Kylie CHAMPION SHARES HER EXPERIENCE AS A BUSINESS WOMAN IN THE MARINE INDUSTRY IN THE WHITSUNDAYS
How did I become involved in the Marine industry?
My Dad being an avid sailor, had my sister and I racing dinghies on the Great lakes of Ontario from a young age. He used to take us on long voyages around Georgian Bay, Lake Huron, on his 25fter for summer vacation (much to my dislike, as a teenager only wanting to hang out with her friends).
Funnily enough I did not want a career in the Marine Industry, nor did I want to sail. However, at 18 years old living in Ontario, Canada about to embark on 4 years of study to become a Journalist, I decided to take 6 months off and travel to Australia with two friends. I deferred university and that 6 months became a year. I ended up in a small town in North Queensland; Airlie Beach – well known as the gateway to the Whitsundays.iI started working as a host/deck for a large yacht charter company taking guests around the Whitsundays on overnight sailing tours. My duties involved cooking, cleaning, all interior upkeep and maintenance, the safety of all passengers, passenger transfers, deck duties, deck maintenance and assisting the Captain where needed across all of 7 vessels. I worked for this company doing this for 5 years until I was promoted to a duel role of Operations/Human Resources manager. I held this role for 8 years.
Although I was flattered by this promotion and later learnt to enjoy it, it was not easy. It was testing, trying and very high stress. I had gone from taking direction from Captains twice my age to giving direction to Captains twice my age half of whom I had been working with/for along with other crew colleagues who had always looked at me as a fellow employee and then became their boss. It was not a smooth transition. However, I persevered and learnt to keep a strong head. After time I learned to enjoy this role and took from it what I could, as it was not the most rewarding. My main responsibilities were to oversee and manage 65+ staff (marine crew, male and female, young and older) this included all recruitment, WH&S and the overall day to day operation and running of the entire company. At 27 I bought shares in a new investment with multiple other shareholders that were linked to the company. We had a motor catamaran built in Brisbane and sent up by truck. Her name was ‘Whitsunday Bullet’, we put her into survey and created a day trip product for families visiting the Whitsundays. I worked on her part-time as a deckhand. In 2019, I sold my shares and decided to reinvest into my own project.
After 12 years of strong dedication I decided it was time to branch out. I had an Advanced Diploma in Hospitality Management and Human Resources management and Recruitment, so naturally I decided to follow the path I knew and loved so well – Marine Recruitment. I founded Champion Crewing & Concierge in early 2018 and opened for business in late May of 2018. We are coming up to our third season of operation.
How did I stay in Australia?
It took 9 years to gain Citizenship to Australia. You could have called me somewhat of a ‘Visa Hussy’ as I went through some many to finally gain permanent residency. I swear it was one of the hardest things I’d been through prior to starting my own business. I remember a lot of tears and tantrums, strong worded letters to the government and many, many thousands of dollars.
I have to thank my previous employer and now mentor for supporting me and assisting me with sponsorship. The day I was eligible to sit the Citizenship test and send off my application, I did exactly that!
What types of positions have I held on Yachts?
I’ve done a bit of everything. I’ve worked as a deckhand, Host, Stewardess, Purser, Galley Hand, Cook, watch keeper, delivery crew, fishing guide. I am a qualified cook (although I don’t enjoy cooking) so have cooked on luxury Yachts for guests of up to 8 and on passenger carrier’s for 28+ guests.. you name it. I have really enjoyed sailing in the Whitsundays and exploring the area. My partner (at the time) and I delivered beautiful Sailing Yachts around Australia from Darwin to Melbourne. I’ve had a lot of fun!
I now thank all of these experiences and my role as Operations/HR Manager for teaching me the skills I can now apply to my own business. Because without those, I would not be where I am now.
Any words of advice to females in starting a career in the Marine Industry?
Aim high, keep your head up, eyes peeled and ears open, have poise and intention, know in yourself that you can achieve whatever you want to, because there will be a point in your career where no one is cheering for you and you’re the only person who believes in you. The marine industry is very much a male driven industry; it can be uncomfortable and you will find yourself in uneasy situations, but you must stay strong and confident and know you worth always and hey, SPEAK OUT! If you get knocked back, knocked down or fall over (which you will) get back up! You’re here to make a difference.
Well 14 years later and I never did attend University for Journalism, I am still living in the beautiful Whitsundays and am working towards a brighter future for crew in the marine industry. I have now been owner/operator of Champion Crewing & Concierge, a Marine Recruitment/placement agency for the Whitsunday Region for almost two years. Champion Crewing & Concierge aim to provide a service to yachts within the Whitsunday Region and to assist in crew placements mainly within Australia. We offer a very high level of service and cater to all requirements. We have recently started to offer a full concierge service also. Our team is a small group of smart, whitty, intelligent, strong headed females, which as you know is much needed in this industry. We have big plans for the coming years and hope to branch out internationally within the next 12 months. Wooohooo! Stay Tuned!
I have enjoyed the opportunity to contribute my story to Dream Yacht Charter for the #MoreWomenAtSea Campaign in support of International Women’s Day, the more stories that are out there, the more opportunities arise for #MoreWomenAtSea.