Soundings Trade Only yesterday named Freedom Boat Club the winner of its Top 10 Most Innovative Marine Companies awards. Freedom CEO John Giglio was on hand to accept the crystal trophy from editor-in-chief Michael Verdon.
The Venice, Fla.-based firm has an international network of 171 boat clubs. It was chosen among 54 companies that entered the magazine’s first annual awards.
“We received entries from companies of all sizes, from small boatbuilders to the industry’s largest conglomerates,” Verdon said. “We looked for interesting business models, companies trying to access new markets, unusual corporate cultures and any other initiatives that we saw as innovative.”
Verdon made the announcement via a live-streaming event at Soundings Trade Only’s booth at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference. He said that the other nine winning companies and four honorable mentions would be announced in the November issue of Soundings Trade Only.
“We had a thorough discussion process that included industry veterans and staff of the magazine,” Verdon said. “We weighed every entry very carefully, and each member of the judging committee came up with a short list. We then discussed those for quite some time.”
The final selections were limited to the editorial staff, who tapped Freedom Boat Club as the top winner.
“We chose Freedom Boat Club for several reasons,” Verdon said. “It had a business model that disrupted the industry in a good way and reached an audience of people who had given up their boats because of time or money. It also brought in people who would never have gotten on the water in the first place.”
The judges were impressed, Verdon said, with the growth of the business from 54 locations in 2012 to the current number of 171. “But what impressed us even more was the company’s expansion into Europe with its partnership with Jeanneau in France,” Verdon said. “That proves that the business model will expand in Europe and possibly around the world. The company has also made an initial foray into the recreational vehicle market.”
Verdon said the number of companies that entered the awards shows that the spirit of innovation is alive and well in the boating industry. “The caliber of entries made choosing a top company very difficult,” he said. “I’ve never seen so much innovation in our industry as companies reinvent themselves for the future.”