New ‘Hydro-Bike’ Rental Business To Launch

March 5, 2015

Two Bermudian entrepreneurs are set to launch a new hydro-bike tourism business, and have been helped by an interest-free loan from the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

Entrepreneurs Iesha Castle, 30, and Aaron Williams, 34, expect ten hydro-bikes to arrive in Bermuda this month. The next step will be the public launch of their company Funworx Bermuda which will offer hydro-bikes to visitors on Bermuda’s waters as early as this spring.

Hydro-bikes are pedal-powered bicycles attached to a pair of ten-foot catamaran floats capable of moving easily over any body of water. Funworx will offer the bikes as rentals or as part of a guided tour experience.

Entrepreneur Aaron Williams, 34, meets with members of the BTA’s Product & Experiences team, Rasheeda Burgess [right] and Tashae Thompson

Funworx

“It’s so difficult for first-time entrepreneurs like us to get a start-up loan with lending as tight as it is these days,” said Ms. Castle, who works in the international business sector. “If not for this interest-free loan from the Tourism Authority I’m not sure when we would have been able to get our idea off the ground.”

The BTA said, “Last year, Ms. Castle and Mr. Williams submitted their idea in the BTA’s Tourism Experiences investment process which provides an opportunity for tourism-minded entrepreneurs to get their ideas partially funded.

“Funworx submitted an articulate business plan that aligned with the BTA’s overall strategies, but the partners did not have sufficient start-up capital. The BTA offered a $30,000 interest-free loan to Funworx that must be repaid in three installments over the next three years.

“In all, the BTA invested in four start-up ideas using interest-free loans in an effort to accelerate the execution of the ideas.”

“We viewed these ideas as literally too good to pass up and we want to see them start-up quickly,” said the BTA’s Chief Product and Experiences Development Officer Pat Phillip-Fairn who oversees the Tourism Experiences process.

The Bermuda Tourism Authority Act [2013] permits the organization to issue loans, but currently the BTA does not have the regulatory permission to charge interest to loan recipients.

File photo of ‘Hydrobikes’ in action

Funworx File Pic

The BTA’s CEO Bill Hanbury said, “In an opinion article last week I talked about our work to empower Bermudian entrepreneurs with the opportunity to own a piece of the local tourism economy. Aaron, Iesha and all the interest-free loan recipients exemplify the crop of entrepreneurial spirit we need now more than ever. They are critical to job creation and to our success as a destination.”

The BTA said, “One of the BTA’s strategic objectives is to increase the amount cruise visitors spend when they are in Bermuda.

“Developing a variety of new and unique visitor experiences that are available and accessible to cruise passengers is seen as an important strategy for increasing cruise visitor spending. The pop-up nature of the Funworx business makes it feasible to easily move from Dockyard to St. George or to beaches in between.”

The company is finalizing locations, marketing and determining what, if any, permitting will be necessary and Mr. Williams, who is a trained social worker, believes Funworx can have a positive social impact on the community.

He said, “At first I thought hydro-bikes could be a fun and affordable activity for local teenage boys, particularly in the summer. We still can provide that option locally, but the Tourism Authority process has helped us realize we can also hire young men as employees. In the current climate providing a job – even on a part time basis – is probably the most beneficial thing we can do for our community.”

The next Tourism Experiences application process is scheduled to begin in September of this year for investment in 2016 homegrown ideas. Information on the process will update on the BTA’s corporate website. For 2015, the process is closed – 41 ideas are slated to receive funding, totaling more than $813,000 in investment. Four of the 41 investments are interest-free loans.

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Comments (30)

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  1. Jeremy Deacon says:

    Good luck! Can see exercise folks wanting these as well ….

  2. Marlon says:

    That’s one good looking guy there ! :-)

    Congrats AJ and Iesha and thanks to the BTA for funding such a great venture.

    Looking forward to this summer !

    • Mockingjay says:

      And thanks to us the Taxpayers who fund the B.T.A.
      Nice concept all the best.

      • David Henry says:

        In all fairness Mockingbird, it looks like us taxpayers didn’t get a good return on investment when we funded your education. But hey, haters gonna hate and you play your part well puppet!

  3. Triangle Drifter says:

    Hey…Good luck with it. The trick will be finding a location to operate from that is is in protected waters & has somewhere interesting to pedal to that is not far away.

    There have been no shortage of water activities that have started up. Many have failed. Whatever happened to that amphibious bus thing? How long did the high speed cat last? What happened to the watertaxi? How many tourboat business have shut down?

    • Islandsistah says:

      Can you just be positive and encouraging? Just once??

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        Stating facts. Unpleasant as they may be I am simply stating facts.

        The watersport business is a highly competitve business with a limited customer base & short season. That is the way it is. If you are going to mess with it you had better have another source of steady income.

        Easy to wish best of luck or say what a wonderful idea it is & blah blah blah, if you don’t have any of your own money at risk.

        • mike says:

          well for starters. The water taxi is still around as well as the wildcat.

          • Triangle Drifter says:

            Yes the vessels are still around but are they operating? If so, are they viable? How many years has the Wildcat sat in storage running up boatyard bills?

    • general mechanic says:

      im pretty sure one got shut down cus people didnt know what they were in for speed on water is a lot different than speed on land

  4. Sky Pilot says:

    Marine and Ports will want their cut from issuing permit stickers

  5. Huh says:

    Well done Funworx Bermuda team. Hope you are very successful and grow exponentially.
    PS wonder how Mockingay’s going to spin this one….

  6. channing says:

    Way to go Aaron I can not wait to rent. #awesssoommeee

  7. brigadooner says:

    They’re clearly looking at a youtube cat video in that photo.

  8. Darwin's Child says:

    Wonderful initiative! I can see it being very popular with tourists and locals alike. Good luck to you all.

  9. Barclay says:

    Excellent idea!

    Well done Aaron & Iesha and all the best with your business!

    Thank you BTA. This is exactly what we need to be doing to give the Bermuda experience.

  10. On de Hill says:

    Let’s see if the PLP attacks the BTA over this transaction? … I wish the venture much success! Well done BTA.

  11. somuchless says:

    If you operate out of Dockyard, remember wedco will want their 10%.

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Well ya, of course they will. If you want to run a business on WEDCO property then you can expect to pay some form of rent.

      The ships want the biggest cut. Make a booking through the ship tour director & figure on 35-40% staying right onboard the ship. The savy cruise ship passenger books shore excursions before even getting onboard the ship.

      They have plenty of other overheads. For starters, there is promotion, liability insurance, a chase boat to retrieve those who get into trouble, wages, payroll tax, social insurance etc. etc. All that stuff adds up.

  12. Oh no says:

    Bad enough we have bikes speeding through the streets, now we have these ocean diddly-bops stinging through the waters.

    Just kidding. Best of luck!

  13. Nathan says:

    Well Done Aaron, I want to be in your first tour.

  14. Annie says:

    Looked at a video and it really looks like fun. I think there could be a strong market for the local populace as well as it looks like a good form of exercise. Many people like bike riding but for various reasons (like all the lunatics out there) don’t want to ride on the main roads, so this looks like an ideal compromise. I know I’m interested!

  15. Bermuda123 says:

    Well done all involved. Great to see something new

  16. MB says:

    Sorry but we gave a loan and they say this, I would think best practice would be to do the homework first in order to get the loan, what if they can’t get legal approval or location? Just saying…

    “The company is finalizing locations, marketing and determining what, if any, permitting will be necessary and Mr. Williams, who is a trained social worker, believes Funworx can have a positive social impact on the community.”

    These bikes are challenging in any kind of chop, how much do easier kayak rentals make and if these bikes are so great why aren’t the watersports companies offering them as they have been around for 20 years at US resorts.

    I hope BTA will track its investment in these companies and report on their hoped for success, or failure, as failure is taxpayer money gone, and taxpayers had no say in this decision process.I would venture to say the same for BEDC funds to some questionable business ideas. BUt good luck with this venture, I assume they did they math and it is profitable

  17. Squirt says:

    You will be hearing from Mark Bean soon… Another nail in PLP coffin!!

  18. youngblood captain says:

    That’s my dawg that’s my dawg!!! Congrats Aaron wish you all the best in this endeavor. I know I will be taking one up non-mariners!

  19. CJ says:

    Congrats Aaron and Iesha. This is a great business venture and I know you guys will be successful. I will be renting one this summer for sure! Bless!☺

  20. DJ says:

    Good luck Aaron and Lesha.
    I have used and maintained these bikes for a client here in BDA.
    Just some advice, Always wash down every day after use.
    Keep chain and friction clutch well oiled.
    Lastly, try and ride into the wind at beginning of your excursion ,otherwise the ride back can be very tiring.
    They are a good solid platform and will handle a little chop.
    All the best to the both of you.

  21. foldgers says:

    i will definitely be trying this out!! i love the water and it will count as some great exercise on my fitbit!!!

  22. MoonShine says:

    I for one will be using Mr. Fubler’s bikes. He had them since last year and is doing his venture with his families assistance. This is not an original idea. Just one that was marketed differently.