Recession lesson sets a new course for entrepreneur

NEW BUSINESS Dave Hawkins
NEW BUSINESS Dave Hawkins

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THE recession was not kind to Dave Hawkins.

The business he set up while a student at the University of Portsmouth, a leisure boat cleaning service, fell victim to the belt-tightening of those who could no longer afford their luxury craft.

But three years later Dave, 25, has started a second venture, again in the yachting industry.

This time it’s an internet-based one-stop shop for owners who live away from the coast, but who need to access services from marine firms.

‘These people are cash-rich but time-poor,’ said Dave.

‘They manage what they do with their boat from their computers, because the majority of boat owners are based in London.

‘We’ve launched a “price comparison” website for boat services.’

It’s called boatcarecompare.com.

The business has taken Dave and his partner Stewart Holland a year to develop.

And rather than being the same as other comparison websites such as Go Compare, their service has to be a bit different.

Dave said: ‘The difference is that boat owners need all their services to be bespoke.

‘We take customers through the entire process, as well as the suppliers.

‘The customer posts their job and it gets sent out to suppliers in their area.

‘The supplier is invited to quote and the customer can hire them on the website.

‘We’ll take care of it from then onwards.’

Dave said he learned lessons from when his first business, boat maintenance firm Boat Care UK, folded.

He had the idea for the firm while at university, and won an enterprise award for it.

The university helped him set it up and it became so successful that he ended up not completing his degree in order to focus on it.

‘If anything, that first business was the learning curve and it’ll help me make this one a success,’ he said.

‘The business had been a success and we were working pretty much from Brighton to Poole, based in the Technopole in Portsmouth.

‘We got hit pretty early by the recession. Every time a boat changed hands we’d clean it, but boats just weren’t changing hands.’

Dave spent time working in marketing, before raising the money privately launching the new website.

‘It’s going quite well so far,’ he said.

‘We’ve got a lot of big suppliers on board and a nice mix of medium and smaller companies – we’re signing up suppliers every day.

‘It will be good news for them too.’