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You can start a boat cleaning business with as little equipment as a mop and brush. The average start-up costs are less than $2,000, according to Entrepreneur. There’s very little competition for the work, and you get to be outside all day. Many boat owners already have the cleaning products on board to do the job, but just don’t want to do it themselves. As you gain work and experience, you can add to your own cache of cleaning supplies. Starting can be as easy as walking the docks.
Get Out There
You'll need to go where the boats are moored, typically marinas and yacht clubs. Create a flyer with your name and phone number on it as well as a list of services you provide. Walk up and down the docks and hand them out, talk to people and ask if they know of others who might be able to use your services. Stop in to the marina office and introduce yourself. The staff can be a great source of referrals.
Meet the Workers
Boat salespeople and workers in the boat yards may run across boat owners looking for cleaning services. Boat dealers need to have their products cleaned before delivery. And they need to have someone they can refer used boat owners to when the boat is going up for sale. Workers who clean the bottoms of boats before putting them up for storage may get requests for someone to clean the topsides and interiors. Develop relationships with other service people in the marinas and boatyards to build a solid base of referrals.
Learn About Boats
You won’t need any credentials or specialized training to start a boat cleaning business, but you will need to learn about the various materials that make up the topsides and interiors of boats, from fiberglass finishes to canvas, teak and mahogany. While there aren’t any formal training programs for boat cleaners, you can find resources online through organizations such as the Boat U.S. Foundation and the American Boating Association. There are a few private companies around, such as Mobile Detail Guy and Deckhand Detailing. If you can’t find a trainer near you, ask a deckhand or retired boater to teach you a few tricks. Ask questions at the boat-equipment store and talk to boat owners about the products they prefer cleaners use on their crafts.
Tout Your Services
One of the best ways to get new business is from boaters who see you working. Wear T-shirts with your company name on them and require helpers to do the same. Plant a sign on the dock while you’re working with your name and phone number on it. Paint the sides of your truck or van or use a magnetic sign to tout your services while you are at the marinas. Put your brochures in marina offices, at local restaurants near the water and in boating supply stores. Because of the lack of competition, boaters will be eager to meet you and find out what you can do for them.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."