September 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of Boatshed.com with 20,000 reasons to keep growing after its first 20 years of success.

Back in 1999, while many of us might have been strutting our stuff to Britney Spears, munching popcorn while watching Notting Hill – or simply going into meltdown in fear of the impending Millennium Bug – something quite extraordinary was happening in a quiet corner of Milford Haven Marina.

With the experience of a dramatic air-sea rescue from a Force 10 storm in the Bay of Biscay the previous year, a passion for sailing was turning into a lifestyle as Boatshed.com opened its first brokerage office.

But for husband and wife team Neil and Mandy Chapman, little did they know at the time just how much their business idea was going to revolutionize the yacht brokerage industry.

Twenty years on – and more than 20,000 boat sales later – the Boatshed story is one of remarkable success and achievement.

True entrepreneurship takes the helm

Co-founder, Mandy Chapman, vividly remembers the early days – for all the wrong reasons. ‘We didn’t sell a single boat in our first six months and I was using my skills as a former graphic designer to build the website and to work on boat upholstery in the office to make ends meet,’ recalls Mandy.

‘And as we were using a film camera to take photos of the boats we were trying to sell, I was forever back and forth to the local chemists to get the films developed. It was costing us a small fortune,’ added Mandy.

‘We economized by staying on board our Rebel 41 yacht ‘Supertaff’, but our hard work and perseverance was soon to pay off. In our second six months we sold 118 boats and we purchased our first digital camera!’

So what was behind this impressive turnaround in sales? Co Founder of Boatshed.com, Neil Chapman, believes there were two key factors that influenced how Boatshed.com would flourish.

‘As a start-up, we were living on the cusp of the digital age as far as yacht brokerage was concerned,’ explained Neil. ‘We saw an opportunity to seize the developing technologies and integrate them into a business model that could be rolled out on a global basis.

‘At the heart of this,’ added Neil, ‘was the need to transform how buyers and sellers of boats could come together in a process that was faster, easier and more fulfilling in every aspect of the purchase and sale of a boat.’

Going for global coverage with local presence

Totally convinced about the potential of Boatshed.com, Neil and Mandy set about building an international team to provide the local presence and knowledge that was to be paramount in supporting the intuitive digital technologies that set the business apart from others in the industry.

Boatshed offices in Ireland and Gibraltar formed the early part of the expansion plans – but it was in 2005 that the Boatshed brand started to gain media exposure.

Never one to miss an opportunity for publicity, ‘Supertaff’ and her crew led the Sail 8 flotilla to France and back to help create awareness for Bob Geldof’s Live 8 bid to get world leaders to tackle poverty at the forthcoming G8 Summit in Gleneagles.

“Hey Neil. It’s Bob. You guys have done a great job,” Bob who, thought Neil, as he took the call while awaiting clearance for the flotilla to enter Portsmouth Harbour. The conversation resumed some nine hours later as the Boatshed crew was invited backstage at Murrayfield where the Live 8 concert was being staged.

The Boatshed name took to the water again in 2005 with the sponsorship of an Offshore 225hp powerboat, while on dry land more brokerage offices were opening their doors in Portsmouth, the Hamble, the Algarve and Spain.

It was also the year in which Boatshed purchased the Grade II listed Engine House at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport. With refurbishment to follow, this was to become the international headquarters for the Boatshed.com organization.

Rolling out the formula for success

The next five years saw continued growth with a new office in Cowes, expansion into the USA and Asia, and the introduction of Boatshed Performance to cater for the niche market of racing yachts.

By September 2006, more than 100,000 registered users had signed up to Boatshed.com – progress recognized with a Top 10 Award for its industry website ranking and a Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Boating Business exhibition in 2007.

‘The first 10 years of Boatshed.com exceeded all our expectations,’ says Neil Chapman.

From selling 118 boats in our first year to achieving 124 boat sales in a single month in 2009 is quite phenomenal. But none of this could have been achieved without the enthusiasm and work ethic of the amazing team of people who have made Boatshed.com what it is today.’

Fast-forward to 2019 – and Boatshed.com is now firmly established and respected as one of the world’s largest international yacht brokers. With representation through more than 70 offices in 16 countries, award winning technologies and 880,000 registered users, Neil, Mandy and the HQ team are relishing the challenges of the next 20 years.

‘We never forget that our customers are the most important part of our business,’ added Mandy.

‘Boatshed’s high level of local customer service has to fit and interconnect with national and international customer and brokerage requirements. And it’s this fusion of local and international, traditional and modern that makes the essence of what Boatshed is all about.’