If the possibility
of leaving the yachting world has ever crossed your mind, you might entertain
the idea of creating a land-based business while still working on board
vessels. Depending on whether you are an
international resident looking to start a business in the U.S. or an American
citizen, there are two ways to get started.
If you aren't an American
citizen, you will have to go through a process to acquire an E-2 Investor Visa,
which allows an individual to enter and work inside of the United States based on an investment s/he will be controlling while
living in the United States. This visa must be renewed every other year and
the investor must contribute to the U.S. economy.
Dirk de Cuyper, from Belgium and
British citizen Allison Morgan of Eten Food
Company found the path to an E-2 twisty and cumbersome at times. Morgan and de Cuyper needed an E-2 Investor Visa in order to start their gourmet food store
and catering kitchen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Investor visas are available only
to treaty nations; de Cuyper, a chef, and Morgan, a former purser/chief stew, went
through the U.S. Embassy in Belgium. The pair had to show they would hire U.S.
citizens and follow their business plan. They officially began by seeing a lawyer
in November of 2008 and received their visas in December 2009.
Starting a business as an American
citizen is quite different and is not as complex as applying for an E-2 Visa. There
are fairly basic guidelines to follow: get an Employer Identification
Number (EIN), register for state taxes (if applicable), obtain business
licenses and apply for permits.
Regardless of your nationality, general principles to starting your
own business apply to everyone.
Research and plan your business. An Internet cafe would be the perfect spot to
start the research process. Also, use the resources you have sitting right in front of you. In the yachting industry, you cross paths with many
different types of business owners who may be willing to offer their advice if you ask.
Seek business advice: Morgan of Eten found support with a small group of ex-yachties who
all started businesses in Fort Lauderdale. They still meet the first
Friday of every month to exchange stories and advice.
Select a location: Aaron Byers, a former mate, started his own mobile taco bar, Nacho
Bizness. He researched zoning grids in the Fort Lauderdale area and noticed that the
Maritime Professional Training building fell within his compliance zone. He
approached the company with a business plan to work out of their parking lot. His truck now feeds not only students at the training facility, but also many industry professionals and locals who flock to his truck for delicious, fresh food.
Finance your business: Many ex-yachties saved up for about a year before they got off the boat
to start their ventures. However, ex-deckhand Whitney Tillinghast and ex-chief stew
Karen Tillinghast of ProStock Marine, Inc. had the good
fortune of working for a very generous yacht owner. The owner helped get their fender
business off the ground and funded it for nearly three years before Whitney and
Karen took it over.
Select a business name: Erin Bass and Michael Mandich of M/Y
Laundry came up with their business
name when coming back from a dive excursion at sunset. Karen and Brian Goebel
combined the first initials of their names and KB Yachts Mobile Shrink Wrap
Company was born.
So, whether you are tired of
working for someone else or you are feeling the need to settle down to start
some roots, you unknowingly have been training towards being your own boss this
whole time. "Working on a private yacht gives you a huge capacity for
running your own business. It's hard work! However, it is worth every minute of it because it is yours,” says
Morgan of Eten.
There’s no time like the present.
Whether you begin a company to make some extra cash while you’re still working
on boats or you’re grooming yourself for a jump to a land-based life in the
future, starting a shore-based business may not be as difficult as one might