Boat Cleaning Business Case Study: Entrepreneurship 101

How do marine type businesses start? Have you ever thought of turning a hobby into a business? Let me tell you a story of how I got into the Boat Detailing Business when I started our in the car cleaning business which grew into a franchise system. So often we read in business books to study markets and develop business plans when in reality it does not exactly work that way. Let me tell you a story of how sometimes the entrepreneur just falls into opportunity.

I met a guy who came to our web site to buy a Car Wash Guys franchise who had been detailing boats for ten years in Redding CA and later in Coeur D' Alene, ID. At the time we were getting about 600,000 hits on our website per month so that wasn't too surprising judging from the odds. He didn't have the money but we talked about the industry a lot for our franchisee fee or the equipment needed. www.carwashguys.com . He had some fabulous Ideas about boat washing however. I then was marketing up in WA state and ran across another Boat Detailing in Everett WA, who also detailed cars, really sharp Mormon kid previously from Salt Lake. Also really knew his stuff, attends boat shows and has established himself as a marine cleaning products guy. We hit is off and all decided to work together. I then met a guy in Newport Beach who details the interiors of Boats and designed the original equipment for Nauticare, an onsite, pontoon mounted oil change and bilge cleaning franchise. WOW. This would round out the knowledge I needed to put together The Boat Wash Guys.

http://www.carwashguys.com/boatlaunch.shtml

We sank the first pontoon prototype in Lake Mead; entrepreneurial disaster, total loss. o add insult to injury the local lake enforcement wanted to investigate and it cost $4,000 to recover the damn boat; back to the drawing board with safety in mind. We could not sell a franchise if the boats sank and that was our intention to set up franchises for boat cleaning. A sure way to sink any franchise. So we remembered that one of our franchisees in Lewiston ID has a brother who build boats and also jet boats and customized landing craft to haul cattle. The puzzle was coming together, but we had to figure a way to lower the weight of the boat so we could still carry 1800 Lbs of water without capsizing or tipping in big waves especially in ocean marinas. We put all of our heads together and our prototype now works. We knew the business worked since we had three independents who all made well over 150K per year and I have the marketing because people who get cars washed may own a boat and everyone calls in under one 1-800 number so we could use my existing customer base to also get boat customers. We decided to start by offering these boat franchises to existing franchisees of any other system we had to grow very fast very quick. Our goal was to set up and add 100 units the next year.

And here is the kicker, the pontoon manufacturer has a deal with a pleasure craft loan company and can finance the equipment, 1/2 franchise fee and boat for 15 years and the payments? $333.00 per month. Ha, that was all we needed to make it available for all of our team and anyone who really wants one. All this happened from a back burner project in less than a year. Then I wrote a 500+ page manual using all of our expertise. Nathan one of our friends in WA State washed Craig Mc Caws Boat; a 106-foot Yacht.

Sounds great right? Well not exactly, turns out insurance was tougher than we thought and the government regulators had attacked our companies based on competitor complaints and the whole thing got put on hold. No jobs were created, very few boats ever got cleaned and the whole project sank. This does not mean we could not start it up anytime we changed our minds, it just shows you that no matter how good you plans are as an entrepreneur you always have to watch out for the Tsunami of brain dead regulators in Washington DC. This project today sits on the back burner once again, with all the pieces ready to go. Entrepreneurs should be well advised to watch all the details before sinking $100,000 dollars into an idea without looking at all the details. Think about it.

"Lance Winslow" - If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance; www.WorldThinkTank.net/wttbbs

In The News:

Small Business Struggles  NBC4 Washington

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