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How to Start a Marine Repair Business

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In addition to performing repairs caused by weather damage, collisions, or neglect, marine repair companies work on other diverse projects. Depending on the expertise of the workers, marine businesses commonly provide boat-related services such as cleaning and polishing; varnishing and painting; equipment installation; carpentry and interior work; and winterizing and commissioning.

Look at your market. Because your business will be service-based, determine if your local boating market is large enough to support your marine repair and service business. Keep in mind that many boat owners will do their own repairs and boat work and you may have competition for the prospects who remain. Check with your local chamber of commerce for figures that illustrate the impact of the local boating industry on the city’s economy.

Address the logistics. Before you begin accepting projects, ensure that you comply with city zoning and permit regulations. Some cities have established special maritime business zones, and others may encourage marine businesses with special leasing arrangements. Check with the local planning and zoning department for zoning issues, and the city or county clerk’s office for business licenses. Finally, get any special driver’s licenses needed to operate a van or truck.

Provide quality products and services. Don’t purchase poor-quality supplies to save a few dollars on your bottom line. As an example, cheap varnish may begin to peel off after a short time compared with a premium brand that flows on well and lasts much longer. Look for marine suppliers that issue wholesale accounts to boating-related businesses. These accounts allow you to purchase quality marine supplies for use in your business.

Identify needed services that you can easily provide in your local area. Offer to meet specific needs with custom designed service packages. Don’t take on new customers or add additional services unless you can do an excellent job in a timely fashion.

Hire competent and friendly staff. Recruit talented employees who take pride in their work, and pay them fairly. Encourage them to learn new skills and techniques. Povide interactive customer service training so the impression the staff makes is a favorable one.

Make your business stand out with creative promotional ideas:

Visit local marinas with a large stack of business cards and discount coupons. Park your vehicle in a prominent location to attract interest. Hand out your materials to owners of boats that need cosmetic work, and owners who appear bogged down in a tedious project.

Volunteer to conduct a boat maintenance seminar at a popular marine supply store. Offer an attendee discount to encourage boaters to try your service and a door prize to build your mailing list.

Create a mobile billboard out of your truck or van. Use a magnetic sign or colorful graphics to clearly list your services.

Freshen up your business. Resist the temptation to be happy with your current level of business. Perfect a new service that you can offer to existing customers, or search for new customers with an expanded service area.


Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.

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