn more about the industry and to give them a sense of support and community.
From humble beginnings it has grown in recent years into a burgeoning organization of more than 200 dedicated members on both sides of the Atlantic.
This year at the Monaco Yacht Show, YPY hosted an international networking breakfast with a heavy push for young professionals from the U.K., as both the Monaco and South Florida Chapters are keen to establish a London Chapter.
“Clearly it’s addressing something that no one really had before,” says Sacha Williams, the Sponsorship and PR Officer for YPY Monaco and the director of charter marketing Europe for Camper & Nicholsons Monaco.
In filling that void, YPY has also helped to bring people together and foster a more connected and open group of professionals, says Lisa Peck, who is the president of YPY’s Monaco Chapter and the global marketing manager for Fraser Yachts.
“YPY is really helping to break down barriers and make people realize that we all work together in the same industry,” she says.
The right approach
D.J. Kiernan founded YPY in 2009 as a place for land-based professionals between the ages of 21 and 40 to find a home. "Upon entering yachting, I realized there was a huge generation gap in the industry, and despite having several associations there wasn't one where young professionals could feel truly at home," he says.
"I felt it was critical to focus on professional development since networking and socializing would happen automatically," Kiernan says. "Our first monthly meetings alternated between professional development seminars, such as a Dale Carnegie course, and having industry veterans as guest speakers...The early support from senior executives in the industry was overwhelming and ultimately critical to the development of the organization."
Jarvie had grown up in San Diego, where his great-grandfather started Oversea Insurance. After university, he went back and started working for the family business, eventually moving to Fort Lauderdale in 2009 to open up a South Florida office.
“I was quickly turned onto this organization,” he says. “There were only maybe 15 active members and they were meeting in the back office of a small building. But I loved the concept.”
Kiernan moved to Europe for a job promotion with Camper & Nicholsons, and the organization lost some momentum before Jarvie took over as president in 2011. “I always kept the same fundamentals and the same principles about the organization but really made a big push for membership and growth,” he says.
He did tweak a few things, however. He moved meetings out of a back-office and into more attractive venues, which drew in more people. And by keeping the annual membership fee low – it is currently around $110 on both sides of the Atlantic – YPY ensured that it was accessible to almost anyone.
“Before we knew it, we were at 100 members in Fort Lauderdale,” he says. “My next goal was always to expand, because this is an international marketplace for superyachting, and there’s a lot happening on both sides of the Atlantic.”
In the spring of 2013, with Kiernan’s help, Jarvie met Peck and Marcela Royer, who were interested in establishing a similar organization in Monaco.
“We had our first board meeting in April at the Yacht Club,” says Peck. “Now, 18 months later, we’re up to 140 members and it is very much growing organically by word of mouth.”
Membership in both chapters spans the breadth of the industry, with people in brokerage and insurance and even the legal sector.
Nicolas Fry, who is a charter manager with Camper & Nicholsons and the YPY Monaco Events Officer, is one of those new members. Unlike some of the more established associations, the YPY application process isn’t long and arduous, he says.
“It’s working,” he says. “I don’t think [other organizations] got 100 new members in the last 10 years.”
A welcome space
The goal was always to bring people together. YPY is equal parts social and educational. While it aims to help inform the younger and less experienced, it also aims to connect people, and networking is a major function.
“The first thing that I wanted to do is to make people feel welcome,” says Jarvie. “We want a place where people feel like they belong. Even if today’s your first day in the industry, we don’t care.”
Secondly, YPY is interested in education: “To create an atmosphere where you can not only learn more about yachting, and the business and principles of yachting, but also business ethics, etiquette and professionalism as a whole,” as Jarvie explains it.
These two aspects come together every month in both South Florida and Monaco, where members gather for meetings where there is an educational speaker, along with networking. The South Florida Chapter has had entrepreneurs, yacht owners, and more seasoned professionals in to speak. The Monaco Chapter has had representatives from MYBA, various shipyards, experts on public speaking, and masters of wine.
“We really try to keep it a mix between personal development and industry topics,” says Peck. The talks, when especially relevant or interesting, have even become so popular as to draw non-members – senior industry professionals in their 40s and 50s, she says.
At the request of members, there have been purely social events scheduled to bring people together and foster relationships – events such as a ski day in the winter, a gala, and more regular occasions for members to meet up for drinks.
“I think it’s really helping bring people together and exposing them to other sides of the industry that they might not naturally come into touch with,” says Peck. “It’s creating new relationships.”
People and careers
The idea, though, is more than to simply broaden your social circle. The idea is to grow professionally and personally.
“It’s getting new and young people in the industry prepared for that next step,” says Jarvie. “If they’re in an entry-level job, it prepares them for the next level up. If they’re the director of marketing, it prepares them for the international director of marketing. It really broadens your network and broadens your knowledge.”
He estimates that nearly 90 percent of the South Florida members have moved up in their jobs due to YPY, noting that YPY has become a de facto job-placement service.
“All these established companies, they come to us first if they have an opening,” he says. “Not only is it a great service for our members, but it’s a great service for companies looking for young talent.”
Before Jarvie’s term ends, he wants to further enhance the experience by introducing a mentorship program. Initially, he says it will be basic, where each new member is paired up with a senior member. “We’re going to grow it – and I don’t know how yet – but ultimately I’d like to see this mentorship program grow,” he says.
The next chapter to open will likely be in London, both Jarvie and Peck say.
“Geographically, London is the next priority because there are a lot of people in the yachting industry who are working there and also because they’re a younger age group,” says Peck. “They’re also not really working alongside a marina and I think they could really benefit.”
She has received a lot of emails from people in the U.K. who are interested in how to move forward since the Monaco show, she says.
But really a new chapter could open up anywhere there’s a large enough yachting community. Already YPY is working toward a similar organization in Holland, though Peck says it will likely be strongly allied with Holland Yachting Group, as things are done slightly differently there.
However, Barcelona and Palma are also on the radar, says Peck.
“It takes time because you want to make sure people share the same values,” she says. “We’re trying to get them all set up properly instead of rushing around and getting them launched everywhere. It’s a slow process but I think it’s one worth doing correctly.”
Jarvie is of the same mindset.
“We’ve found that our foundation and the model we’ve created, it works,” he says. “We don’t want to rush anything. We have to be very careful as we grow that we grow organically and we grow the right way, just like a company.”
Working with established yachting associations
In addition, YPY is starting to reach out to some of those more established associations, like the International Superyacht Society (ISS), in order to give young professionals a voice.
Both chapter presidents have been involved with ISS, working with them during meetings at the shows in Monaco and Fort Lauderdale. “We are going along to those meetings and voicing our concerns on behalf of our members,” says Peck.
“It’s a lot of hard work,” says Jarvie. “But I know we’re doing good things for the industry and for the young people in the industry.”