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Bravada’s New Direction

Straddling reality and the dream world

April 2019 Feature By Heather Magda Serrano

Back in June of 2017, three new owners took the helm at Bravada Yachts. Together, along with the rest of the team at Bravada, they’ve been working to shake up the industry with new designs and innovations not previously seen in the houseboating arena. As they’ve blazed this new path, they’ve met and overcome challenges, forming a close-knit company that values collaboration and creativity.

It all started a few years back when Aaron Browning bought a Bravada houseboat only to fall in love with the luxurious vessel. He loved the brand and could see its potential so when the former owner of Bravada called him asking if he wanted to buy the company, he knew he could take it to the next level. From there he brought his two partners in—Robert Gutierrez and Andrew Marshall—and together they formed the dream team.

Upward Expansion

Over the past year and a half as the new owners have settled into their positions, they’ve experienced some positive growth. Aaron explained that 2014 was one Bravada’s biggest years ever and that they exceeded its numbers last year, putting them leagues ahead of where they thought they’d be. “Boat sales are coming in even faster now,” added Aaron.

He predicts sales will skyrocket as boats start hitting the water, so the Bravada leadership is already looking at bigger facilities to accommodate the sales demands. They’re also doing more hiring. When they first bought the company there were only about 12 workers there full-ime and now they have about 70.

However, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Robert pointed out that the company has had its fair share of challenges and adjustments since he and his partners took over. Naturally, new leadership comes with changes and adjusting to a new rhythm. As a company that places a great deal of emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, the partners have worked hard to bring all the employees together to create a fun, happy work environment where everyone’s involved.

Getting Everybody On Board

When Houseboat magazine toured the factory in Tolleson, Ariz., back in November, it was easy to see the camaraderie amongst the employees as they worked together, bustling about and deliberating. You could tell they trusted one another and were happy to be there, creating gorgeous houseboats.

It’s important to the owners that the employees work as a team and stay on the same page because they know if they work in a cohesive unit, they’ll create the best houseboats possible. That’s why they arrange a lot of activities for the workers so they can get to know each other and have a good time. In fact, the partners arranged a Lake Powell trip for the workers last September so they could experience houseboating on their end-products firsthand.

“It’s extremely helpful for morale,” explained Aaron, “and it’s helpful for the level of build we’re trying to accomplish. Actually getting the employees on the boats so they can see what the finished products look like on the water and so they can see how the customers use them is extremely helpful.”

You can only imagine what an awesome perk that was for the employees. When asked about the experience, Design Consultant Amanda Price could not express how awesome it was to stay on the Bravada houseboats and hang out with the rest of the team. Not only was it fun, but also educational because you can build boats all day long, but if you’ve never been on one, it’s harder to know the design elements that work. Knowing the end goal and what it’s like to stay on a houseboat proved to be quite helpful and it’s a tradition that Bravada plans to continue for their workers.

Bravada’s new designer David Weiss is also a strong advocate of teamwork. “I’m happy to play Lone Ranger,” shared David, “but I prefer to collaborate and bring people into the creative process because, to me, that’s one of the most fun aspects of creating boats: working with other people and sharing that journey.”

A New Direction

David’s been with the company for almost a year now and he’s a large part of the new direction Bravada is going in with their designs. He and the rest of the Bravada leadership feel like the houseboat industry is ready for some new flavors and experiences.

“We feel the houseboat industry has been stagnant for many years,” admitted Aaron. “There’s been very little innovation and very little modernization. We want to change that.”

Beyond that, the team wants to offer a more owner-centric vision. “We’re making the boats flexible enough to have the DNA of each owner,” described David. “It’s very apparent in not just the look and feel but also in the functionality of each vessel.”

With this spirit of customization, collaboration and creativity, David designs houseboats plans like none other, drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, insatiable when it comes to finding new angles. However, as aforementioned, he does not do it as a lone ranger. He’ll sit down with Aaron for hours (sometimes into the middle of the night) just going over new designs and shooting ideas back and forth, constantly refining the plans for individual houseboats.

David also confers with the rest of the staff, getting everybody on board and excited about future projects. “I like to turn everybody into co-conspirators,” laughed David.

One Foot In The Dream World

For David, inspiration always comes from a new place. If you take a look at his designs for the Atlas Series, he feels the most noticeable difference between their designs and the older designs in the Legacy Series is that there’s a much more organic approach to the aesthetics. Instead of sticking to straight lines in the design aspect, David prefers sweeping ones.

Having worked in the world of super yachts for about 15 years before joining the Bravada team, David brings that experience along with his proclivity for tearing down boundaries to the table. The results are gorgeous functional, almost futuristic-looking vessels.

“There’s a tension between the unrestricted organic vision that I’m able to bring,” mused David, “and then trying to ensure that these vessels are easily fabricated on the rapid pace with all the orders that we’ve got going.”

After all, he doesn’t want to give the team too much of a headache in trying to fabricate complicated designs, so he tries to get feedback on how to make things easier for the builders. David works closely with their engineering team to ensure fast build-ability which is a large piece of the puzzle.

“So dream big,” exclaimed David. “I keep one foot in the dream world and one foot in reality sort of approach to hopefully bring some real excitement. Combine that with whatever cup of coffee I’m having that morning and generally I’ll have a bunch of different ideas.” 

Built To Last

With that being said, not only are Bravada’s houseboats stunning to behold, but they are also insanely functional. Everything they’re doing is modernized and looks sophisticated while being built to last. Aaron and Robert explained that their boats are waterproof and fireproof—within reason of course—and they have taken great lengths to make sure their boats are next level.

When entering a Bravada, the first thing that catches your eye is the sheer size of the room.  Boasting 9-foot ceilings and vast windows on either side, the vessel is filled with natural light. The modern textured cabinetry and bold hardware stand out, as well as marbled Quartz countertops, waterfall island and sleek new Samsung appliances. Then, the electric fireplace and contemporary fixtures add warmth and style. 

Features such as underlit exotic stone, stainless steel Lutron switch plates and Western Windows Sliding glass doors show a new approach to houseboating. It’s a step up from a residential vibe, making these houseboats feel more like luxury hotels. Everything about them screams comfort and luxury with designer custom bedding and premium wall coverings that elevate the bedrooms, while the showers feature beautifully-executed custom masonry, LED mirrors and modern hardware. Bravada’s design team works together with owners to select everything from layouts to custom outdoor Sunbrella furnishings, artwork, fixtures and finishes.  

“We want our customers to feel this is not just a second home, but that it is truly a vacation,” said Amanda. “We want them to have all of the elements they are comfortable with and love with a touch of something new and luxurious.”

Stepping away from the traditional drywall/wood frame construction, Bravada has also introduced new materials to their build process. These materials are referred to as Class A1, which is defined with greater fire resistance, water resistance, mold and mildew resistance, and insect resistance, all while continuing to be people-safe. With these new innovations, the team at Bravada shows they are committed to continued research and development for a build that is stronger, safer, environmentally-friendly and longer-lasting.

The Dream Team

By merging creativity, functionality and passion, Bravada has begun to turn the traditional idea of houseboating on its head, and they’re already off to a great start with orders lining out the door. It’s not everyday you find as well-rounded a team as the leadership at Bravada since each partner brings very different skill-sets and experiences to the table.

“It’s a fantastic team,” intoned David, “and it’s a very multi-faceted team if you look at the partners of Aaron and then Robert and Andrew. I’ve worked with a lot of different boat builders over the years, both in the United States and Europe, and these guys epitomize the cross-disciplinary approach to business.”

Whether it be designing new, out-of-this-world houseboats or team-building, the partners’ passion is apparent in all they do. Together, they’ve begun something great that will doubtless rock the houseboat industry to its core.


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