The boat-share concept was first documented by Doug Zimmerman in his 1991 MBA Entrepreneurship class paper; and then was laid to rest for ten years until he resurrected it to present to an employer. It was, decidedly, not a good fit for that company, but Doug’s interest was once again piqued.
With fond memories of time spent on the water, he began toying with the idea of buying a boat. He visited marinas, but found many vessels sitting in storage, even during the height of the season. Doug also noted that his neighbor rarely enjoyed his own boat, citing maintenance hassles. He determined the asset would be costly, possibly wasted, and decided not to purchase.
The boat dream still loomed before him, however; and, wanting that childhood experience for his family, he ventured into thebusiness of a local boat club in 2001… In 2002, Air Force friends, Kevin Bonnema and Frank Fahringer, were ready to trade in their wings for a new business venture. The entrepreneurs weren’t looking for a specific income stream…just something to grow and make their own.
Coincidentally, Frank had purchased a boat and was sharing ownership woes with his father who recommended a regional boat club that he had heard about. Intrigued, Kevin and Frank investigated the business; met their future partner, Doug Zimmerman; and, later, opened their own club. Because boat clubs were new to consumers, and no groundwork had been laid, the associates found themselves engaged in fullfledged business building, establishing processes for administration, marketing, maintenance, etc. The club grew, and the owner eventually sold it to a broker who planned to franchise it. Business changed, and communication broke down as the team became consumed with chasing money from franchisees. Kevin, Frank, and Doug did not share this vision, and parted ways with the company to pursue their own dream…the Carefree Boat Club (CBC).
This grass roots model was designed to change the relationship between corporate and club owners, protect all parties involved, and create a superior brand. Carefree Boat Club would now operate as a licensor, enabling its owners to autonomously conduct business without the added liability of franchise fees and financial accountability. Though fiscally independent, club proprietors still benefit from the provisions of a corporate connection as outlined below:
This unique ownership opportunity, along with the partner’s commitment, mission, vision, and core values have driven CBC to be recognized as the leading boat club in the US and Canada.
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