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Jerry van Driel-Vis

Mooloolaba, SEQ

By their own admission, the owners of Sunshine Coast Afloat were in many ways naïve when they started out in small business. It has been a steep learning curve for owners Jerry and Paddy van Driel-Vis, with some hard lessons learned but, by bringing new services to market, the business has thrived.

Hi, my name is Jerry Van Driel-Vis, I run Sunshine Coast Afloat and we operate from Mooloolaba.

In one sentence, my business is marine activities and that varies from out on the ocean, rivers, canals, estuaries. The best way to learn about our line of work I suppose is to have a passion for the marine, the boating industry, that's how we came into it. We came from a corporate background, had no real experience in that but had a love for boating.

There's a number of grants out there and I think that anybody in small business needs to be aware of those. We've had the mentoring programs which both my wife and I have done so support from the Queensland Government, its huge, it makes a massive difference particularly for small businesses.

The Sunshine Coast in general to me, is a very unique place. We lived near the Gold Coast for quite a number of years before we moved to Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast has just got a totally different feel. There's always something to look at and something to enjoy and that's the thing that I really love about it.

When Jerry and Paddy, owners of Sunshine Coast Afloat, left corporate jobs in Melbourne and relocated to the Sunshine Coast to reunite with family, they knew a complete change of direction was required to embrace the move. Looking back, they realise how naïve they were when they purchased a charter fishing boat business in October 2011. Two months later, during Christmas, their skipper walked away with 20 years' worth of fishing spots on their boat's navigation system. It was their busiest time of the year and stranded their recreational fishing business. A year later, their boat was rammed by a large yacht, punching a hole in their vessel and setting off the fire suppression unit.

Diversifying their services was identified early on as a key to success, so the business purchased 1 of only 3 fully-enclosed jet boats in Australia. Months after launching in 2014 there was an electrical fire on board and with mechanical and insurance issues the vessel was out of the water for 9 months. Despite these setbacks, Jerry and Paddy have finally found success. Their fully enclosed ocean jet boat ride is now a unique attraction on the Sunshine Coast. The company's fishing vessel was refurbished to offer whale watching, ashes scattering and group cruises. Another smaller vessel was added to the fleet, so Sunshine Coast Afloat can offer intimate cruises for 2 or 3 people. This allows the company to offer a service catering to small, medium and large groups. Guided kayaking fishing tours were also added to the company's service offerings.

Product diversification has been a key driver of success for Sunshine Coast Afloat, but it has been their exceptional customer service that has underpinned their growth. Sunshine Coast Afloat’s focus remains on providing their guests with a more intimate, personal and informative experience than they can find elsewhere.

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