Interested in transitioning to building

Discussion in 'Boat Design' started by Hull Healers Restoration, Dec 27, 2021.

  1. Hull Healers Restoration
    Joined: Nov 2020
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    Location: Jacksonville Florida

    Hull Healers Restoration New Member

    So, I really want to build a boat to fit the needs of Jacksonville, Fl. To give you some background, I have been in the repair side of the business for over 12 years. I love what I do, but, I have been getting burned out. I recently moved our company from a 1 man operation in South Florida, to a 4 man shop in a very busy market of Jacksonville, Fl. I have no problem getting my shop full of boats, but, I see a need for a special boat here in jax. I know there are already a few of these hybrid bay boats out there, but, I want to possibly build a boat that has at least 150 gallon fuel cap, can handle 3-5' seas with a fairly dry ride, and is built out for just fishing. There is already a boat builder out there that I really like, and I am not sure if this is the place to say the name of the builder, but they have a GREAT hull, just has a few "flaws"
    I was invited on a charter by a buddy this past week and we went offshore 70 miles out of Mayport inlet to the break in a 24' boat with a single 300 Suzuki. The waves in the beginning of the morning were 3-4' with about 7 sec dominate and this thing just freaking ATE through it like it was nothing! Dry ride for what we were in, and, the way this hull smoothly came down on the waves was impressive. The boat has a stainless marine flotation bracket (I think its Stainless Marine), and holds 150 gallons of fuel. It has a few things on it I do not like, one being that the gelcoat is not even fully cured correctly on the deck, there is dirt nibs all over the place in the gelcoat, the non skid is sprayed on not molded, the livewells are not pressurized and just overflow (HUGE ISSUE IMO).
    Essentially, I want to know if anyone can tell me what it takes to even get into building a boat. I have a friend that owns a pretty decent sized catamaran fishing boat building company, and he says to not build any boats that are under 30' if I want to make any kind of profit. But, I want to make a boat a bit smaller that can go where the 30'+ boats go, and can fish the deeper channels for bull reds here in the St johns river and other places inshore. Am I looking to fill to many impossibilities in a boat? Is buying a mold just asking for trouble as the mold is for sale for a reason, and that is the boat obviously didn't make it or the mold wouldn't be for sale? I don't know **** about designing a boat, but I am willing to learn. I do know what goes wrong on most boats and I do know how I would build certain parts of the boat based on my experience with repairing boats.
    How much money do you think I realistically need to get started? I have a shop, I have all the tools needed aside from a 2 part gelcoat sprayer and a chopper gun. but, I would NEVER use a chopper gun and would probably lean towards hand layup at first then possibly move over to infusion after some time. Can anyone out there mentor me? I am a hard worker, willing to learn and when I put my mind into something, I literally have HYPER focus. I really want to build boats, but, I know that there is so much info I need before I start. I would ask my buddy who owns the catamaran building company, however, for 1, he is to far away, and for 2, he is just way to busy. Any input at all would be great. I just figured Id at least ask for some advice and some basic questions to start.

    My main questions are:
    Realistic Investment
    Is the size Range of 24-28' realistic as far as profits go? (will I make money?)
    Should I design or buy mold, and if design, who do I go to for that?
    Is building boats more of a headache than the fiberglass and gelcoat repair that I do now?
    How hard is it to get a mold for a boat that is even close to decent?
    How hard is it to modify a mold and what type of professional do I need in order to figure out what needs changing to get the desired results I want?
    Am I an idiot for dreaming about boat building? LOL

    I appreciate the feedback, and please, no THT style BS with the putting me down for asking stupid questions. I hate that ****. I am truly wanting to know if I will be wasting my time and energy on doing this. I have a few other things id love to do so if boat building isn't it, that is fine, just want to know. Any feedback at all would be greatly appreciated.
  2. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    Well, the big problem with boat building business is the economics are bad. In a good economy, you can sell new boats, but in a bad economy; you need a fallback...In your case, repairing is perfect fall back.

    You know how in repair work; things are all done in a certain order? Well, that is what I hate about building a boat. The order of things is always a big factor. You can't do Item F until Item E is done and overlapping projects can be done if you have space and plan knowledge. For example, if you want 6 flush hatches, the first time you really need to know precisely where they are going and the size; then build the moulds. The next time; you can build the hatches anytime.

    It is a tough gig. Start small, build one boat and see how the rate works out. I'm guessing the first boat will be like $5/hour, but after that; it'd change quickly.

    Was it a Billfish?
  3. Rumars
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: Germany

    Rumars Senior Member

    Ok, I'll try to answer some of your questions.
    First you need a design. If you like boat X so much, find out who designed it and pay that guy (or some other designer) for a new design, with your "improvements". For production you either you buy the design outright or pay royalties.
    Second, you need a plug. Nowadays you don't have to know anything about lofting, you can have the plug CNC machined in foam. From there it's things you know, give it a layer of fiberglass then fill and fair until perfect. You need such a plug for every separate fiberglass item (hull, deck, hatches, console, etc.).
    Third, you make the actual molds from the plugs. They are usually handlayed, sometimes cored. Talk to the designer about them, he can advise on features like a rotisserie, split molds, etc. depending on what's needed for production.
    Now you are ready to build the fiberglass pieces, but those are only half the deal, you need everything else that goes with the boat, from screws to engine. All of that has to be identified, bought, stored and installed.
    Lastly, you need to sell the boat.

    The investment has two components: real money you spend and possible money you loose in worktime. Real money is spent on designer fee, plug machining, materials and consumables for moldmaking and boatmaking plus everything else you need to buy to complete the first boat. This amount will not be huge, especially the fiberglassing supplies. What is expensive is the money you loose in worktime. Every hour you or your guys work on this project you don't make money fixing someone else's boat. You probably have a good ideea how much it takes your workers to fill and fair one square foot of hull, multiply that by total sqft of the boat then double it. That's all time for wich you have to pay out of your own pocket. Then there is the time you spend on logistics, marketing and administration, again out of your own pocket. If your shop has downtime anyway, then this possible losses can be 0, but if you have a busy shop then you will have to actually turn clients away or hire an extra person.

    I can't tell you if you will make a profit or not. I can't even tell you if you can build your dream boat to the average market price others sell for.
    TANSL likes this.
  4. ondarvr
    Joined: Dec 2005
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    Location: Monroe WA

    ondarvr Senior Member

    You will need a few hundred thousand dollars to get to the point of starting to build your first boat.

    This doesn't include securing a building that meets code for fiberglass boat construction. You may get lucky and find a boat builder moving to a bigger facility and take over a building that you don't need to sink a bunch of money into to get it up and running. It could cost another hundred thousand to bring an existing building up to code.

    12 years of repair work doesn't give you a good idea of production boat building, there's a lot to it.

    Boat builders have found they can make far more money with less effort and hassle by going bigger and higher end. This could change at any time if the economy changes and customers decide they should restrict their spending a bit. I've witnessed several of these cycles.

    It will take a couple of years for you to get up and running, do you have the resources to financially support this for several years with little to no profit.

    This isn't to scare you away, it's just to make sure you understand what's in front of you.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2021
    Lloyd Too and fallguy like this.
  5. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

    Reposted from an older thread

    One of the reasons for small start up boat building companies to fail without a ton of capital is that they are entering into a market that has many competitors
    who have weathered the storm and developed a sales volume.
    On the supply side of your materials, there are many mark ups to get to say a suggested retail price. Starting out you will not have the volume to purchase at
    the lowest available price that the large production boat builders have attained.
    In the automotive sector, the easily identifiable price discounts look like this Suggested list less 25% to a dealer price less a further 25% to get to a jobber
    price less another 25% to get to a distributor price less another discount (guessing another 15%) to get to an OEM price. (further volume discounts may be available)
    So for a $100 retail price, the cost to an OEM, may only be say $35
    Certainly fibreglass etc would probably not fall into this discount structure but for a fact many marine hardware items will be pretty close.
    So starting out you will not be able to buy at the "big boys" price and hence lose much of the needed margin to be able to build a boat anywhere near the
    same selling price and make enough margin to run a business. Ie you cannot run out to a basic marine store and purchase all of necessary items needed at a low
    enough price to make money selling a boat. Now with the offshore supply, usually China but there are others, the boat manufacturers are not only buying
    direct from the hardware manufacturers but are buying at an extremely low price.
    Having been involved in various sectors of business, manufacturing, retail, installation, and distribution, it has over the years been apparent that
    you need an advantage in the market place to earn a place in the industry. It normally will not be price as your hard costs, ie materials will be higher than the high
    production boat manufacturers so your savings to produce even a similarly priced boat will be difficult. Of course if you can lower the labor costs, which you may be able to do, depending on your local available labor pool.

    Discussions over the years with like minded business owners has produced a terminology called "entry level capital"
    Meaning that if you want to fix a car, you need to be a mechanic of some type and $40,000 of tools and a work bay, you can call yourself Billy Bobs Automotive
    and Yo Yo Emporium. Alternatively, if you want to produce say a new line of automobiles, you may need several billion to get this started with huge
    losses until, if you are lucky, you become profitable.

    Niches are often found in two areas, as others have mentioned. First extremely high quality boats with extremely high price tags, that there is a limited
    clientele availability. In the small boat market a name like Mastercraft comes to mind, $120,000 for a 22 foot wakeboard boat. This is a hard niche as
    again they are buying their hard parts/material at good prices and have a brand recognition.
    The other side of the spectrum would be a "good boat" at a "low price". As per my comments above, this will be tough without being able to commit
    large initial orders for the hard/material supplies to get to lower costs.

    Obviously, proprietary or patented concepts within the middle of the spectrum, ie quality boats at competitive pricing, may be an entry level.

    Before embarking on such a venture the very first thing that I would do is to actually cost out all of the materials and hard parts, every item, to come up with a
    cost. Then estimate the labor for whatever boat that you building.
    You will have an estimated cost price.
    (Generally you would run two columns per item, say a retail price that you would pay as a guy coming in off the street then say a discount of at least 30%
    to be an estimate of what you might see when you gather some volume purchasing advantages. This will create a variance of costs and help with a business plan)

    Now look at similar boats to see what their retail prices are, subtract the cost from this and check to see what your actual margin is per boat.
    If you have to build a boat per day to have your gross margin produce a break even business, you will have come to the conclusion that this is not a business
    that you should consider. The other extremely important question that you need to
    get comfortable with is " Are there enough people buying the type of boat that you want to build?"

    Regarding start-up capital, moulds, tooling, space rental, insurance, advertising, naval architect costs, need to be considered. Don't forget Warranty costs

    Our 21 foot aluminum jet boats took about 200 man hours to build. As we already had a shear, brakes, plasma table, welders, spray booth, space, etc, it was easy to build a boat and make some money at it. It has been awhile but I expect our start up cost if we began from scratch would have been in the $400,000 range just for equipment. As we already had a profitable manufacturing division, we only had to add in some extra people to build boats. Ie extremely low
    man hour costs, while your venture will have to sustain ALL of the overhead.

    In any case, after you build a business plan, contact an accountant to run all of the numbers by him and have him analyze your numbers for an outside
    opinion. Additionally, he would be able to produce a cash flow report, ie deal with prepaid expenses, rent, equipment capitalization, overhead costs.
    We have found Cash Flow projections to be a sobering tool to evaluate a business's viability. In a nutshell, it will tell you how much money that you will lose before
    you actually make a buck. Again, include variances, ie you say you will build 30 boats per year, what happens if you build 25 or 20 or 35.
    Also, and it is too long of discussion already, Google SWOT. Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats. This is an analysis tool that will help
    you decide if you have a "possibility to succeed" with your venture.

    Good intentions and a dream started many successful businesses. Entering into a market, with a history of destroying these traits, is a risky proposition.
    Lloyd Too likes this.
  6. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

    And another repost off the same thread as above

    What Is the Small Business Failure Rate?

    20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 30% of small business fail in their second year, and 50% of small businesses fail after five years in business. Finally, 70% of small business owners fail in their 10th year in business.

    According to statistics published in 2019 by the Small Business Administration (SBA), about twenty percent of business startups fail in the first year. About half succumb to business failure within five years. By year 10, only about 33% survive.Oct 28, 2019

    Just a couple of internet sourced paragraphs.

    Keep in mind the axiom " Businesses don't plan to fail but rather fail to plan"

    Some contributors in this thread and other threads tend to suggest to "go for it". If you fail to work through a business plan, you may find yourself bankrupt.

    If you get to the planning stage to the state that you cannot see how you can make a reasonable dollar at the process, find another venue.

    If you are a dreamer and are going to continue with the new business I would offer the words of the owner of a national company who offered me this
    critical advice "Risk only what you can afford to lose"
    Lloyd Too likes this.
  7. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

    Hi everyone, I would like to start a boat building business. I need suggestions from you guys
    Put this into the search box as this is the thread that had the two upper posts as well as some other pertinent responses

    Most important post------------Ike's post 33
  8. mudsailor
    Joined: Mar 2013
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    Location: United States

    mudsailor Junior Member

    Easy…..spend a couple of grand to get an NA to do a concept proposal…..Then go talk to all your potential customers…….if they are willing to write checks up front for some early units…..then you have a go…….
    Or…..wait until a boat building goes under and buy the tooling cheap…..
  9. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: East Anglia,England

    wet feet Senior Member

    Of all the businesses that fall into the realms of "If you want to make a small fortune,start with a large one...." boatbuilding is just about at the top of the list. Unless you take the advice in the previous post and buy some tooling,it takes months and a pile of money to produce your own tooling.Followed by a period of building before you have a product to show potential customers.Without a physical boat to inspect,you aren't likely to have throngs of people rushing through the door and insisting that you build them the boat of their dreams.
    If you have a thriving repair business,would you move people from earning money for the business to doing the development work or would you add to the workforce?You would certainly need to add to the space occupied as you would need about enough additional area for four of the proposed new boats.Why that much?Well the tooling will need to be kept undercover and while the small items could live beneath the hull and deck moulds,it still means you need space for at least a hull and a deck to be worked on prior to joining too.You will need a working platform at deck level with space for some benches and small machines and you will need space to store patterns and jigs.You will also need storage space for hardware that arrives and probably lifting gear to move it from the floor to the boat.

    I suggest you sit down with a notepad and list all the items you will need and don't currently have and then find what they will cost.Determine the cost of enough workshop space to hold the boat,estimate the time taken for each phase and multiply by your shop rate.Find some project planning software or write (in pencil) on a very long sheet of paper what needs to happen and when.At which point you will know when to invite people to the launch party for the prototype.Then estimate how many people are likely to buy your creation and divide that number into the cost of getting the prototype into the water because that is what you will have to price in.

    Alternatively,take the sum you would need to put into the project and find a conservatively minded investment advisor and go fishing,its a lot less troublesome.
    Lloyd Too likes this.
  10. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell . . . _ _ _ . . . _ _ _

    You're already established, that's a huge plus.
    Any of your customers want a custom boat built?
    That may be a way to get the ball rolling.
    Your Flag-Ship, money up front, consult with the customer along the way.
    Just an idea vs going full-on and losing your shirt.
    fallguy likes this.
  11. Larry
    Joined: Dec 2021
    Posts: 2
    Likes: 0, Points: 1
    Location: South Carolina

    Larry New Member

    Shoot me an email. I’m the business a s happy to help

  12. marine_plug
    Joined: Feb 2022
    Posts: 10
    Likes: 1, Points: 3
    Location: Florida

    marine_plug Junior Member

    Are you still interested in building your dream boat?
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