By dthompson ~ January 28th, 2013. Filed under: Current Issue.
Betty De Varona, Principal
Along with husband Frank De Varona,
make an energetic duo that serves clients with
style and flair in busy South Florida market
By Doug Thompson
Oftentimes the best businesses are born out of simply connecting the dots. After 20 years of sales and marketing for BellSouth and several boating dealerships, Betty De Varona took a good look at the yacht sales and brokerage industry and said to herself, “I can do this!”
Betty didn’t have far to look. Her husband, Frank, a dive master and captain with 100-ton license, was working as a yacht broker for several established companies. Together, they founded Yachting Experts in 2009, and created a yacht sales and brokerage company in Coconut Grove that offers flair and philanthropy backed by excellent customer service and an extensive knowledge of the marine industry.
Both Betty and Frank love boating and spent plenty of time on the water before founding the company. Now with their bilingual backgrounds (both Betty and Frank are fluent in English and Spanish) they serve clients worldwide and are especially adept at serving the Latin American market. In addition, the 12-person sales staff (which includes people from Columbia, Panama and Venezuela) at Yachting Experts includes a sales person that speaks Portuguese, offering the ability to handle clients from most of South America.
Southern Boating interviewed Betty about how Yachting Experts has grown since 2009, as well as what philanthropic projects the company participates in and how the De Varona family (Betty, Frank and their three children) enjoy time on the water.
SB: How has the yacht/boating market changed since you opened Yachting Experts in 2009?
BD: When we opened Yachting Experts we were still amidst the flurry of Latin American buyers taking advantage of the financial downturn in the United States and purchasing vessels. Our most recent analysis of the demographic composition of our buyers demonstrates that although Latin American yachtsmen still represent 50 percent of our buyers, we are finding an upswing in foreign nationals purchasing boats to keep them in Florida as well as the local “Miamian” getting back in.
SB: What unique skills does each of you have that make you Yachting Experts?
BD: I feel we understand our consumer, how they boat, their consumer behaviors, the idiosyncrasies that define them. But most importantly, we are honest when we approach a product. We take the time to understand what motivates them to purchase (vanity, value, family, fishing). Our multi-lingual/multi-faceted team comes from different boating backgrounds and territories, with the ability to not only consult regarding their buying needs, but also navigate them throughout their ownership experience.
SB: After your client buys a boat, how do you help them enjoy their new toy more?
BD: First, we offer a dedicated service concierge that facilitates their every need from washes to maintenance. We coordinate various local boating events, and keep them informed of additional events that we sponsor and support through our bi-monthly newsletter Expert Eyes. We take into consideration that yachting is not only the ownership of a yacht or pleasure vessel, but also a lifestyle.
We organize additional events throughout the year including our Boat Show VIP events, “docktail” events, and our Annual Owner’s dinner, where they have the opportunity to socialize and network with other boat owners in order to enjoy the lifestyle called yachting.
SB: What charity work does Yachting Experts participate in?
BD: At Yachting Experts, we acknowledge that without our community we would be nothing, and consistently work with charities in our area. Frank, while on the Florida Yacht Brokers Association board, decided it was important to create an event around the Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show that helps a non-profit. That’s where the “Annual Boat Show Kickoff Party”, benefiting Shake-a-Leg Miami came about three years ago. Our relationship with Shake-a-Leg Miami dates back over 10 years. This is an organization that is motivated to find support and healing by putting socially and physically disadvantaged individuals ion the water.
Additionally, I am involved with Holtz Children’s Hospital as a Guardian Angel, and sit on its annual luncheon committee. The Guardian Angels help raise much-needed funds to make improvements on Miami’s secret gem, Jackson Memorial’s Children’s Hospital.
As a team, we do the Annual St. Jude’s Walk for the Children, support Dan Marino’s Autism Walk and many other less high-profile charities.
SB: Do you own a boat? Where do you enjoy boating and what do you do on the water?
BD: Unfortunately, since 2008 after the birth of our youngest child Zoe, we have been talking about purchasing a boat again, but time is simply not on our side. Raising three kids and starting a business in a turbulent time has made us prioritize our life. We still go boating with our friends, occasionally going out in the Florida Keys, Biscayne Bay, fishing tournaments, fishing abroad and of course, The Bahamas. As a family, we love to fish! Our son Sebastian has a love for fishing that started when he was a little one pulling bait from the bait well and kissing it. Now he loves it when we can head to the creek for some peacock bass fishing. Yes, there are creeks in South Florida!
We do have a Riviera 445 SUV in stock that we use to promote the brand. Although it is not a personally-owned vessel, we use as it as a family to demonstrate the boating lifestyle.
Until you meet us personally you won’t understand the dynamics of our organization. Often referred to as “The Dynamic Duo,” or the “The One-Two Punch,” Frank and I have a very unique style in how we sell, and insist that our sales team take the same sales approach. Our customers 9.9 times out of 10 become family, and years later they still own the same boat we sold them 10 years ago. They invite us to family gatherings and anniversaries. We are an extension of their family and they, of course, of ours. Without our customer base, Frank would be a salesman and I would be a marketing person but to them, we are “Yachting Experts.”