The Business of Flyboard is a series of original monthly articles focused specifically on the issues, challenges and opportunities that Flyboard businesses around the world are facing, overcoming and embracing.
H2RO Magazine is excited to be working with Shawn Galiotto on this series and we hope that the information presented here will act as a great resource for the current and future Flyboard business community.
Founder, H2RO Magazine
Now let’s get down to the business of Flyboard!
Author: Shawn Galiotto of Lake Erie Flyboard
First, I would like to introduce myself and share a short side story about how I came to bring you this article. I am Shawn Galiotto owner/operator of Lake Erie Flyboard. We are located in beautiful Buffalo NY USA, and use the almighty Lake Erie as our flying grounds. We have been in business since August of 2013. We were introduced to flyboarding by the guys at Flyboard Carolina’s and knew instantly that we wanted this to be our life. We were trained by Northeast Flyboard in Vermont, and currently work with Enric from East Coast Flyboard for distribution.
Now many of you may be asking why I would be bringing you this article. There are surely some of you that have been operating a Flyboard business for a pretty decent amount of time, and because of that I hope to interview each and every one of you. I have been a part of small businesses all my life, as well as own and run several other businesses outside of flyboarding. I think that flyboarding presents us all with a very interesting opportunity in which we are all basically writing the script as far as how the next few months and years will play out. I think we all have a responsibility to share best practices and to respect each other’s territories. To try and work to create the USFBA, as well as the other associations for your country and region, and contribute to the effort’s that many are putting forth. I know that we have invested a lot of time and money and want to ensure that we follow all the rules while also preserving our investment.
That is what this series of articles is intended to do. This series will evolve over time to hopefully be the standard for what everyone wants, as far as protocols in setting up and running their company. It also gives all of you a voice to speak your mind on the issues that face us as not only business owners but also as part of this unique new entrepreneurial opportunity that we are all now part of. I welcome all of you to contact me, Shawn, at email@example.com to contribute to this article if you have any questions. I also welcome any of you to contact me if you would like to be interviewed and possibly included in an upcoming Business of Flyboard article. I also encourage anyone in the Buffalo area at any time to come fly with us!!
Now, for this first article I reached out to pro flyboarder, 3rd in the world, Ben Merrell. I asked Ben a series of questions which I want to thank him for answering open and honestly. Thanks Ben for your time. I did not want to take any time away from those sick backside dolphin dives. Large and in charge for sure! I hope the questions along with Ben’s answers help you all and hope to see you here next.
1. YOUR NAME AND NAME OF YOUR COMPANY
Ben Merrell – Power Up Watersports
2. GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION
3. HOW DID YOU AND YOUR COMPANY GET INTO FLYBOARDING
I saw Franky’s first video and thought we have to have that here in Destin. It was January 2012 and I just started making calls, got in touch with Flyboard Inc. down in South Florida and bought the first board sold in the states.
4. HOW LONG IS YOUR SEASON.WHAT IS YOUR RENTAL SCHEDULE.DO YOU DISTRIBUTE FLYBOARD’S.
Our season is from March until October, with the main business coming from between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We rent Flyboards year round and we are the dealer for our area.
5. WHAT IS THE COST OF AN HOUR RENTAL WITH YOUR COMPANY AND DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS PRICE IS COMPETITIVE COMPARED TO OTHER TYPES OF ATTRACTIONS IN YOUR AREA. DO YOU FEEL THAT THEY ARE COMPETITIVE FOR THE FLYBOARDING COMMUNITY? DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE SHOULD BE A UNIVERSAL PRICE STRUCTURE?
We charge $250 for one hour but this hour can be split up between 2 to 3 people. Our most popular flight is 20 minutes for $100. We feel that is not only a good time frame for a first flight but also a better price point for our customers.
6. WHAT IS YOUR MODEL FOR DAY TO DAY OPERATIONS DO YOU USE A FIXED LOCATION OR DO YOU TRAVEL.
We have a fixed location so we are able to keep our wave runners on a ramp in the water and our Flyboards locked up in an office.
7. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE NEXT 12 MONTHS WILL BRING IN THE ASPECT OF MORE PEOPLE DISCOVERING FLYBOARDING, THIS BEING FROM THE RENTAL PERSPECTIVE? DO YOU THINK YOUR OVERALL RENTALS WILL INCREASE, DECREASE OR STAY THE SAME.
I believe Flyboard is still much “unknown” and everyday people are finding out about it. It’s one of those things people either love it or their scared of it and want nothing to do with it. But the more people that find out about it, the more rentals we’ll do. I am projecting to have a great increase in rentals this year.
8. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COMPETITION IN YOUR AREA? IS THERE ANY? DO YOU KNOW WHERE THE NEXT CLOSEST PLACE TO FLYBOARD IS AND DOES THIS AT ALL AFFECT YOUR BUSINESS.
I believe competition breeds excellence. We not only have another Flyboard rental within a mile of our location, we also have a Jetlev and a Jetovator rental in the same area. I’ve reached out to every single one of these businesses to try to work together. In my area, I believe there’s plenty of potential customers and we just try to offer the best possible experience.
9. WHAT IS YOUR OPINON ON THE WAY RIGHTS ARE GIVEN OUT. WHAT DO YOU FEEL CAN BE DONE TO ASSURE THAT EVERYONE WHO HAS INVESTED CAN FEEL SAFE THAT THEY OWN THE RIGHTS TO THAT PARTICULAR AREA?
Flyboard is a new company, it’s a new product and there’s obviously going to be some growing pains. If everybody works together and allows room for understanding I believe all the kinks can be worked out and the business structure will get stronger.
10. ASIDE FROM THE SPORT ASPECT, DO YOU FEEL THAT THERE ARE OTHER USES THAT A FLYBOARD CAN BE APPLIED TOO? THE BEST EXAMPLE I HAVE HEARD IS LARGE SHIP CLEANING MACHINE (ex. Fly up next to ship and scrub)
No, I think you are better off buying a $1000 pressure washer. Flyboard, to me is 100% sport.
11. WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP, IN YOUR OPINION, THAT HAS TO HAPPEN IN ORDER FOR THE FLYBOARD TO BECOME MORE MAINSTREAM?
I believe something that would help the Flyboard break through would be some kind of National or World stage but I know Franky Zapata is always pushing forward for that.
12. DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THERE IS AN AFTERMARKET OPPORTUNITY HERE FOR PEOPLE TO CREATE ADDITIONS TO THE FLYBOARD AS WELL AS PRODUCTS SPECIFICALLY FOR FLYBOARDING? DO YOU KNOW OF ANYONE CURRENTLY PRODUCING AFTERMARKET PRODUCT’S?
Absolutely. I think this is one of the best things about Flyboard. I believe it is an incredible product but when a thousand brains start introducing ideas we’re bound to see things that offer different options, that may be better for some.
13. IF YOU COULD MAKE ONE CHANGE TO THE FLYBOARD, IF ANY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Detachable floats/stands. That way you have the ability to replace them.
14. HOW MANY MACHINES DO YOU RUN DURING YOUR RENTAL SEASON? DO YOU PLAN ON EXPANDING YOUR BUSINESS AND ADDING ANY FUTHER MACHINES?
We currently have two Flyboard machines. At this time we don’t think it’s necessary to add any as we can accommodate 20+ people a day.
15. OVERALL WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE ONE THING THAT YOU OFFER THAT MAYBE IS UNIQUE TO YOUR COMPANY? DO YOU FEEL THAT THIS WOULD WORK UNIVERSALLY FOR ALL IN THE RENTAL SPACE AND ARE YOU WILLING TO SHARE THAT?
We really just focus on the customer experience. I offer a go pro that they can wear, if they want me to hold it, I hold it. If they want their family to be able to take pictures from the dock, we make sure we accommodate to give them the best possible angle. Sometimes they want to see a little show, so we’re happy to go up and perform. We just really try to make it all about them, and it works out. I’ve probably become friends on Facebook with at least half my flyers.
16. HAS THERE BEEN ANY COMPANY THAT YOU HAVE SEEN THAT YOU THOUGHT, “WOW WE NEED TO DO IT THAT WAY. IF YES, WHY?
The only thing that stands out here, was watching Jordan Wayment teach the media guys how to fly at the World Cup. I pride myself on being a great teacher but the way he offered up some basic tips to the first time flyers made me think “That’s a really good way to explain that”.
17.WHAT, IF ANYTHING ARE YOU LOOKING TO DO TO GENERATE MORE INTEREST IN YOUR COMPANY AND FLYBOARDING IN GENERAL?
It seems like a simple answer but one of my main plans is to fly more. I fly in parades, boat shows, and at events on the water… Anything I can do to bring exposure to the sport. If we’re flying we also have people handing out cards or maybe a booth with a video. You just have to get out there and let people see it.
18. WHAT AS A WHOLE COMMUNITY SHOULD WE ALL DO IN ORDER TO BE MORE UNIFORM WITH RESPECT TO THE RENTAL BUSINESS?
I know the Vance’s have been working hard on forming an organization for Flyboard North America and one of the best things, I’ve heard mentioned is a training guideline. I don’t think we should stifle any companies creativity as far as teaching but there should be a foundation of safety that we all start at.
19. SOMEONE DISCOVERING FLYBOARDING FOR THE FIRST TIME MIGHT SAY WHAT WE ALL DID AND THINK “I WANT TO DO THIS TOO.” WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM WHEN TRYING TO BRING FLYBOARDING TO THEIR AREA?
Most importantly to do their research and make sure their area can provide a strong market for rentals. For me tourist are key because there’s always a fresh new crowd that hasn’t tried it. So I would tell them to really know that they could have a long term market before investing but there’s no reason why they couldn’t own one personally.
20. WITH THE NUMBER OF RENTAL COMPANY’S IN NORTH AMERICA, AND THE WORLD OVERALL BEING VERY SMALL, DO YOU ANTICIPATE A RUSH OF COMPANIES OPENING AND IF SO WHAT TIME FRAME WOULD YOU SAY BEFORE EVERY LAKE HAS A FLYBOARD ON IT?
I really don’t. It takes a certain type of person to want to own a business and to be able to keep it open. Flyboard is a very unique ingredient that a lot of people seem to shy away from. Most of us in the Flyboard world don’t understand that because we see it a different way. I have no doubt Flyboard will continue to grow and maybe eventually be everywhere but I don’t see it happening as a rush in the next couple of years.
21. WHAT IS THE ONE THING THAT EVERY CUSTOMER JUST LOVES ABOUT YOUR COMPANY AND FLYBOARDING IN GENERAL?
I think we have something special with the way we interact with our customers. It is very important to me to offer a safe but exciting experience. In the past, I’ve signed up for these “thrill rides” only to find out that some limitations have watered it down equivalent to a “kiddie” ride. I put it in the customer’s hands. It’s my job to keep them safe so if they want to try a trick or go a little higher they have to display the skill sets required. This is awesome for them because they’re always flying at their highest potential so it never feels like I’m holding them back.
22. IF YOU COULD OWN A COMPANY ANYWHERE BUT WHERE YOU ARE, WHERE WOULD YOU GO?
Cozumel, Mexico: It’s a beautiful place for Flyboarding but unfortunately there’s already a great company there!
23. DO YOU LIKE SOME OF THE NEW PRODUCTS FOR 2014 AND WHICH ONE DO YOU FEEL WILL BE THE BEST ADVANCEMENT OVER THE PREVIOUS VERSION?
I’ve heard a lot of talk about a wireless EMK and I am definitely interested to see how that works.
I want to thank Ben for putting in the time to answer these questions for H2RO Magazine. I think from this first installment of questions we can see that there is a huge future ahead for all of us. Ben is surely one of our community members trying to lead the way. Like he points out, with the collective minds all working together, anything is possible.
In closing, I know that most of us right now are staring out our windows at snow but the season is almost upon us. So while you are all out at your local boat shows preaching the non-stop excitement that is Flyboarding, please be sure to make safety your number one point. Make sure that we all constantly reiterate that helmets and life jackets are worn, and that we use certified instructors. Of course follow the rules of your region and let’s all hope for a quick thaw. Until next time folks…..go get HIGH, Flyboard HIGH!!
Check out Ben Merrell and PowerUp Watersports during their Flyboard demo at the Gulf Coast Yacht & Boat Show.