Luke Kujawa, co-founder and managing partner of Your Boat Club, says millennials who want to go boating without owning a boat are driving growth of the company’s seasonal memberships and daily rentals.
Your Boat Club is up to 14 outlets in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois after last year adding five locations, Kujawa said. More than 1,000 members and thousands of rental customers account for 20,000 boat trips for more than 100,000 people a year for the company, which launched in 2010.
The rise of ride-sharing services, which has made car ownership optional for some, also has benefited Your Boat Club’s model.
Older millennials buy about 25 percent of memberships, Kujawa said. But young boaters also account for many of the drivers on shared memberships their baby boomer parents purchase, Kujawa said. Each membership, beginning at $1,895, can have up to four drivers. Daily rentals vary by location and boat type.
Kujawa said he began developing a boat club business plan while working with the Pierz Marine and then Crystal-Pierz Marine boat dealerships, which his family owned from 1984 to 2009.
That experience comes in handy as Your Boat Club sells older models and relies on long-standing manufacturer relationships to acquire new boats, Kujawa said. The company turns over its fleet of more than 200 boats every three years.
New locations include Lake Vermilion and Duluth in Minnesota, Minocqua and Eagle River in Wisconsin and Fox Lake in Antioch, Ill.
Q: Where did the boat club idea come from?
A: For probably eight years or so it was a concept that I had been working on. When the economy turned it wasn’t the time to launch a new segment of the business in the dealerships. Then when we sold the dealerships I knew that there had to be an easier way to get people and families into boating and started talking with my buddy, [co-founder] Michael Jellish and we said, “What the heck, let’s do it.”
Q: Why does this model appeal to millennials?
A: They don’t need to own this stuff anymore. It’s about having the experience without having to fix it first or deal with a crazy boat launch on a holiday. They just want to get out and have fun.
Q: How competitive is the boat club market?
A: There are some single-location boat clubs and some chains have taken a look at this market but our market’s different. It’s not year-round. The competition really is available time more than another boat club. This gives them a flexible, easier way to get the family on the water.