We recently connected with Shari Zolna and have shared our conversation below.
Shari, appreciate you joining us today. What do you think it takes to be successful?
It takes persistence, dedication, and a strong belief in yourself and your business to become successful. However, all the persistence, dedication and self worth can not replace having a great business idea and the knowledge of how to create the business. We own a luxury private yacht charter business on the San Diego Bay. There are many components that we had to put together to become a 5 star highly rated business. We had to find the best yacht possible that could not only qualify for USCG certification but also thrill our wide variety of customers. Whether it’s a birthday party, a wedding or a corporate event, we had to create a uniquely beautiful and welcoming environment. We did that with our renovation and decor, but also with the quality captains, crew and bartenders that we’ve hired. No charter out there comes close to the yacht charter package that we’ve put together. Then there’s the behind the scenes work. Having a modern and user friendly website, staying on top of our social media and internet marketing and gathering hundreds of fabulous reviews from our customers. And also the less glamorous work of knowing your bookkeeping and accounting. I do all of our Quickbooks and bookkeeping, scheduling and hiring and a million other things that are necessary to sustain a successful company. To sum it up, we have a great product, the Nerissa motor yacht, a nice website with it’s own booking system, and possess a bit of marketing knowledge with a side of basic accounting skills.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Zolna Yachts specializes in private yacht charters, parties and cruises on the San Diego Bay. I’m Shari Zolna and my husband and business partner is Amos Zolna. We have revolutionized the way San Diego visitors and locals alike look at chartering yachts and touring the san Diego Bay. It is with pleasure that we provide a truly unique and wonderful way for all our guests to experience yachting. We’re proud to be San Diego’s most exciting yacht charter company since 2007, offering an extraordinary venue for corporate meetings and private celebrations aboard the stunning Nerissa Motor Yacht. We offer unparalleled customer service and a motor yacht like no other in Southern CA. Amos and I moved from New York City to San Diego in 1995. We have a beautiful daughter, Annabelle, who recently graduated from UCSB. We have a rescued German Shepherd, coincidentally named “Bella” whom we adopted after having successfully found “fur-ever” homes for her 10 gorgeous pups. Amos and I instantly fell in love with everything this awesome city has to offer. It was simply a pleasure getting used to San Diego’s great year round climate, and we were especially drawn to it’s unique coastal way of life. After many years of owning vacation rental properties on the island of Maui, Amos came up with the crazy idea to combine our knowledge of the vacation rental business with our passion for boating. And so we did. In March of 2007, we opened San Diego Bay Vacation, which eventually became Zolna Yachts, a unique San Diego business offering yacht charters and lodging aboard yachts and a Houseboat. We decided to sell everything except our 49 passenger motor yacht, Nerissa, in 2020. Our sole focus now, is operating this beautiful 73 foot motor yacht. I’m typically the lead stew aboard the stunning Nerissa, . Amos spends most of his time behind the scenes, in charge of all the maintenance, answers calls and emails and crews with us on occasion. Zolna Yachts offers customers this stunning privately owned yacht for charter. We’ve become the go-to company in San Diego for private charters for up to 49 passengers, being recommended by the Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego Concierge Association, Destination Management companies, hotel sales teams and a network of businesses all over Southern California. Many of Zolna Yachts five star customer reviews can be seen on their website, Instagram, Yelp, Google Business, and Facebook.
Can you talk to us about how your side-hustle turned into something more.
My husband and I started in Real Estate and Construction. I had my Broker’s license for many years and my husband was a General Contractor. We fixed up and flipped investment properties and eventually exchanged some property for vacation rental properties on Maui. We were in the vacation rental business for about 5 or 6 years when my husband had the crazy idea to buy a motor yacht and turn it into a vacation rental property. We had hoped to cover our slip fees and expenses buy renting out the yacht for short term rentals and offered our guests San Diego Bay cruises for a maximum of 12 guests. That’s how it all started. We bout a 46 foot yacht and made it the first vacation rental boat on VRBO. We were the “pioneers” that asked VRBO to put a yacht category on their platform, years before Airbnb came on the scene. We eventually grew our business, bought a houseboat and yacht owners added their yacht’s to our growing fleet which we managed. Around 2017 we found our Nerissa motor yacht. This was our first 49 passenger USCG certified 49 passenger charter yacht. It took us over one and a half years to get it ready for charter. We sold the houseboat and stopped managing all the other yachts by 2021. We are thrilled to manage the Nerissa yacht exclusively.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
When we owned vacation rental properties on Maui, the mayor at the time decided that she wanted to shut down all single family properties that were doing vacation rentals. It was a crazy time for everyone who had invested there and also for the locals who were renting out their guests homes and cottages. That’s when we realized that we needed to make this yacht rental thing a real and actual business. And so we did.
- Website: https://zolnayachts.com/
- Instagram: @zolnayachts
- Facebook: @zolnayachts
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCygQilvdOFP7VZRN_1EAMRA/videos
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/zolna-yachts-san-diego
Ryan McCasland Photography Rey Benasfre Photography John Schnack Photography