George Bonelli has a vision for his company.
The 40-year-old founder of SailTime Licensing Group LLC imagines it becoming the Starbucks of boating, with 100 to 150 powerboat and sailboat bases around the world. But perhaps more importantly, Bonelli also has a vision for the boating industry, one in which shared and fractional boat ownership become an accepted piece of the pie, driving growth.
It is this latter vision that has driven Bonelli to bring together fractional boat ownership companies, boating clubs and marine trade associations to discuss how they might continue to develop this segment of the industry.
“… this approach we have created is here to stay and one that we believe will revolutionize access to boating the same way leasing changed the paradigm in automobile access,” he says. “… the marine industry needs this type of new approach for it to come off of its decline in sales and user participation.”
SailTime, founded in 2001, has already contributed to the industry’s growth. For one, the company’s 42 bases have been responsible for over $10 million in new boat sales, with a total economic impact, including advertising, marketing, memberships, boat sales, gear, training and vacations, of $15 million and growing.
With almost 600 members, the company also has introduced many people to boating. Bonelli says 70 percent of members are new to boating and 50 percent wouldn’t have purchased a boat if it weren’t in the SailTime program.
This impact is expected to skyrocket with the growth of the powerboat side of SailTime’s business. The powerboat market is almost 10 times the size of the sailboat market, where SailTime has focused its energy thus far.
SailTime is also growing overseas. In fact, four of its current bases are located outside the United States, and more than half of the 68 target bases it lists on its Web site are outside the U.S.
Bonelli expects to more than double SailTime’s staff this year — from five employees to more than a dozen. The company’s isn’t profitable today — he says it has been investing in growth and in educating the market — but it’s expected to get into the black in 2008. If the company is expected to hit its growth targets any time soon, it will need those extra employees.