From a JCU Case Project to a Real Startup Business
May 29, 2015
By Paola Pagani
Rent-a-Yacht Apulia is a platform that acts as an intermediary between boat owners and customers looking
for a unique experience on the coast of the Apulia region. The fleet consists of various
choices including sail boats, catamarans, and even a submarine! The platform provides
complete itineraries and a skipper on board, offering a simple, smooth and personalized
service for all types of sea lovers. Its founders, Sara De Girolamo, Roberto Denigris,
and Giulio Liberatore met and developed the business plan for their idea as part of
their course work in the certificate program Master in Gestione della Piccola Impresa in Ambito Internazionale at JCU.
How much did the business plan you developed in class helped you?
First, it helped us recognize the potential in our business idea. However and most importantly, it helped us cover every single aspect. In fact, to develop a business plan you need to organize not only the core idea but everything around it. We discussed and decided everything during our certificate program, from the target market to the price offerings. After we finished the business plan, we simply had to put everything into practice. We had to take the next step and go from theory to reality.
Who is your target market?
After studying different profiles we focused on British citizens as our main target market, as they turned out to be among the most passionate sailors in Europe. We discovered that 11% of them rent a sail boat once arriving in Puglia, which is actually 3 times the value for French tourists and 5 times the Germans.
Why have you chosen Apulia?
Apart from the obvious fact that Apulia lies on the sea and features beautiful landscapes, we also found that there has been a significant increase in tourism in recent years, turning the region into a preferred destination even when compared to Tuscany, perhaps because it is just as beautiful but more affordable. Although we are starting with the Apulian coast, we think our business model can be easily expanded to other Italian regions.
What are the main challenges of your current business?
The main challenge is seasonality. Tourists mainly arrive between June and September, which limits the scope of our business. For this reason, we have decided to offer different types of services: during the winter season, when boats are berthed, we will organize events such as birthdays and weddings, and even cooking lessons, on board. This is a growing trend that we want to capitalize on.
Who are your main competitors?
Fortunately there are no real competitors nationally. We have one big international competitor who puts tourists in contact with boat owners worldwide. We take advantage of our being local to offer a differentiated product, offering our customers personalized events and itineraries as well.
How important is the team in a start up?
During the certificate program we became not only friends but business colleagues as well. We had to work together in many projects and had to face many problems and activities together. We realized we had complementary skills and the division of roles came out almost naturally. We obtained excellent results and most importantly we built a trust for each other that is incomparable.
Some people say that is better not to be friends with your business partners. Our friendship, however, was built out of respect. We all communicate openly with one another and make decisions by reasoned consent.
What advice could you give to our young entrepreneurs?
Take advantage of your classes, especially those relating to business planning. It is a great window of opportunity, particularly in terms of networking. The courses we took helped us cultivate our dream. None of us believed that we could open our own business in such short time. We learned all the basics thanks to JCU, which was almost like our incubator, and now we are putting it into practice. This certificate program really deepens your awareness towards your capabilities and opens up your horizons.
The JCU professors who have followed us in our path have always been available to help us. In particular we are thankful to Professors Annarumi, Dall’Olio, Favorite, Gazziano, Magrini, Mazzeo, Narimi, Piermattei, Pulino and Salvatore. Even now that we are JCU Alumni, both Prof. Salvatore and Prof. Pulino have been available to give advice and visibility to our activity.
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