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Small Business Profile: Sailing Kuma Too

Plastic has propelled the launch of founder Mandy Rosello's all-inclusive sailing charter business

Summary

From a business card with a 0-percent offer to a low-interest card from a credit union, plastic has propelled the launch of founder Mandy Rosello’s all-inclusive sailing charter business.

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Mandy Rosello and her husband Joe

Mandy Rosello and her husband Joe have always had a passion for travel. When their normal jobs didn’t pay enough to fulfill their wanderlust dreams, they charted their own course.

Rosello opened Sailing Kuma Too, an all-inclusive customized sailing charter business. They started by purchasing a catamaran, but soon discovered that owning and preparing such a craft is an incredibly expensive ordeal.

Though getting the company where it needed to be took longer – and more money – than planned, in early 2018, Sailing Kuma Too began offering full-service sailing charters along the West coast of Florida.

“I consider Sailing Kuma Too in the startup phase, as we are still fine-tuning our marketing efforts to gear toward overnight cruises,” says Rosello.

As of now, Sailing Kuma Too spirits people away through the Intracoastal Waterway, where dolphins and birds race alongside as the sun sinks into the calming Gulf waters. Passengers enjoy a spread of local-market hors-d’oeuvres and drinks, and are invited to dance, sunbathe or just relax onboard.

So how did Rosello deal with the high costs associated with getting the catamaran in tip-top shape as well as manage the constant flow of ordinary expenses? To keep their dream afloat, they’ve used credit cards the right way – and right from the beginning.

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With so much money needed to launch, how did you pay for everything?

Both Joe and I have always had excellent credit scores – over 800 – and we’ve always used credit cards for everyday purchases to gain rewards points. Over the years, we very seldom ever carried a balance.

We decided to finance the business on our own, since we were originally on a short-term plan and didn’t want to take out any loans. We had over $60,000 in available credit lines when we opened the business, with less than $30,000 saved in available cash.

We wanted to stay debt free, so we were using our cash to pay off any credit cards we used throughout each month. Unfortunately, by April, our available cash was dwindling and making me nervous without a steady income.

By spring, I looked at our available credit and began playing the game with low-interest or no-interest accounts. We got hit with some major unexpected expenses, but opening a new business credit card with 0-percent interest and $300 cash back has bought me a year to make payments. Without our available credit, we would not have had enough cash to cover the unexpected expenses this past year.

So what credit cards do you have, and why did you choose them?

Sunset aboard Kuma Too

We have a few. First is the Chase Ink Business Unlimited Credit Card. After researching many banks, we chose Chase for our business account because of their low balance requirements and wide-range of location options. The Ink card fit the needs of our small business without an annual fee, it offers cash back rewards on purchases, and zero interest on new purchases for the first year along with a regular APR of 15.49 percent to 21.49 percent variable. We also have a Chase Freedom card that is used solely for fuel and gas for the boat, dinghy and cars.

In 2006, we were cruising a lot, so we opened a Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card from Bank of America to take advantage of the rewards for cruising. We kept the account open but never used it. Bank of America sent us an offer for a 0-percent balance transfer for one year, so we used it for some big unexpected maintenance expenses.

We have a couple of personal cards, too. The Tampa Postal Credit Union credit card is not used for business expenses and has a low interest rate and rewards. I [also] have the Simmons Bank credit card. Although it’s a personal card that I kept open but never used, when we needed to carry a credit a few months ago, I did use it. This card has a low interest rate, which bought us a few months.

Lastly, we have the Citi Diamond Preferred Card. This is our emergency credit card. We used this card when we were hit with a large unexpected expense, then used our low-interest and balance-transfer options to pay off the debt.

What do you typically charge?

Sailing Kuma Too’s major expense is upkeep. It’s a beautiful boat that has been well taken care of, but it is a still 13 years old. In addition to regular monthly maintenance that was properly budgeted, we’ve had to pay about $30,000 in extra maintenance this year. We use credit cards for every business purchase to take advantage of our rewards programs. Business expenses include fuel, accounting software, marketing, provisioning for charters, and marina and licensing fees.

Because of all the charging, we do accumulate a lot of rewards. Both Chase cards offer cash back and that money goes right back to paying down the card. The Bank of America rewards are only redeemable on Royal Caribbean cruises. The Tampa Postal credit card points we use mostly for hotels because we’ve found that to be the best value.

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How do you handle your accounts? Keep a running balance, pay it all off?

I use QuickBooks. I consider myself to be very detailed, as I attach receipts and properly allocate each transaction. That includes $2.50-ice-bag purchases for each charter. I prefer to pay the credit cards off each month, but at this point in the business, we are keeping a running balance and paying it down slowly.

The amount paid on each card is decided by the APR or possible need to use the card for a specific transaction. For example, we will be sailing out of the county in January and February, so I have paid off the credit card with the lowest foreign transaction fee.

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What lessons have you learned about borrowing money along the way? 

The most important thing about borrowing money is to make meaningful payments every month. Life happens, credit cards can be a good thing to get you out of a pinch, but if you spend more than you are paying off each month, you’ll drown. The last few months, we have had to rack up more debt than I have ever had in my entire life. It’s really scary, but our business is bringing in cash. I am able to make substantial payments each month and the debt is slowly diminishing.

Also, I would recommend opening and having credit available before starting your business. It is so much harder to get as a new business.

What’s up next?

In Small Business Credit Profiles

Small Business Profile: Prohibition Creamery

Founder Laura Aidan used a business credit card with a long introductory 0-percent offer to launch Prohibition Creamery, a boozy ice cream and cocktail lounge in Austin, Texas.

Published: January 16, 2019

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