Freedom Boat Club | Andy Sutter
Well, I am so excited you have tuned in today. And I know at is something I say on the beginning of almost every podcast, but every single time I get to sit down, and listen and talk to one of these amazing business owners and leaders in our community, I learned something new. And today is an amazing conversation discovering all about the Freedom Boat Club now before you stop the podcast, then go Oh, that’s something that’s way beyond what I could ever be a part of. And there’s just no way I could afford that. I think you’ll be surprised. I know I was I think you’ll be surprised when you find out just how reasonable a membership is to the Freedom Boat Club. And so if you’re not sure what it is or how a membership works to it, the owner, Andy explains this is him and I talk about just a little bit about him and about the Freedom Boat Club.
We’re at Coaster Coffee, having this conversation. So you might hear some background noise there. But I’m just I’m excited for you to get to learn more about Andy in the Freedom Boat Club.
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If you’d like to know more about joining yourself, if you’re a business owner, just head on over to our website, Ocean View.biz. And if you live here, are you going to be traveling to this area. And you want to see what other opportunities there are for entertainment and all the other things that we have to offer here food and accommodations and all the amazing stuff that make Ocean View Ocean View. You can find all of that on our website and more. So again, thanks for listening. And I know you didn’t tune into today’s episode to hear me. You want to hear Andy and about the Freedom Boat Club. So but here’s my conversation with Andy.
All right, well, like I said there in the intro. I am sitting here with Andy, Andy, how you doing today?
I’m good, Eric, how are you?
Good. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with me. I appreciate it always. It’s always a good sign when a busy entrepreneur doesn’t though think they’re too busy or too big to sit down and invest in, you know, informing people in the local community and participating in things like the Ocean View Business Association. And so I really appreciate that.
Well, I appreciate you having me on. I’m super excited. I was super excited to do this. When Olivia reached out to me. She said you got to fill out all these questions out while I’m there. Let’s do it.
Well I’m excited. So hey, let’s first off just talk real quick. You are with Freedom Boat Club, and we’re going to wrap up the end of our conversation about some of the details but don’t have that right. It’s freedom Boat Club.
Yeah, it’s Freedom Boat Club.
All right, cool. And you guys are just a start up in this area. Is that right?
Correct. Freedom Boat Club started in 1989 down in Sarasota, Florida. In 2011 or 12 they franchised they branched out and I with my business partner David we have a territory from Petersburg Virginia over to the eastern shore to Cape Charles down to the state line. And we’re opening up our second location here in Norfolk our first location was important we opened it two years ago.
Okay. Oh wow. Okay, I didn’t realize that I thought this was a first so this is a second location.
Okay, okay. And in a nutshell, what is Freedom Boat Club.
We are a members only Boat Club. Where we purchased the boats that are brand spanking new. We put them at our marinas and then you buy a membership like a tennis club membership. Got it. Like you’re a golf club membership. You use my membership, gym membership like that. Okay, you have a membership where you pay a one time entry fee. You pay a monthly and there are no contracts. We do all of the work, all of the training, all of the maintenance, the cleaning everything. And you can use once you join on the freedom plan, you can use any one of the 213 locations throughout the world.
Wow. Oh, this is cool. I’m excited to learn more about this as we talk. I used to own a boat. Now this was when I lived in Ohio. So it was a freshwater bass boat, right? And somebody once said, and I thought, nah, that can’t be true. And I eventually learned it was true. The old boater saying the two happiest days in a boat owners life is the day they buy it. And the day they sell the boat.
So true. Or what do they say boat stands for bust out another 1000? Yeah, so we have 13 in our, in our region. So between the two clubs, we have 13 boats, so I bust out $13,000
Yeah, probably pretty regular.
No, but that’s I mean, that’s just, that’s the nature of boats and the environment they’re in. It’s a harsh environment. And yeah, so.
Well, what people are starting to realize now is that boating, they love the people love to go boating, but you boat on a Saturday and then on Sunday you’re doing maintenance, or you go to start your boat after four or five weeks and it doesn’t run and then you know you spend the morning trying to fix it or get somebody to fix it. And then the day is wasted because now you’ve got your family there. It’s just a hassle. Our boats are in the water, they’re ready for you our staff, cleans them checks them in the morning, you show up you go boating, come back to drop it off. It’s literally hassle free boating,
I’m very excited. Well before we get more into that. So why have How did you end up in this area? Did you move into this area to do this? Are you have you been here for a while let’s let’s just talk a little bit about end.
So in 1988, I joined the United States Navy, from a small little town in upstate New York called Little Falls. We at one point were the largest cheese producing city in the entire world. I was pumping gas on the New York State through A and some of the men in my life said what are you going to do with your life and I gave them the the you know the shrug shoulder salute. I didn’t know what I was gonna do. Then my godfather and my uncle and my buddy Tom said Listen, you need to join the Navy. I joined the Navy. I was stationed here in Norfolk. I love Norfolk. I love the Mid Atlantic area. My first ship was out of Norfolk. I’ve been here for 26 years in the Navy and then I retired in 2014. I went to work for a great heating and air conditioning company called Air Specialty. I worked there for four years. Randy and Justin Matthews just good people. And then I had the opportunity to buy Freedom Boat Club.
It came up through one of my networking meetings that I had the opportunity and I love boating, I have my captain’s license, I love to teach. I get to be an entrepreneur. So I went to my wife, Janet and I said Listen, I have an opportunity to buy a Boat Club. We’re going to go in debt for a few years it’s going to be painful. And she said wait, you’ve been here for 30 some odd years. You know everybody you love boating and water and you’re in the Navy and then she gave me as she slapped me She gave me a high five we went and that was it. We bought we bought into freedom Boat Club with I have a business partner David Gibbs, who lives in Northern Virginia. He does maintenance he does. He fixes the motors, okay, I don’t know maintenance so he fixes them. And and then I run the operations and the memberships and the business stuff. business side. So works good.
Nice. Now I’ve met at least one if not two people to work for you. How big is your staff?
I just hired you see, you probably met Sunny for sure. So Sunny is our membership consultant. So she handles any questions that you have to become a member. Then I have Olivia who does our marketing and events. And then I have drawn a blank right quick Raven, I have Raven and her husband Andy Fiebig. We call them Team Fiebig. They they help us out Andy does docs and then Raven does doc and events. And then we’ve just hired some more people. I’ve actually hired a couple of firefighters to help work with the East beach location. So right now, daily, Oh, and my man Nate, I can’t forget my main man Nate. Nate is our operations guy. He handles pretty much everything. David lives in Northern Virginia and I’m here so we have we have to Nate does that stuff so great. So right now about five but in the summer we’ll ramp up to about 20 people in the summer to handle because we have 13 boats and we have to assist people on and off the boats. We load your car from the car to the boat. So we do a whole bunch of stuff. So.
So being in this area and the fact that you know one of the reasons the Navy’s here and on the bay, it’s because it doesn’t freeze over. Right? Are the boats available year round then?
There are. Yeah, our boats our boats right now we will always have boats in the water year round. There is always late season striper fishing, people want to go, do you see all the whales that are out here, now they want to go whale watching, you’re going to go take the boat and go whale watching, you have to bundle up, but you can still go. And then we go over some safety tips like, you know, don’t tip the boat over. I think there’s a song right? Don’t tip the boat. So we want to make sure that you’re going to be safe when you’re boating. So we do all of that. So we’ll always have some boats in the water. Now we pull them out because of you know, we’re predominantly from May 1 until September is is really when we get our big influx of people.
Yeah, yeah, I could I can imagine now, are you expanding your fleet, adding a second location or sticking with 13? How would that kind of work?
So we are required in accordance with our franchise agreement to have 10 memberships to everyone boat got the reason we do that is because Freedom Boat Club has been around for 30 years, they track boat usage, they know that you as a new member, you’re going to use the boat on average 15 usages per year. So every one boat has nine usages available every single week.
So if we put 10 memberships on one boat, that’s x amount of usages, so we have plenty of usage to go around for the fleet.
So you’re new to this area. But you guys have institutional knowledge that you’re bringing in that’s that really provides people with a great experience a safe experience. If you’re you’re new to this area, but you’re not new to the game.
Correct. We have a franchise portal. That’s what I was working on on the computer when you came in. But we have a franchise portal and they tell us exactly what to do. If we if we sell a lot of memberships, and we have more usage than we have predicted, I can get a vote from another club in this area very much like if there is a conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, in Las Vegas needs more rental vehicles, they can ship the rental vehicles. And if I need an extra boat, I can go up to Woodbridge, Virginia and call my boy Brent Parker up there and say, Brent, I need a boat. And when I can have a boat down here in 24 hours and drop it in my fleet if I have an overrun on memberships. Wow.
So I mean, that’s that’s a whole nother benefit to this is you’re not alone, either.
No. I mean, there’s 213 locations.
Freedom Boat Club was just purchased by the Brunswick Corporation. In May of last year, John Giglio was our CEO, he built it and he’s grown it over the last seven or eight years. And now Brunswick has come in because they see the value of introducing new people to the market. You are a you’re a novice boat, enthusiast, so you can join for $235 a month and get introduced to Boating. And we know through statistics, that every five people that join one of them will become a former a future boat owner. It’s almost like golf in first tier introducing kids to skiing, get them introduced to skiing now you’re going to turn them into you know, skiers later on. And that’s what we’re doing.
Well, let me ask you a question or a couple questions that if my wife is listening to this, she’s going to start to get nervous at this point. And I’m asking, because she’s gonna say, Wait, I think I see where this is going. So you just said I could join for $235 a month? Correct.
Okay, have we have a special right now for 235 per month as join.
A special right now to 35? All right. Now, that gets me a membership. So I’m now a member. But what does that give I? And there’s 13 boats, I get that. But what am I paying for? I have four kids and my wife. So we’re family of six. So what am I paying for, for us to come out and get on the boat.
So it’s 235 A month after your initiation fee, the initiation fee is 2900. On that program, we have about 2900 3400 3900 initiation fee. The local boating plan is 2900 and 235 a month.
That initiation is for my training, and stuff like that.
That’s your that’s your skin in the game. Yeah, because we don’t we don’t have a contract. It’s an agreement. When you cancel, you’re gone. You give me a written 60 day notice and you’re gone.
And you can make sense upgrade your membership at any time. So that local plan allows you access to the two locations that I own. You can Boat in Norfolk or enforcement.
You pay your initiation fee of 2900 in 235 a month. At that point is your boat. It’s like you own it. So you get one reservation on that system. So if you wanted to put a reserve for Wednesday and go boating Wednesday, you could once you reserve, you can’t you don’t have another reservation yet to use until you use that reservation that goes back to the reservation system. That also allows you half day boating on the weekend. So you could vote half the day on a Saturday, in the morning or in the afternoon or on Sunday in the morning or the afternoon. You can’t boat all day on a Saturday or Sunday. That’s the freedom plan. Got it. The freedom plan allows you all day Saturday, all day, Sunday, or half the day on Saturday and half the day on a Sunday. So because we are a shared asset model type of boat club, you we don’t we we want to have access for Saturday and Sunday. Now that’s not to say that if you’re done boating on Saturday, and you want spur of the moment boating, you can park the boat, we’ll catch you and we’ll tie up the boat and you can say to me, hey, Andy, do you have anything available tomorrow? And I’m like, Yeah, I’ve got that boat tomorrow afternoon. And you can say book me. And there’s a 24 hour lockout period on the reservation system. And you just go boating, talk to the dock master and you go boating. So
Now you mentioned a couple of different uses for this. I could take my family out and go. What now Is there a boat that carries six?
We have a variety of boats we have Bay liners, we have Sea Ray we have pontoon boats, we have deck boats, we have bowriders. We have 13 boats, I have three fishing boats, I have two dual console’s I have two pontoon boats, I have a very large boat, a bayliner Bay boat, that you can put a bunch of people on up to 12 people can go boating.
Oh, wow. Okay.
So that’s the key people are coming to freedom Boat Club, because if you were to go purchase one of our boats, you’re going to pay if it’s new, you’re going to pay 55,000. If it’s used, you’re going to pay $30,000. And then you have one boat, now you have to trailer, you have to store it, you have to clean it, you have to do the maintenance. All of that’s done, our boats come in, we bought them paying them, we put them in the fleet. And then you just make a reservation, there’s an app, or you do it from the desktop, you show up, we’re going to you’re going to get an email from our customer service software through corporate, you show up you go boating, and that’s it. Well, there’s no hassle.
So what are the requests? Like do do I get? Well, I get like, some type of like, so you said you’re a captain. Right? Okay, I’m being the fact that we’re on the bay. Now remember, I only boated salt water, right? I mean, fresh water, fresh water. So this is new. I’ve been on head boats out in the bay and out in the ocean. But you know, what do I have to have to be able to legally operate a boat out in the bay?
That’s a great question. You have to have your Virginia boater safety card. So you’ll go online and you’ll get your Virginia boater safety card. And then when you’re done, you will come in and you will set myself or David or Nathan or Frank or one of our captains and you’re going to go through our freedom Boat Club franchise training set up by our insurance company. So you’re going to sit down with us and you’re going to do a new, you’re going to do a new member orientation where you’re going to do classroom work, and you’re going to do on the water training. You’re on the water training is one to one so if you and your wife want to come Well, we’re gonna we’re going to be with you as a membership together. But if you come out by yourself will train you one to one, it won’t be you and a bunch of members.
Then we train you on how to drive the boat, we train you how to dock it, how to tie it up. When you become a freedom Boat Club member, we want you to be able to take the boat from location A to location B, know how to use the radio check in with a marina to tie the boat up. So you look like a professional. You get off you go have lunch down at Waterside or Hampton and you come off and you come back and you guys have enjoyed your day. So you’re confident and we’re confident knowing that you’re out there driving our boats.
And all of that is free. Oh, wow. loading your gas. You don’t even know what’s gonna be my next question. So for my location, my location, your new member orientation, we comp your gas, your intermediate and offshore is each franchise but because we are such a new franchise, we’re giving that gas to the members. So you when you join, you pay absolutely nothing. Not one single penny for any of your training for new member orientation, intermediate training or your advanced training. It’s 100% free as a long as it takes for you to get qualified.
Okay. Okay. And then now you mentioned you’ve got a couple of fishing boats, right. But I got it I’m assuming I have to bring you know, my poles
You have to bring your own pole right. Okay,
That’s fine. But so I can I can have a membership and I can go I’d take my feet. I’ve got some family coming in from out of town. I reserve a boat. I take them for a little boat ride. We have a great time. Does I go whale watching with my kids, my neighbors. You know, maybe maybe I’m in a church, I’ve got a small group, I take my small group out, you know, or, you know, could I take the youth group? Yeah. So I could take, you know, things like that. Or let’s say I was a business owner, and I wanted to take some clients out, you know, can I do that?
Yes, it’s more about man. When you when you take that boat, this is what I think I need to do a better job as the business owner to relay. Once you reserve that boat, it is your boat, you can do anything that you want, you can take it up to 25 miles away without a flow plan. Once you have a float plan, if you want to go up to say, Tangier, you can, you’re gonna have to put fuel on it. Sure, we’re gonna sit down with navionics we’re gonna it’s an app on your phone or your iPad, we’re going to download it, we’re going to look at the weather, we’re going to plan out your legs, we’re going to know how much fuel you’re going to burn what your burn rate is, we’re going to know where you’re headed. If you need if you break down, who to call, coast, guard, all of that stuff, but the boats are always going to be brand new. We do all the maintenance, we’re mercury certified dealer. So we do all of the maintenance. It literally is your boat.
If you wanted to join on the freedom plan, you could actually take the boat overnight to Cape Charles, if you want if you let’s say that you and your wife, one to pick the boat up and you have on the freedom plan. You have four reservations, you pick the reservation up on a Friday, it’s one day for the weekend, or for Friday, and then you want to keep it all day for a Saturday. So that’s three reservations. You show up eight o’clock Friday morning, you your wife and your kids. And you’re like it’s gorgeous out it’s sunny. We’re gonna go to Cape Charles, you take the boat and you go to Cape Charles it’s 22 miles away. You go up you have fun in Cape Charles you got your tube and your tube and the kids your wakeboarding or whatever. You park the boat. You get a hotel room for the night at Cape Charles writes romantic dinner, you’re doing your thing the kids are having fun, they’re staying with Auntie so you can you know, go off and have a good dinner. You’re done. You get on the boat in the morning, you have fun all day on Saturday and bring it back Saturday night, empty, dirty, you get off it. We’re going to unload the boat with all your stuff, put it in your car, you’re going to hand salute, get in your car and go home and we’re going to do all the cleaning and the maintenance and fill the boat up and get it ready for the next day.
That’s amazing. That’s amazing.
People let’s just put it this way. I bought into freedom Boat Club with my business partner Dave. June 12. Last year, a year before so at 20 months ago, there were only 150 locations and freedom Boat Club now there are 213 the goal in Brunswick Boat Group we’re bbg we plan on being from 213 right now as we sit here today to the end of next year with 2021 over 325 freedom Boat Club locations that you can use your membership at any single one of those you have reciprocal access to every single Boat Club in the world.
Wow that’s amazing.
And unlimited use here in your home market.
Wow that’s really kind of cool. All right, so I’m going to put links to all of this because you know people are listening you know they’re going to want to they want I’m going to link to your website with it Can they see pictures of the boats?
You can go to Freedom Boat Club.com which is the national website and from freedom Boat Club, calm the national website, they can scroll down there’s a locator you can click click on Norfolk East beach or Portsmouth and it’ll it’ll bring them right to our landing page. And from there they can they can look all they want. Okay, we’ve got several open houses our big April 25 is our grand opening ceremony and East beach. If they want to come out it’s no we’re not allowed to do pressure sales. Come out question and answer. Get to know the club if you want to join great if you don’t, then.
So it’s not a it’s not a timeshare pressure, no bait and switch.
Absolutely not. everything is written for you. There are no contracts.
So it’s not going to be like well, let me go talk to somebody and know hey, I’ve talked to Andy that I can drop this another 10%. But you gotta sign so nothing like that.
No, no, we will incentivize the members. If you come to the open house, we will give you a month free.
Okay. Yeah, but I mean that that’s it that that is an accept, it’s accessible to everybody. That’s not a bait and switch.
Yes. Not a bait and switch. Okay. The price is the price. If you join today, we’ll give you a month free If not, you join you start paying your membership right then. And that’s it.
All right. And then you start going through the process of, you know, the training and getting equipped and all right, okay, very cool. Well, Andy, I’m excited for this. Now. We are keeping your events up to date on the Ocean View Business Association website. So if people go to ocean view dot biz, they can find it. And if they go to ocean view dot biz, /007 of links. Can I link right to your landing page?
Yeah, I think so. It can’t will, you know, the tech,
I’ll figure it out,
You’ll figure it out.
I’ll make sure it happens. But if people go there so ocean view dot biz/007, and you’re a member of the ocean view Business Association and we are so excited to have you You guys hear in Ocean View?
Great. I mean, I love it.
Oh, I think it this literally puts this in the hands of everybody. Yeah, you know the pot of the possibility of so many people there. And I tell you, and this is a pretty exciting use for someone’s tax return right now.
Yeah. So I don’t know the tax. You have to talk with your CPA professional, but I do believe that there are some tax advantages that you can use for your business.
Oh, if I’m the business Yeah. Yeah. about people getting their tax return. Oh, yeah. To put towards the 2900. Initiation fee.
Yep. We’ll break down we’ll break it up to Oh, you can break the ignition yet your break you break it up into two payments. So we normally do is we’ll do you right now we have a special going on, you pay nothing until April 1. So join a February break it up in February and March and then April, you pay your membership dues.
And then I’ve got the Coast Guard coming out to inspect all my new boats too.
Wow. That’s exciting. All right, cool. So now where’s the open house that we’re here in?
We’re going to be it’s going to be in East beach in longboards parking lot in the 25th of April. Lynn Henderson from Rocky Roads is offices, a event planner. She’s helping me with that I have Olivia we’re going to have vendors, we’re gonna have food. It’s gonna be it’s gonna be the perfect we’re gonna have all of our new boats. We have five new boats gonna be there. So people can come and take rides on the new boats and touch them and feel them and actually, you know, kick the tires.
Oh, yeah. Okay. All right. Sounds good. Well, I’ll get out there and take some pictures and stuff. And I just want to I’m gonna bring my wife down. And while I
Show her take her boat ride, let her drive the boat.
Perfect. Perfect. Alright, Andy. Well, thanks a lot.
So there you go. Andy Sutton with freedom Boat Club, and I am going to be at that open house. For sure. I want to check things out and, and just get to know more about what they have to offer. And because I tell you when the time is right, for me and my family, this is something we are definitely going to do. Just what a way to add something special into your lifestyle. If you live here in Ocean View, I mean, it’s just absolutely crazy. And if you’re coming into visit from out of town, Andy was talking about the fact that next year starting next year in 2021, they’ll have another business where you’ll be able to rent boats. And so just absolutely Andy and his entire team there. It’s just doing an awful lot for those of us that love to live, work, play and visit here in Ocean View. Well again, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Discover ob podcast, I would love to have you head on over to our website, Ocean View dot biz/007 where you can find links to the Freedom Boat Club, and to other resources that the Ocean View Business Association has and leave us a rating and review. It’s really helpful. So until the next time and continue to enjoy your life here in Ocean View.