SailTime: Jonathan Duffy
Jonathan Duffy's love of sailing inspired him to set up a UK arm of SailTime, a successful yacht-sharing business.
Escaping the corporate world to set up a business that is based on a hobby is the dream of thousands of budding UK entrepreneurs. Jonathan Duffy is someone who has managed to get the best of both worlds, by making money from a business that holds a personal interest to him – SailTime.
After working in a series of high-powered roles at Getty Images, Polaroid and Kodak, Duffy decided he wanted a complete career change.
“I’ve sailed for 20 years and I wanted to get into something I’m more passionate about,” he explains.
After a chance meeting at a boat show with the founders of US-based firm SailTime, Grant Headifen and George Bonelli, Duffy decided to set up a UK arm of the company.
The business was started after Bonelli and Headifen realised they could get customers to sign up to a share of a yacht for a monthly fee, negating the need for frustrated sailors to save up for expensive yachts.
“They initially started thinking about a yacht syndicate and came up with SailTime, which is effectively sharing a yacht, but different from a timeshare – it’s more like a gym membership,” Duffy explains. “It fits in somewhere between owning and chartering.”
Each SailTime yacht has up to eight members who pay £395 a month to take the boat out seven times in that period. With owning a yacht prohibitively expensive and chartering costing £300 a day in high season, Duffy is confident that SailTime has found a niche in the market.
“We’re looking for customers across the range, from experienced sailors to people who have an interest in sailing but don’t know how to get into it,” he says. “We provide training to show people the ropes aboard the yacht.”
Duffy’s fleet includes three yachts in Hamble and one each in new bases situated in Poole and Port Solent. Through franchising, Duffy hopes to expand the number of SailTime outlets to 20 in five years time, following the successful US model, where the company has gone from strength to strength.
“We are looking to grow our franchise base,” he says. “I ran an advert in BusinessesforSale.com and it generated over 50 enquiries across the UK.
“We’re looking for people who know how to run a business. It’s a lifestyle business that attracts a lot of people to it, but we’ve got to find those who know what they are doing.”