Entrepreneur Leverages Online MBA to Chart New Course

September 11, 2023
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Having built a successful career in medical device sales, OMBA student Ty Atteberry is expanding his repertoire with a company that offers peace of mind to boaters and businesses in the British Virgin Islands.

Entrepreneur Leverages Online MBA to Chart New Course

Ty AtteberryTy AtteberryIn 2019, Ty Atteberry and his close friend were out sailing with their families in the British Virgin Islands when a storm started to roll in. They raced another boat to the last available mooring ball in the bay, only to find it broken and defunct. Disappointed, they turned around and spent the next hour searching for another one in the driving rain.

He and his friend thought there had to be a better way to reserve a mooring ball, a small buoy anchored to the seafloor. “What if you could reserve a mooring ball like a RV spot or a hotel room?” they began to wonder. Several months later, a new company called BoatyBall began to take shape.

As Ty reflects on his entrepreneurial journey, he credits Baylor’s online MBA program for equipping him to grow his business and plan his next steps.

Finding a Niche

A native of Houston, Ty played football at Baylor while earning a pre-medical degree. After a short stint with the Tennessee Oilers (now Titans), he opted against medical school in favor of medical sales. Like many former athletes who move into sales roles, he found the competition invigorating. He cut his teeth at a small medical device company in Tennessee before moving to Medtronic, one of the world’s largest medical device companies, to focus on bringing new technology to market in the neurology space.

While he enjoys building high-performing teams at Medtronic, he has always harbored entrepreneurial ambitions. “I have had a number of business ideas over the years, but I never pulled the trigger on any of them,” he said.

The seeds of the right idea were first planted 15 years ago, when Ty’s father took his family on their first trip to the British Virgin Islands. Ty’s son, a recent Baylor graduate, fell in love with sailing on the trip. From then on, the family visited once a year to sail, unplug and enjoy the relaxed pace of island life.

By 2019, Ty had learned the lay of the land, which consists of four larger islands and more than 50 smaller islands and cays. After their frustrating boat outing sparked a new idea, he and his business partner leveraged their knowledge of the local boating industry to devise a plan for improving the experience of tourists and business owners alike.

In the British Virgin Islands, a local company owns and maintains the majority of mooring balls, which boaters pay to use on a first come, first serve basis. Local landowners who run restaurants, bars, boating companies and other businesses on the shoreline close to where the mooring balls are located are responsible for collecting fees on the company’s behalf.

By creating an app that allows boaters to reserve and pay for mooring balls online, Ty and his business partner reasoned, they could benefit all stakeholders involved: Boaters would spend less time searching for mooring balls, local business owners would avoid having to collect fees and hold large amounts of cash, and the company that owned the mooring balls would get a cut of the app’s profits on top of its existing fees.

“I'm a believer in finding a niche and solving a problem no one has ever solved,” Ty said. “I would rather take a big piece of a small market than a small piece of a big market, because it gives you an opportunity to refine your skills before entering larger markets.”

Over the course of several months, he and his business partner launched BoatyBall as a web-based application where boaters can pay $40 for a first come, first serve mooring or $55 for a same-day reservation. The average customer will make a reservation early in the morning before bouncing around between islands for the day and tying their boat to the mooring ball for the evening.

Next on the Horizon

Ty enrolled in Baylor’s Online MBA program to refine his business skills, particularly in the area of accounting and finance. While these skills have served him well at Medtronic, they have also equipped him to run his own company. “As you grow as a business, you have to get the basics right,” he said. “We outsource accounting now, but I did it all by myself early on.”

He also found a strategic branding class particularly useful for guiding his marketing efforts at BoatyBall. The class required students to conduct a survey, so Ty used the opportunity to discover what drives customers to BoatyBall. From his survey responses, he learned that peace of mind is the primary motivator for boaters who reserve mooring balls, and that being able to trust that the mooring balls are properly installed and maintained is a leading customers concern.

This feedback has shaped BoatyBall’s branding efforts and contributed to the company’s success over the past four years. With business booming, Ty and his business partner are preparing to launch in the U.S. Virgin Islands and are scanning the horizon for growth opportunities in similar markets, from the Bahamas to the Florida Keys.

“The MBA program has given me the skillset to evaluate opportunities and scale our business,” Ty said. “We created a solution for a universal problem experienced by the boating community, and we are looking forward to providing our services in other parts of the world. We pinch ourselves that a dream we had in paradise is working and is so much fun!”

What’s Next

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