Most people think of summer as the season of vacations, a chance to get away from the office. But for Matt Carrick ’98, the warm-weather months are “go time.” Carrick is the largest franchisee of Freedom Boat Club, which he describes as similar to Zipcar for the boating world. “Basically, we’re an alternative to boat ownership,” he says. “We own all the boats and sell memberships in our club. For a monthly fee, members can make reservations at any of their home locations and use the boats as much as they want.”
Carrick, who worked in banking and management consulting after graduation, says he and a buddy were thinking of buying a boat in the summer of 2007 when he discovered a Freedom Boat Club in Quincy, Mass. He loved the idea. “It’s a lot cheaper than owning a boat, without any of the hassles like maintenance, insurance costs, and all the rest that comes along with boat ownership,” he says. When he learned that the company sold franchises, the entrepreneurial instincts fostered in college kicked in. “The Babson mind started churning,” Carrick says.
In 2008, he opened a Freedom Boat Club in West Dennis on Cape Cod. “We bought four boats, rolled the dice, and started selling memberships,” Carrick says. “We were successful right out of the gate.” He credits the large population of retirees and summer residents in the area for that success. Two of the club’s biggest selling points, Carrick adds, are the access to many types of boats—he offers center console boats for fishing, cruisers for overnight stays, and deck boats for tubing or anchoring near the beach—and the fact that members can take unlimited boating classes with experienced captains.
Carrick grew up on the Cape in Dennis but says he came from a family of “landlubbers.” So he faced a steep learning curve that first year. “Not only did I have to learn how to run a business, but I also had to learn how to boat,” says Carrick. “In that first year I was swabbing the decks, cleaning the boats, docking them, fueling them, doing all that. It was sort of a baptism by fire.”
The following summer he opened a second location in East Dennis. Then in November 2013, Carrick bought out another ownership group, acquiring locations in Danvers, Boston, Hingham, Scituate, Falmouth, and even that Quincy club where he first learned of the venture. The acquisition gives him the most locations of any franchisee in the country. “We’re now running 70 boats and approaching 500 members at our eight locations,” he says.
Carrick’s boats are typically in the water from mid-April until early November. “It slows a bit in the off-season, but we keep pretty busy,” he says. “Between boat shows, and planning and hiring for the next season, it never really ends.”
While the days are long and warm, life is unmistakably hectic. When he is able to steal some free time, Carrick likes to take his family, including his two young children and their cousins, to the beaches of Crowes Pasture, a quiet area of Cape Cod reachable only by four-wheel-drive vehicles, where the kids can swim, fish, and chase crabs. His goal on those excursions is to “stay away from the boats,” he jokes. “I try to hide the cellphone and not worry about what’s happening at work.”—Erin O’Donnell