Capt. Nitzan Levy was born in the U.S. and grew up along Israel’s Mediterranean Coast, where she developed a lifelong passion for the sea and water sports. The daughter of entrepreneurs, she has become an accomplished entrepreneur in her own right, having started two ventures in the retail and e-commerce fields. Supporting the community has long been an interest of Ms. Levy’s and she’s been involved with a variety of community initiatives both in New York and in Israel.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I saw a business opportunity upon my arrival to New York in 2009. While looking for recreational community sailing opportunities in the city, online searches yielded very limited sailing options. I only found seasonal day sailing on 24′ boats or pricy fractional ownership on larger boats.
Unable to find what I was looking for, I decided to establish a sailors’ club that would provide cost-effective, easy access to year-round activities on a fleet of medium sized (25′-40′) sailing vessels. The business started as a Meetup group in November 2012 and opened its first on-water season on May 2013.
Tell us about your business.
Sailors NYC offers sailors in the New York Metro Area an unparalleled opportunity to enjoy recreational sailing on medium size vessels (25′+) in a friendly club environment. We are a leading recreational sailors club supported by our members, partners and the New York/New Jersey sailing communities.
Sailors NYC provides recreational sailing to sailors – both boat and non-boat owners. The club’s boats are docked at Liberty Harbor Marina in Jersey City, NJ. To create a true club environment, we provide a variety of programs for all levels of sailors, including: cruising, racing, organized boating events, as well as social events and educational programs.
The club is a warm and welcoming community for sailors at all levels to improve their skills and enjoy the camaraderie and companionship of other members. All vessels have galleys, bathrooms, and coolers so members can host guests and take weekend trips in comfort.
Sailors NYC also offers a variety of sailing vacations in spectacular settings throughout the world. Classes, a Meetup group, and other social events are held for members and their guests year-round.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
LadyBossBlogger readers can get 50% off a 2-hour introductory hands-on sailing lesson using promocode: LADYBOSS. To purchase and schedule your lesson click here. The promocode is valid to purchase through 5/31/2018 and can be used for bookings through 7/31/2018 only.
- Captain Nitzan Levy is a S. Coast Guard Licensed Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessel (6-Pack)
- NauticEd Certified instructor for Bareboat Charter Master
- Israeli licensed skipper on Boat for International Voyages on boats up to 24m and 100T
- On September 9, 2017 Capt. Nitzan Levy received the 9/11 Memorial Oak Award of the Spirit Rider Regatta – awarded to a skipper/crew who displays a spirit of camaraderie and unity (You can learn more about it here).
Where is your business based?
Liberty Harbor Marina, 11 Marin Boulevard in Jersey City, NJ. We mostly sail in New York Harbor.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
- I purchased a domain name.
- I decided not to look for a full time job after getting laid off my previous job, so I could be fully committed to my new business.
- My initial assumption was that there were not any businesses in New York doing what I was looking for, so I started by doing extensive research to see whether I was right. (I was!) I also sought to understand why this business did not exist yet and why there was a gap in the market for this kind of service here.
- I started the Sailors NYC Meetup Group to start finding like-minded people and potential customers.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
- Social media: LinkedIn, Facebook, and Meetup have all been very helpful.
- Networking: conferences, boat shows, events, befriending sailors and meeting their friends
- Running deals on deal sites such as: Groupon, Travelzoo, Living Social, and getting noticed by larger local audiences.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Boat handling was a big challenge. I was an amateur sailor with very limited sailing and boat handling experience when I first launched the business. I was a member of a similar club in Israel, where the club took care of the boats for us. I underestimated how much work it would be to properly maintain 2 boats.
How did you overcome these challenges?
At first I hired professionals who I trusted would fill in the gap of my inexperience. Since I was inexperienced, I did not necessarily hire the right men for the job. (This industry is still dominated by men). I made a point of watching them, learning from them as well as researching online solutions that were proposed by them.
About 2 years into the business I took the reins and now I’m a lot more confident in running our club fleet and making the right decisions. At this point I am ready to let go of these reins again to someone who I would train and work closely with to run our fleet.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I go sailing and remember what this is all about. It might sound cliche, but something in the flow of the water puts me back in balance and brings back my motivation to move on. Like the water. Like the nature. Like the universe.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Our club is catering to people who look to sail for leisure. It’s not about sailing fast (thought we did start a racing program). It’s rather about enjoying a laid back sail after a stressful day or week at work with good company, friends, and family. For us it’s all about the people who build the community.
We make an effort to make things personal, not only by knowing our members by name, but also by keeping an unofficial “record” of their activity with us, their sailing skills and creating new sailing and life experiences with them. We see value in staying in touch outside of the sailing season.
We also take our members’ and clients’ feedback seriously and make pretty fast adjustments to accommodate their needs and enhance their membership experience.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
Rest. Take a break from a non-stop overworking schedule and take a moment to take a deep breath and reflect on the past 5 years’ experiences and lessons learned. Make room to bring in more good energies.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Be consistent and persistent. Bring your own self to the table and don’t forget who you are and what life you deserve to live.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I am in love with my laptop! I wouldn’t be able to run my business without it. I don’t follow many specific websites or blogs. I rather get my ideas and inspirations through stories shared by my Facebook friends. I guess it’s consistent with my power of community philosophy – I am appreciative of what my community has to share with me and happy to give back by sharing my own.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am finally in a place where I am ready to give away some of my responsibilities, specifically those I felt I was doing without much effort, not realizing that those are the responsibilities that tend to consume me the most and don’t let me master other tasks or simply do more in other aspects of my business. I am in the process of hiring a marketing intern who I plan to train to take over the marketing of the business.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
I plan to invest more on marketing to the Jersey City audience by reaching out to them personally through trade shows, street fairs, events we host or sponsor etc. My main objective is to grow our membership base which will help stabilize our community and our financials.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @sailorsnyc, @nitzantzan
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Hashtags #sailorsnyc #seeyouatsea #sailingwithgoodcompany