Dockwalk - Shore-based Business Untitled Page

Shore-based Business

Mar 3rd 11
By Marne MacPhee

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 think. 

Rating  Average 5 out of 5

  • Great article, Marne!
    Posted by Kelly_1 19/03/2011 11:09:37

  • nice article Marne - Hope you are doing well! Jen Seitz
    Posted by writerseitz 09/03/2011 16:18:26

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