These friends started a yacht charter service during the pandemic, and the business is booming

These friends started a yacht charter service during the pandemic, and the business is booming

Issey Abraha and Jeffery Nham met while working as background actors on film sets

These friends bought a sailboat for $ 6,500 on a whim.  They love it

This couple moved into their $ 40,000 motor yacht for the summer

We bought a sailboat for $ 62,000 and moved in

In June 2020, Jeffrey Nham, an entrepreneur, rented a small yacht for a day trip on Lake Ontario with friends. He quickly discovered a growing demand for boat rental services and teamed up with his friend Issey Abraha, a communications professional. They started a Airbnb type service for yacht charter with a fleet of four boats rented at $ 1,000 an hour. Here’s how their business came together.

Jeffrey: Issey and I met as part-time background actors when we were in high school. We have worked on films like Carrie with Chloë Grace Moretz. After graduation, I studied economics and marketing at Ryerson and started working in events. I also ran an Airbnb business, managing a few rental properties downtown.

Issey: I studied journalism at Humber, then found corporate jobs in communications for charities. I also worked as an assistant and advisor to Jagmeet Singh and his brother, Gurratan, an MP for Brampton. In May 2019, I was attending a Raptors game with Jagmeet and I was sitting next to a guy named Paul, who I became friends with and who invited me to come on his rented two-story yacht and 60 feet.

Jeffrey: During the pandemic, events were canceled and the Airbnbs I used to manage closed. I was sitting at home collecting CERB checks and living off my savings. In the summer, I started seeing people like Issey posting yacht trips for the day on Instagram. I also wanted to take out a few friends, but there weren’t a lot of options. All the available companies were full. Finally, I just started sending DMs to people on Instagram that I saw on boats. An event planner put me in touch with a yacht owner, who agreed to rent his yacht to me. One Friday afternoon I got a group of 10 friends together and we went to the Toronto Islands and docked at the mooring wall at Hanlan’s Point. It cost $ 4,000 for about six hours.

It was so good to be on the water and in the fresh air. That week I realized I could make a business out of it, by connecting boat owners with people who wanted to rent them, like an Airbnb for yachts. I shared my idea with the captain of the rented boat, and he agreed. I would receive 15 to 20 percent of the contract amount in commission. A few days later, I opened an Instagram account, GTA Yachts, and ran some ads. People started to contact me directly. My first charter paid around $ 3,000 for a six hour rental. Things snowballed very quickly. I started getting 10 or 20 DM per day and I booked a few rentals per week; then 100 messages per day; then 200 messages per day. I was booking around 10 rentals per week and quickly realized I needed more boats to meet the overwhelming demand. I had seen Issey posting about his yacht trips, so I messaged him for a contact and gave him a few hundred dollars in commission.

Issey: At first I thought Jeffrey was planning a private party for his friends. But then he booked four rentals in a week, and I knew there was something more. My friend Paul had rented the luxury yacht every Saturday before the pandemic, so I knew how profitable a boat rental business could be. I contacted Jeffery and we decided to partner up. I helped him find new captains and boat owners. At first, I would sneak into marinas, chat with owners who had business licenses, and tell them that they could make a lot of money by renting their boats from us. At the end of that summer, September 2020, we had 20 boat owners on board and we were booking around 30 rentals per week. We invested $ 20,000 to $ 30,000 of our savings for marketing and advertising in our first season.

Jeffrey: We rent by the size of the boat and by the hour. The price ranges from $ 750 an hour on weekdays to $ 1,000 an hour on weekends, depending on what boat you charter and when you charter it, and we have a minimum of four charter hours. Over the winter, we put our rentals on hold and thought about how to further develop the business next year. We realized that the greatest demand was for boats over 60 feet that can accommodate up to 12 people. But most of the boats we had partnered with were 30 to 50 feet. We needed a new plan, so we got in touch with a yacht owner who saw the potential of our business model and agreed to invest in the business. He bought three 60-foot yachts, each over $ 750,000. Our fleet consists of a 66 foot Azimut, a 65 foot Meridian and a 40 foot Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge. Each boat has two floors and has spacious sundecks for sunbathing, Bluetooth audio systems and onboard barbecues.

Issey: In November 2020, I was fired from my work as a communication specialist. I had a good season with Jeff so I decided to go all out in yachting. We have renamed the company UD Yachts, which stands for “Ur Dream Yachts”. Now that we are managing our own fleet of boats, we knew we would need a dedicated pickup point to streamline the process. We contacted the city to ask for available places. There was a location available at Polson Pier, and we signed an exclusive agreement with them to be the only boating company that could do pickups and drop-offs at their mooring wall.

Nham and Abraha rent yachts, owned by a business partner, for up to $ 1,000 an hour

Jeffrey: The deal with Polson Pier began in May 2021. But the city was still under lockdown. So when the season started we could only go out in small groups.

Issey: I was worried. We had already made a lot of reservations for groups of 10-12 people in May and June which we had to cancel. We were losing money.

Jeffrey: In mid-July the city entered the third stage and we got into the water. At the end of the month, we were so full with our three boats that we contracted out a fourth boat to another owner to help overflow customers. We had each boat on the water for eight hours on weekdays and 12 hours on weekends. We have hired about 10 employees: a captain, a mate and a host, as well as a security guard for our mooring wall and additional administrative staff.

This 66-foot Azimut features spacious sun decks, Bluetooth audio systems and onboard barbecues

Issey: All kinds of people rent our boats. We will have a family for Sunday brunch. Or a group of 20 and over who are having a birthday party. We’ve also booked bachelorette parties and gender reveals. Most people find us through Instagram, but we also get a lot of customers through Facebook and our website. On board, people drink once the boat is anchored, but they don’t get wild. Our captains keep pretty good control. We have to make sure people are safe. We haven’t heard any crazy stories from our team yet.

He has been extremely busy on the water, however. Everyone was on the boat this summer. On the weekends the lake was completely filled with boats. There is a huge demand from people looking to get on boats and have a good time. Everyone who gets off our boats is so happy. They tell us they can’t wait to start over. We had a lot of loyal customers this summer. When August rolled around and people started returning to clubs and bars, I was worried about the impact it would have on our business. But, we had nothing to fear. We were still full until the end of the summer. We will end our season in early October this year.

Jeffrey: At first, I thought it would just be a way to make money on the side. But it has been our full-time job for the past two years. We’re in it for the long haul. The season is drawing to a close now, but we plan to purchase more boats for the next year and continue to grow the business.

Issey: We also hope to install a photo wall and other equipment at our mooring site to make it look like a VIP experience all the way through. We want to make it exciting for customers to keep coming back. The potential of this city is enormous.

Jeffrey: The boating industry in Toronto is in its infancy, when you look at other cities like Miami, New York and others in Asia. Even though we have a shorter summer, it makes the season even more valuable. Covid has rekindled the interest of many people in boating and it will not go away once the pandemic is over.

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