We sat down with Ciara Farrow, founder of Sevenstar, to talk about the journey to date and plans for the future of the business.
How did you come up with the idea for the business?
Sevenstar started as a labor of love, something I built for my crew to make our lives better before I thought of it as a business. Chief Stew’s know good preferences are the key to great guest experiences but on even the best programs I have been on they are a mess — out of date word documents, with hand scribbled disorganized notes that often disappear.
I spent years manually keeping track of old preferences in a binder, WhatsApp chains and emails before realizing there had to be a better way. So I learned how to build software, and built the preference app I wish I had when I was managing a busy interior team.
Why does the industry need the solution you're providing?
Yachting is unique even in the world of ultra-luxury travel and guests expect exceptional service around the clock. That puts a lot of pressure on interior crew in particular - who have to work long shifts and juggle between service, hospitality and logistics while at sea where everything is harder. It’s no surprise that stews have such high rates of turnover (which only makes the problem worse).
I decided to start with guest preferences because they are at the center of onboard hospitality and something that every Chief Stew knows and understands. Preferences are the playbook stews use to schedule housekeeping, organize meals, plan entertainment and manage provisioning for their guests. When they are out of date or hard to find (which they always are) mistakes are made and both guest experiences and crew morale really suffers.
With Sevenstar, I hope to make it easier for interior crew to provide great service! Arming them with the information they need quickly – allowing crew to better deliver custom tailored experiences onboard and to learn from guests and from each other, instead of starting from scratch every time.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your own company?
I really like being my own boss, but nothing has been better than actually showing the software to crew members and having them use it with guests. I knew what I was building would be useful, but I’ve been surprised how meaningful it has been to some people — it’s like, “Finally someone sees me and understands all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes to make an instagram-worthy tablescape”.
What challenges did you have to overcome at the beginning of your journey?
I’ve always been tech savvy but thought of software as something that only computer programmers could do. So when I started out, I went looking for a developer who could build what I had in my head.
A friend told me about no-code tools like Bubble, Stacker, and Airtable and convinced me that I should build it on my own, which took me a long time and a lot of trial and error to figure out.
I watched videos and took classes, posted on message boards and went to meetups to make friends with other no-code developers building their own apps. I learned a lot, but it was only after I started building, and re-building, that I really got the hang of it. It took a while, but I’m really glad that I did because now I understand what I am selling and can quickly fix issues and make changes when customers ask.
Any bits of advice for entrepreneurs getting started in this space?
Get started and believe in your vision! You don’t need anyone’s permission to start building your dream and with so many amazing tools and resources for building software and running your own business there isn’t much you can’t do on your own. It’s not easy, and there are a lot of days where I want to throw my keyboard across the room, but if you believe in the vision you’ll be surprised at how far you can go.
There’s a quote from Bill Gates that I really like, which is something like - people overestimate what they can do in the short term but underestimate what they can do in the long term, if they stick with it. I think this is definitely a long game.
What's the plan for the future of the business? Where do you see the company in 3-5 years?
We are starting with preference software but have plans for other modules like inventory and provisioning which get better if you start with the guest and work backwards. That said, I am really looking to our users to tell me what they want and think would be valuable.
My real vision and not-so-secret plan is to create a company run by former crew members, where the best stews, chefs and captains can transition to land life and learn software, support and sales while helping make the industry better for their friends in the field. I’ve got a long way to go before I can build a team, but I’m determined to stick with it!