Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni
Posted 01 June 2016
September 2003 Intake
Austin Martin, London, September 2003 is a graduate of Miami University Oxford, OH has set up GreekSeas.com, a charter sailing company offering weekly private skippered charters on the Greek islands. Austin explains "Our charters are a unique vacation that allows you to experience the authentic, less touristy islands of Greece aboard your own catamaran at an affordable price. The captains will sail your boat while also being your guides to the best beaches, activities, and restaurants on each island. We are currently the only Greek charter sailing company presence in both the United States and Greec". Austin, the founder and majority owner, works out of their main office in New York City, which allows them to focus on serving the US market. He has a partner in Ohio who handles the website/marketing side and a partner in Athens who handles the day-to-day charter activity.
Austin is happy to offer discounted trips for Mountbatten alumni!
Anyone interested in a trip can email him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Describe your business and your role within it.
Greek Seas is a charter sailing company offering weekly private skippered charters on the Greek islands. Our charters are a unique vacation that allows you to experience the authentic, less touristy islands of Greece aboard your own catamaran at an affordable price. The captains will sail your boat while also being your guides to the best beaches, activities, and restaurants on each island. We are currently the only Greek charter sailing company presence in both the United States and Greece. I work out of our main office, which is located in New York City. This allows us to focus on serving the US market. I'm the founder and majority owner of the company. I have a partner in Ohio who handles the website/marketing side and a partner in Athens who handles the day-to-day charter activity.
How did you get into this line of business?
It actually all began back in 2004 when I was a Mountbatten intern in London. Based on a recommendation from a friend, I booked and organized a sailing trip for a group of nine of us on the program. It ended up being one of the best trips I've ever taken. We were stunned by the friendliness of the captains, affordable price, and incredibly beauty of the Greek Isles. What really made the trip unique was the feeling that you were traveling like a local and seeing spots most tourists never know about.
Throughout my year in the program I kept an open mind and always looked for possible business opportunities in my travels. My initial reaction was that this kind of trip was fairly unknown to Americans. From speaking to captains and boat owners in Greece I came to understand that most of the bookings came from bareboat charters (skippers not included) and the vast majority of clients were from Europe. It seemed to me that there was a gap in the market.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
After identifying that this could be a potential opportunity, I began to organize yearly trips with different groups of friends. I made a point to get to know various boat owners and skippers while on these charters. I eventually built a great friendship and business relationship with a captain/boat owner named Kostas. We discussed the idea of creating a website and focusing on marketing these trips to US tourists. Back in 2006/2007 most websites for Greek sailing companies were very bare bones with little information and no photos; they were basically a grainy picture of a yacht with a contact number, so I knew we'd have an advantage if we built a well-designed website with good content.
I bought www.greekseas.com in 2007 and partnered with a friend who has a strong background in web design and search marketing. My partner built the website and began to establish our online presence utilizing his SEO (search engine optimization) expertise. Since the business was mostly a side project (I was still working at a bank full time) we started slowly. Over time we were able to vault to the top of the google search rankings for many keywords and phrases, which allowed us to operate with very little marketing and overhead budget. In 2014 I decided to go all in and used some savings to invest in a catamaran and another monohull sailing yacht. Through online marketing, organic search and word of mouth we've had a fantastic last few years, booking around 40 trips a year. We've stressed the importance of quality of experience over the quantity of trips. This has helped us keep a perfect trip advisor rating which is incredibly important in this industry.
What else is in the pipeline?
We're currently looking into the possibility of sailing a few of our yachts across the Atlantic in the fall (sailing season in Greece ends in October) and offering 10 weeks of charters in the Caribbean. This would open up a whole new market and allow us to bring in year round revenues as well.
We're also currently speaking with Condé Naste Traveler about possibly doing a feature on the company.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
It's not an exact moment, but it's an incredible feeling when we get feedback from customers on how a trip was one of the best experiences of their lives. It's really incredible knowing you played a part in an unforgettable moment in a stranger's life.
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience? Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
Always be on the lookout for opportunities while travelling. There are so many products and experiences that exist in one market and remain unknown to another.
The most difficult leap in my opinion is going from talking about an idea for a business to putting it into action. One trait I tend to see in successful entrepreneurs is the ability to accept failure and come back from disappointment with a new plan or idea.
I'm happy to offer discounted trips for Mountbatten alumni! Anyone interested in a trip can email me directly: email@example.com.