By Gary Hotze
The idea of quitting your day job to sail around the world, guided only by a compass and the wistful winds, sounds like a day dream for most. But not for John Foley. The jet-setting corporate executive is turning that dream into a reality -- and a business. Foley and his fiancé, Eryn Reaume, are launching a chartered cruise company that will whisk guests to exotic ports around the world, with itineraries timed around major music festivals in exotic destinations such as Ibiza and Turks and Caicos.
The business name, Neverland Cruises -- along with its matching domain, www.Neverland.cruises -- immediately evokes the youthful freedom of Peter Pan’s Neverland, the fanciful setting where the carefree days of one's childhood last forever.
It's a name that captures the spirit Foley hopes to showcase for his sailing clients, the same way it does his own personality. Foley's nickname, after all, is Peter Pan.
‘Peter Pan’ launches a business
A self-described dreamer, Foley admits that the kid inside him refuses to fully grow up. Even though he’s built a very successful career as a global telecom executive, his family and friends chide him repeatedly about his “Peter Pan” approach to life.
“I’ve always been extremely optimistic, happy-go-lucky, spontaneous personality,” he says. “I’m constantly seeking adventure and trying to recruit people to join me in all kinds of shenanigans, fun and revelry.”
The boy inside the man came to a head when Foley turned 40 in the summer of 2015. He organized a chartered sailing trip in Turkey with friends to celebrate. Four years prior, while on a trip in Thailand, Foley had first discovered a passion for sailing when he and a friend rented a small catamaran on a whim. His love for sailing caught wind that day in Thailand and hasn't stopped.
“I was just talking about it all at work with my boss,” Foley recalls. “He asked me that now that I was turning 40 if I was going to give up the Peter Pan routine.”
His supervisor's remark -- that his playfulness was a "routine" -- stung Foley. So much so that later that evening, he talked about it with Reaume. Two weeks later, she convinced Foley to fuse his "Peter Pan" persona with his love for commanding the open waters. She told him to create a chartered sailing business.
For her, the name for it was obvious: Neverland.
“It just popped into my head and I said it and he’s like, ‘That’s perfect!’” Reaume says.
They would use Foley's “Peter Pan” persona to build a business that operates upscale charter sailing tours timed with music festivals around the globe. The couple spent the next nine months planning their first Neverland charter cruise. It will be in Ibiza, Spain, coinciding with its famous music parties from May 21 to June 4. This itinerary will serve as a blueprint for future charters around the world.
Finding Neverland – and the perfect domain
As they began mapping out the business and designing additional itineraries, they were quick in choosing the company domain name: www.neverland.cruises.
“I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want a ‘dot-com’,” says Reaume of their strategy in selecting a URL for their startup venture. “So we just started scrolling through domain names.”
When the couple “stumbled” upon Neverland.cruises, it immediately made perfect sense. Their business, after all, is in the cruise industry.
“I love our not-com, Neverland.cruises,” says Reaume. “The ability to create a brand or create a sentence through your URL is awesome.” The ‘dot-cruises’ (.cruises) extension is just one of the hundreds of new options available for businesses to brand themselves digitally. Other travel-specific options include ‘dot-vacations’ (.vacations), ‘dot-flights’ (.flights) and ‘dot-tours (.tours).
“I think using a ‘not-com’ definitely says a lot about your brand and business if you are up on current tech trends,” Reaume says.
Landlocked lovers with a global plan
The pair currently calls Denver, Colo., home. It’s a place known for skiing and hiking, a funny thought considering that the couple's startup venture will soon be launching them across oceans.
Foley has been based in the Mile High City for more than a decade, there as an telecoms executive he has honed his business acumen navigating a dynamic and challenging industry. Though the experience has drained him, the hard lessons he's learned from his career will suit him well building a startup chartered cruise business from the water up. He met Reaume, a writer and digital marketing consultant, through a friend over Facebook. A month after their first date, she moved into his home.
“It was just this instant connection and whirlwind happenstance that we met and everything just clicked with our future plans,” Reaume says of the romance that led to full-time partnership. “I wanted to find a travel partner with which I could travel the world, explore and continue building a career,” Reaume says.
She certainly found it in Foley. They're considering charters to destinations for music festivals such as BPM in Mexico and Sonar in Spain. The pair is also in the process of having a boat of their own built from scratch. A factory in Aigrefeuille-d’Aunis, near the west coast of France, is constructing a 50-foot catamaran. It will then be delivered to Ft. Lauderdale in July 2016, where it will undergo further customization, including an upgraded sound system.
By October, the Neverland catamaran plans to make its way to St. Thomas— just in time for the beginning of the charter season in the Virgin Islands. The company's planned charter trips for the fall will cover all of the Virgin Islands.
The charters will be marketed to the musical community at-large through the Neverland.cruises website. The idea is to ultimately grow their clientele in the Caribbean, as they plan to keep their boat’s home base in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Within three years, they aim to offer up to 20 charters from November to April in the Caribbean. They also want to personally host two or three rented charters around the world each year.
The couple is in the very early stages of what many might dismiss as a fanciful dream. Sure, they share a great deal of risk and uncertainty, as most startups do. But they're leaping out of their dream and into reality. They're building a business to live out their Peter Pan fantasies – and taking the rest of us along for the ride.
Learn more about this business by visiting www.neverland.cruises.