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May 30, 2016
On the record

A lightbulb moment leads to the founding of True Course Yachting

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Ben Davis, owner of True Course Yachting Inc. in Yarmouth, offers a full suite of concierge services for yacht owners.

While working as the general manager of a yacht club, Ben Davis had a lightbulb moment that launched his business, True Course Yachting Inc.

Time and again, he met boat owners who loved sailing, but not the time-consuming upkeep involved in cleaning their boats, preparing them for launch and decommission and transporting their boats between different ports. Davis knew that he was uniquely suited to meet those needs. And many of his peers were too.

With that, the 29-year-old Nobleboro native started True Course Yachting, a concierge business focusing on owners of yachts of up to 100 feet.

True Course provides a variety of services, including boat detailing. True Course also provides project management; the company serves as an intermediary between boatyards and the customers they are retrofitting or building vessels for. While boats are being worked on, True Course conveys updates to customers via email and phone, which can include photos and videos.

The menu of True Course's concierge services includes everything from boat delivery to making sure that when sailors are ready to launch, their boats are too — with a tank of gas, a charged battery, personal floatation devices and flares.

"We want to provide the support boat owners can lean on to have a good experience," said Davis.

His Yarmouth company serves 250 customers a year and employs a staff of 16. Davis recently opened his first satellite location, in Camden, and has plans to expand. In June, he will complete "Top Gun," a five-month entrepreneurial training initiative of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development. He recently discussed his business with Mainebiz.

Mainebiz: How did you know that the patterns you observed constituted a legitimate business opportunity?

Ben Davis: After observing and listening to the needs and pain points of boat owners, I realized that there was a gap in services. And I knew that with my skill set, I could fix them. I also knew that many of my peers, who had worked in the marine industry and were looking to settle down into careers, could also do this work. I put those things together — the people with the need and the pool of talent that could solve it. [From the work I had done] I had a network of potential customers. But the bigger benefit was having a community of boaters and referrals. The marine world is small and word gets around quickly. Our business has grown from referrals from clients who believe their friends and communities would benefit from our services.

MB: What is the biggest challenge of evolving from "launch" mode to operations and growth mode?

BD: We never really had launch mode — we started right in with operations and have continually developed as the needs grows. Our biggest challenge is in developing the team, the processes and the management behind operations. But we have an incredible crew which we feel is crucial in creating a solid foundation.

MB: What do you wish you knew starting out?

BD: How important the back end structure is. You have to build the foundation first — you can't just go straight for the chimney.

MB: What did you learn at Top Gun?

BD: I have been wanting to build a membership program. Companies like AAA and Sea Tow have membership programs that you can lean on when things go wrong. So I thought, why wouldn't you have this other type of insurance, a membership program that you can use to help ensure things go well? Through Top Gun, we've been able to determine how to build the infrastructure of a membership program and how to deploy it. We also had an opportunity to get input from some incredible mentors.

MB: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs launching new businesses?

BD: Find people who you admire in business and make them your mentors. Listen and learn from them.

MB: What are your business mantras?

BD: Under commit. Over deliver.

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