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Startup Spotlight: Archipelago Yachts

We have a diverse and dynamic group of startups in our community, each with unique backstories and experiences as entrepreneurs. The Startup Spotlight series is designed to acquaint you better with our community. This week we feature Archipelago Yachts, who produce exceptionally engineered, bespoke blue-water catamarans.

How did you come up with the idea for the business?

I founded the business because I couldn’t find a suitable boat in the market. I wanted a modern, efficient, catamaran that was built from sustainable materials, and one that I knew would keep my family and friends safe crossing an ocean. There wasn’t anything at the time, my father had just passed away – and we spent much of our time boating together. I had the minor mid-life crisis of: “why not just start a business".

So it was ultimately born out of a desire to find a suitable boat for myself and my family.

Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?

The boating industry moves slowly. There are obviously new models appearing on the market, but a lot of them use the same hull shapes and moulds that have been used for years. Not many leisure boat manufacturers are building in aluminium, which is what we have chosen.

Aluminium is inherently recyclable, and we use marine aluminium which comes from 90% recycled material. We also try to use more sustainable materials inside the boat, such as recycled plastics and sustainable timber. We also have a focus on low/zero-carbon fuelling by 2040, using bio-methanol. The industry needs disruptors to come along and change the status quo and make the traditional manufacturers sit up and take note.

What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?

It’s a hugely rewarding venture when you see your product out on the market, being admired and enjoyed by the public, and the industry. I started the business properly in around Feb/Mar 2021, and we managed to design a new boat, build it, and bring it to launch at the Southampton Boat Show in 2022, on the back of Covid. This was a hugely challenging and impressive feat, and the fact that we did it makes me hugely proud of the team.

What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?

I think every day brings new challenges. I had run parts of bigger business before, so clearly I understood the basics of how to run a business, but I don’t think anyone can quite prepare you for the journey that a new business takes you on. From raising capital, to dealing with supply chain issues, to cash flow, to customers, suppliers, marketing etc, it’s just a massive roller coaster at the beginning.

Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?

Strap yourself in tight! I suspect it’s all been said before, but I was naïve on a number of fronts. I was most naïve about quite how emotionally demanding it can be at the beginning. I think it’s a myth that you have to be working every hour you have available, because there are many other pulls on your time, such as children, friends, family, hobbies etc. However, it does consume all of your brain space. It’s very hard to put the business down even when you are on holiday. I think I underestimated just how emotionally and mentally draining it can be. The other (more practical) piece of advice is: take all of your financial estimates of how much money you will need and double them. You will be kidding yourself, inevitably – trying to persuade yourself it’s easier and cheaper than it will really be. And, lastly, it can be lonely, so make sure you have friends and family, and potentially even bring on another director to share in the journey.

What's the plan for the future of the business? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?

My plan is to develop the business so that it has a fantastic reputation, a good pipeline, a solid operational backbone and then sell the business to a more production-focussed boat builder. I don’t want to be producing 100 boats a year, just looking at spreadsheets. I want to be developing new technologies and creating more disruptive products. So I hope the business is going strong in 10, 20, 50 years… but probably not with me at the helm.


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