A short chat with Kelly, founder of KellyBoat

Hey Kelly! Thanks for taking a few minutes to share a little about you! Tell us about your upbringing and connection to the water.

I was lucky enough to grow up in Cape Cod during the summers. Everyone in my neighborhood was connected to the ocean. Every weekend, family friends would come down to visit and we’d pick a destination for everyone to meet. It was a flotilla of boats! We would all swim to the beach and BBQ with good friends; I still have friends from that time in my life! All of my parent’s closest friends would visit us on the Cape. And anytime a house went up for sale? My parents would call those friends and encourage them to buy it. By the time I was 10, the community was very close. We all felt happiest on the sea.

I think boats remind us that we’re all part of something bigger. We’re all connected to each other and this earth through the ocean- it’s exciting yet calming and humbling.

Do you remember your first memory on the water?

I can’t pick a ‘first’; I have so many! I spent wonderful days with my brothers, visiting islands on a Whaler where we would go water skiing and tubing. We would also go lobster fishing together. I also enjoyed traveling with my family to Nantucket.

What is it about boats that speaks to you? How do they make you feel?

I think boating remind us that we’re all part of something bigger. We’re all connected to each other and this earth through the ocean- it’s exciting yet calming and humbling. I simply feel happiest on the water. Being surrounded by beautiful, gleaming water… it’s peaceful and centering. I like to think of it almost like mediation, soulful.

What is KellyBoat?

Before I started my company, the idea of booking an upscale and personal boating experience didn’t exist. So many people previously missed this essential experience of the sea when visiting Nantucket, while owners didn’t have an option to monetize their asset and keep their boat running in a safe way. KellyBoat solves these problems by making it easier for people to get people and boats on the water and genuinely enjoy it.

I love that Kelly Boat provides a way for boat owners to see their boat as an asset that provides return. A running boat is a happy boat!

How did the idea for KellyBoat come to life? How long has KellyBoat been in incubation?

We had a family friend, who was a boater, who came out to visit us in Nantucket. He wanted to do something “different” during his trip – to hire a boat for a picnic lunch and simply swim off the boat and relax. Unfortunately, I looked and looked but couldn’t find anything. Sure, there are clubs and small boats that don’t require a captain, but we couldn’t find a boat that met our expectations. It just didn’t exist here, but it should have, so I started speaking to individuals in the hospitality industry. Everyone I spoke with said that they would love their guests to have access to some boating experience like this. Then, I spoke to boat owners, explaining to them that there was demand for an experience on your type of boat.  My main concern was “what do I need to do to make certain boat owners feel comfortable?”

Owners expressed concern with existing models for several reasons. I wholeheartedly agree that a one size fits all insurance solution simply doesn’t work, and spent a long time trying to find a resolution. We ultimately decided we needed to find a dedicated partner to tailor coverage for each individual boat. It’s time consuming and arduous, but necessary and  has been such a differentiator and has allowed me to offer a higher level service than what was on market at the time. Taking all of these necessary precautions was the only way I felt comfortable. It’s my priority to make sure all the boats, owners and the guests are safe.

Robert Edward Shea – Entrepreneur and Father

Why was now the right time?

Digging into the void, it looked like a viable business immediately. The demand was there, but the right model didn’t exist. I also had the perfect background- a boater, a background in insurance and in law. It all came together perfectly. My father had recently passed and he was a lifelong entrepreneur. He and I had just wrapped up the last business we were working on, so I had time on my hands.  This felt like the right next step for me. It was truly serendipitous!

Tell us a little more about your father.

My father was an incredible person. He had a gift of making every person he met feel like the most interesting person in the world! He genuinely wanted to know people and the events going on in their lives. He was this incredible dot connector, and could see things almost instantly and clearly: he would listen to people’s problems and come up with a solution within seconds. I loved watching him problem solve. If I had just met him for the first time, I would have told people, “you know I just met the most interesting person”.

Having him as a father was a special gift. Then, working along side him was inspiring. He tapped into the entrepreneur spirit in me. I hope to live up to his example. He so enthusiastically took on new projects, he saw setbacks and bumps as learning experiences, and never gave up. He would do things others wouldn’t want to take on. Also, he instilled in me my love of the ocean and boats. My father was always the one to make sure we always had an opportunity to get out on the water and have some fun.

Tell us about life on Nantucket for those unfamiliar.

The beautiful thing about Nantucket is that it’s so many things- serene, exciting and historic. It is a hub of innovation. It’s peaceful and full of natural beauty. The island has done an incredible job of preserving the land via the land bank. Nantucket attracts people who love history, the sea, who surf, who want quality time with their family. I think all of these things are what also attracts people from all walks of life. Everyone shares the uniqueness of this special place!

You struggled with naming the company after yourself. How does it feel now?

It wasn’t my idea, I resisted it; but I think I’ve gotten used to the name. I still feel weird about it. In my mind it was never about me. This idea was about everyone else. About sharing the wonderful gift from my parents, and to provide a tool and asset for boat owners. I know how much it takes to own and be responsible for a boat; you worry about it, and sometimes it wears on you. I love that we provide a safe way for boat owners to engage their boat as an asset that provides return. A running boat is a happy boat! Providing a service to owners while allowing guests to experience these boats is such win win. This is the story.

Thanks Kelly!