By Jennie Wong The Charlotte Observer.
This week's "Ask the Mompreneur" features an interview with Jaclyn Baumgarten, CEO and founder of Cruzin, a new boater-to-boater rental service that's basically Airbnb for boats.
Q: What inspired you to start a boater-to-boater rental business?
A: The initial inspiration for Cruzin came from my two brothers, who both own boats. They were frustrated that their busy lives didn't give them enough time to spend on their boats, and they were considering selling them. I suggested they could rent their boats to other boaters instead.
My thinking was that they could generate income from their boats when they couldn't use them and at the same time could share their love for the water with others. I looked around and saw that my brothers were not the only ones with boats they loved but were not using enough; it's a common situation for recreational boating.
With Cruzin, I saw a means to help make boating more affordable, and to open up the joys of the boating lifestyle to more families.
Boat owners could offset maintenance and other costs by renting their boats on the days they didn't personally use them. One or two Cruzin rentals a month can typically offset monthly costs. Likewise, families who were exposed to boating, but didn't own a boat, could have a means to rent well-maintained, personally owned boats in a safe and secure environment.
For some families, this may be the stepping stone into boat ownership, as we've seen this happen already with Cruzin renters who eventually buy their own boat.
Q: What's the biggest barrier you've encountered and how did you overcome it?
A: We needed to ensure a safe and secure peer-to-peer platform. When I first looked into the possibility for my brothers to rent their boats to others, I found it couldn't be done. Individual boat insurance policies at the time didn't allow for direct rentals.
I spent months researching, then working with the top marine insurers, to develop the first boater-to-boater insurance policies.
This was a key element for Cruzin to come to life. We deliver a safe and secure experience for both owners and renters.
Each rental, and any sea trial involved with a rental, is covered by up to $2 million in hull insurance and $1 million in liability insurance, as well as Boat US towing services. Boat owners must provide boat registration and proof of insurance on their vessel, and are also personally screened by our insurance company.
Renters are pre-qualified with an Experian ID and fraud-prevention check, plus a review of any past driving and insurance issues. They also must show they have 2 years of boating experience. We also offer a Captain Concierge if someone prefers to have a licensed and certified captain operating the boat.
Q: As a Stanford MBA, what advice do you have about business degrees for entrepreneurs? What is the most useful aspect of having an MBA and how can someone succeed without one?
A: Business school provides you with a great foundation for the basics. And the relationships that are built and nurtured from school are invaluable. You will meet some of the most remarkable people in school. I am continually impressed by and admire the accomplishments of my classmates. Two of my fellow classmates now sit on my board of advisers.
You will come away with frameworks to help you think about organizational structure, financing and a lot of the necessary fundamentals, but there is nothing that can replace the value and learning that comes from hands on experience, hard work, grit and tenacity. Being resourceful and scrappy is key to succeeding early on in a start-up and those are not necessarily things you learn in school.
Q: You've done a great job getting press for Cruzin, including recent stories in American Airlines' American Way, Florida Sun Sentinel, Sacramento Bee, and numerous national recreational boating magazines. As former COO of a global social media public relations firm, what PR tips can you share with someone launching their first company?
A: You need to make yourself visible, by regularly sharing your news through both traditional and social media channels. You can use your existing network of contacts to help develop media friends, or work with a public relations firm. It helps to cultivate ambassadors for your company and brand, people who are willing to share their positive experiences, as third-party credibility is a powerful tool. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Jennie Wong is an executive coach, author of the e-book "Ask the Mompreneur" and the creator of the product quiz website www.ABorC.com