Have you ever thought about turning your houseboat into a business? How about a floating restaurant or boutique? A hotel or reception hall? The possibilities really are endless when it comes to the many things a person can accomplish on a houseboat. However, which ideas are actually feasible and which ones will leave you with a giant hole in your pocket?
According to boating enthusiast and writer Alex Rooker, a houseboater should have a firm plan before jumping into a business. Although having your business on a houseboat adds that extra unique factor which is sure to draw the attention of many, Rooker offers strategic steps to ensure your ventures are a success. But why should you listen to Rooker?
About Alex Rooker
Rooker is a man of many talents—a former realtor, past Commodore of the Peninsula Yacht Club of Lake Norman, N.C., and a successful writer. His ventures in writing have taken him from writing children’s books about Zoey the Pomeranian to Your Boat as a Business to his own growing business, Yacht A Fun, proving he doesn’t just dabble in many things: he truly knows his stuff.
Though Rooker himself has never lived on a houseboat, he was drawn to houseboating when his wife’s closest friend downsized from a house to boat—a 37-foot Harbor Master. Their friend lives full-time at the New Bern Grand Marina in North Carolina and Alex and his wife have enjoyed many dinners on board. Since the owner is in her 70s and not adept with dock lines, Rooker has tended the lines during hurricane season since 2016.
“My wife and I now cruise on a 34-foot Gemini catamaran,” Rooker shared. “It is a good business platform for us, but really small for continuous living. Stepping up to a houseboat is under consideration for our return to New Bern.”
Getting Down To Business
Rooker recommends that one of the first successful ways to start a thriving business is by looking at the past successes and failures of others. Businesses such as Tiny Houseboat Adventures in DeLand, Fla., and Yachta Yachta Yachta on Lake Norman near Charlotte, N.C., demonstrated the many ways that houseboats can function well as businesses.
Having a houseboat as a business base should offer many opportunities. A relatively easy path, which could be incorporated with others, is an approach that Tiny Houseboat Adventures takes. The owner of the business offers their houseboats as a destination for AirBnB, making any other forms of advertising unnecessary.
Rooker excitedly detailed ways he has found success on his own as well: “My experience in promoting my own boat business has been to have a sign board at the marina location in a strategic place for foot traffic to see and a custom boat name graphic. I also hand out cards, provide rack-cards to B&Bs and nearby hotels, connect with the local visitors bureau, join TripAdvisor in the business/boat name, and use FareHarbor as a booking venue.”
Another way to get the word out about your business Voy Media, a successful advertising agency through Facebook and Instagram.
“I bought my first boat before I bought my first house,” Rooker detailed. “It was an Ebbtide Captiva that was 17 feet long having a two-stroke 115hp Mercury. In those days the smell of two-stroke exhaust was affirmation that I was in my element. Though my sensibilities have changed, four decades later I’m very much in tune with the boating lifestyle.”
And perhaps it’s the fact that Rooker has managed to stay so in tune with boating trends that he has been able to maintain a healthy business of his own. After all, there are many people who dream of making their boats a business, but few who actually make it happen.
“Many of the folks I’ve met over the past 40 years have remarked on how much fun it would be to have a business reason to own and operate a boat,” Alex explained. “By thinking through the ‘who, what, when, why, and how’ aspects of using a boat in a business, you will be better versed in having strategic discussions with your tax advisor and legal counsel. From an IRS perspective, it is essential that you have the plan before placing a vessel into the business.”
Whether this is your first time considering starting a business or if you are a seasoned veteran, it is always good to review the advice of those like Rooker who have the experience to back up their advice. There’s no time like the present to get started on making your grand idea a reality. Just make sure to flesh out your ideas before you commit and don’t forget to check out Rooker’s book to get a more in-depth understanding of using your boat as a business.
Your Boat as a Business includes these topics and questions for thought as you begin to plan your business:
Define Your Market by asking:
*What waterway will you operate on?
*Where will the boat be stored?
*Where will passengers board the boat?
*What type of vessel is to be used?
*What activity will engage the passengers?
*Riding and looking,
*Swimming / snorkeling / diving,
*Vessel training and operation,
*Tours with points of interest and history, or
*How will you handle trip-canceling inclement weather?
*Rain check, or
Define Your Niche by asking:
*What companies are already on location providing the same type boat and services you plan?
*What aspects of your Vessel makes your offering positively stand out?
*What aspects of your Trip Venue add value vs. the competition?
*When does the boating season end at your location?
*What means are easily, and affordably, available to extend your seasonal revenue stream beyond that of the competition?
Alex Rooker’s Business
Yacht A Fun
Alex Rooker’s Books
Your Boat as a Business
Zoey’s Big Boat Trip