Cousins learn the ropes of new boat cleaning business

Alex Daamen, left, and Eric McDonald, owners of Oar & Anchor boat cleaning services Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Eric McDonald and Alex Daamen say the success of their new business literally lies in the details.

The two Sarnia men launched Oar & Anchor boat cleaning services this spring and detailing is a big part of what they do.

“We did a ton of research before we got started,” said McDonald, 26, who also manages a local fitness centre.

He and Daamen, 24, are cousins and came up with the business concept while hanging out on the water one day.

“Alex and I spend a lot of time spit-balling about businesses we want to do,” said McDonald.  “We were out paddle boarding and thinking about how much we like boating and being around the water.

“That was the inspiration for Oar & Anchor.”

Last winter the cousins decided to get serious about their idea and called Fraser Parry, a senior business consultant at the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership.

“Fraser helped us move our idea along quickly,” said Daamen. “He talked to us about registering the name, buying a domain and marketing.

“We picked up a lot of knowledge that’s going to stay with us.”

From the beginning, the two decided they would do all the design work themselves before launching Oar & Anchor. Rather than outsource development of a logo, brochures, business cards and a website, they taught themselves how and produced their own.

“That took a lot of time but it saved thousands of dollars,” said McDonald.

They made the effort to cold-call numerous boat cleaning businesses all over North America to ask for tips about the best cleaning products and the ideal business model.

They also contacted Dave Brown, operator of the Andrew S. Brandt Marina (formerly Sarnia Bay) and Bridgeview Marina, who gave them the opportunity to be the marinas’ exclusive boat detailers.

About 1,200 boats can be accommodated between the two local marinas, offering plenty of opportunity for McDonald and Daamen.

A boat sales business that serves the area from Grand Bend to Port Lambton has also hired Oar & Anchor as marine detailers.

“Our aim is to service these people well and look to expand next year,” said McDonald.

A chilly spring created a slow start to this boating season but customers are calling regularly now, he said.  Some are making long-term commitments to get their boats cleaned inside and out on a regular basis. Others want one-time detailing for the season.

Oar & Anchor charges $30 – $40 an hour, depending on the complexity of the job.  Each customer receives a quote prior to the work.

Two part-time employees are already on board and McDonald and Daamen hope to hire more as the summer progresses.

Beyond cleaning, Oar & Anchor also offers limited shopping service to boaters.

For more information, visit www.oarandanchor.ca, call 519-328-3622 or email oarandanchorca@gmail.com.

Got a great idea for a business story? Contact cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca.