LEARNING CURVE | Moonraker Maritime anchored on years of experience
Moonraker Maritime business owner, Nathan Nortier, 42, is set on making a mark in the maritime sector in Port Elizabeth.
The passionate Nortier believes to be successful in the maritime industry one needs to first research the sector, network with experienced players to gain more insight and knowledge, and keep up to date with any changes that will affect one’s business.
Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started?
I spent most of my childhood growing up in King William’s Town.
In 2001, I started my working career as a junior customs entry clerk, working my way up the corporate ladder learning new things along the way, as no two days are the same in shipping.
Due to the downturn in the global economy, this resulted in me leaving my employer, and with nobody hiring or taking on new staff, I decided to take matters into my own hands and start my own business — Moonraker Maritime Pty Ltd.
What is your core service?
Assisting SMEs that are interested in entering the maritime sector, by giving them the correct tools to get started.
Moonraker is a shipping agency offering the following services:
• Husbandry services to vessels both in port and at anchorage.
• Facilitating crew changes (ensure on-signing crew meet the vessel on time and in a safe manner; make necessary arrangements for the off-signing crew to reach home safely).
• When necessary, assist sick or injured crew members to ensure they get the best local care, while keeping their employer updated on their recovery.
• Ensuring delivery of important ship spares to keep the vessel in a seaworthy state.
• Attending to cargo vessels on behalf of charters, co-ordinating shore labour to work the cargo, ensuring the correct amount of cargo is loaded or discharged.
• Keeping charters updated regularly while the vessel is in port.
• Before the vessel arrives at anchorage ensure the port has a berth to work the vessel without any delays.
What makes your business unique?
Being a small business I’m able to tailor my services to best suit my clients’ needs and budget, without having to compromise on quality.
If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?
They would need plenty of experience or training (hence I offer consulting services), advice on how to go about getting started in terms of registration on various platforms and a great marketing and networking strategy.
What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?
The biggest hurdle at the moment is the lockdown — what previously took a day to process is now taking days or weeks to process.
Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?
Take your time to research your chosen industry, network with experienced players in the industry to gain more insight and knowledge.
Keep up to date with any changes that will affect your business.
Always look to be one step ahead of your competition.
What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?
One word: lockdown.
Though vessels are still coming into port, shore-side services are not at full capacity.
What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?
Quality of life is most important — if you have an even work/life balance, you will be successful in both.
How do you measure or define success in your business?
So far my success has come from networking within the industry, building relationships.
When this building of relationships based on trust results in business coming in, that feels like success.
What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?
Always being willing to go that extra mile for clients.
Having a good working relationship with my service providers.
What kind of advertising do you do?
At the moment I’m not doing any real advertising apart from networking with people from other agencies and with SMEs and the ECMBC (Eastern Cape Maritime Business Chamber).
I have been invited to be a guest speaker on an ECMBC webinar to talk about the marine industry (Marine Industry 101) to burgeoning business people.
What is your company’s vision?
To provide an equal starting point for aspiring entrepreneurs and to offer outstanding agency services.
What is your target market?
On the consulting side of the business: aspiring entrepreneurs who would like to enter the maritime industry.
On the agency side: local and international ship owners and charters.
What have some of your highlights been in running your business?
Having the freedom to explore untapped ideas that have being running through my mind in a not-so-receptive corporate industry and incorporating them into my own business.
How important is social media and an online presence for your business?
These days it’s essential but not all of us know how to tap into the full potential of social media.
How many people do you employ?
At this stage it’s just myself.
Once our international borders open to do crew changes, I’m hoping to employ somebody to attend to this function.
Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?
I do have plans to expand my business.
To be honest, I’m not exactly certain what direction it will take as I’m not sure what opportunities I will be presented with once SA reopens.
How did you acquire funding for the business?
I managed to keep my start-up costs to a bare minimum (working from home, my wife assisting in the actual set-up of the company with a website, applying for a cash Port account instead of a credit account, and so on), thus I did not need to ask anybody for a loan.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?
I realise that there is only one person who is responsible for the success or failure of my business, and that’s me.
What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like PE?
It’s a challenge breaking through a well-established business community.
The smaller business circles here allow for news to travel fast so everybody knows what you’re doing before you announce it, so networking is fairly easy.
What do you believe are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?
Getting out of bed with a purpose.
Courage to take a chance.
Research your target market and keep abreast of changes.
What do you believe are the key traits of a successful employer?
Open communication without judgment.
Be prepared to take on the same workload as your employee.
What do you wish people knew about your industry?
It takes time to build up relationships which inspire confidence in your abilities.
Because this industry is based on trust, it takes time to become established.
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