Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working on the First Coast; Executive Ditches Suit for Shorts Freedom Boat Club Members Enjoy the Sail and Leave the Work Behind

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Working on the First Coast; Executive Ditches Suit for Shorts Freedom Boat Club Members Enjoy the Sail and Leave the Work Behind

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon

Lisa Almeida grew up a water child as the daughter of a mother and father of professional water-skiers.

Now, after years in corporate America, she's returned to the water to what looks like the final stages of her career as the owner of a business that revolves around water. Almeida runs the local Freedom Boat Club franchises located at the Julington Creek Marina off San Jose Boulevard in Mandarin and at the Camachee Cove Marina in St. Augustine.

Almeida, 56, was an executive in sales and marketing for Bell South communications for about 25 years before she became a general manager for Freedom Boat in 2009. Shortly after the national company with more than 80 franchises opened one in St. Augustine in 2010, Almeida bought the First Coast franchises. She now has an annual revenue worth about $1.25 million that not only includes taking care of the vessels, but also about a dozen employees.

The boat club offers the 350 local members the choice among 28 boats moored at the local marinas. It costs $5,500 to become a lifetime member and $259 per month for continued use of the recreational boats that range from 20 feet to 24 feet.

For the "Boatanista" - a moniker Almeida had registered as a trademark - running a boat business means she's come full circle.

You say it's a club, but it's a business. Do people actually rent boats or how does it work?

They're not renting boats. If they're a member of our club, they get unlimited use of our boats. We clean them, we maintain them. We take care of them. They just get to use them.

Why would somebody do that if they can just go out and own a boat?

Because No. 1, people's lives are so busy nowadays. ... It's very time-consuming to own your own boat. It's very expensive to own your own boat. This is much more affordable and it's much easier. …

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