Being a part of a family business can be stressful, demanding, and yet very rewarding. It’s not for everyone, but it was a starting point for this thriving twenty-eight-year-old entrepreneur. Not only is Austin hands on in the family businesses, but he also has created a name for himself within his own business ventures. From a beverage store to a boat rental business to rentals properties, Austin is getting involved in it all. So, let’s learn more about Austin Urban, how his entrepreneurial spirit came about, and how he envisions his enterprise expanding in the next ten years.
Name: Austin Urban
Location: Hudson, NY and Manchester, VT
Personal IG Handle: @austinjurban
Tell us about yourself, your background and how it got you to where you are today.
I’ve always had an interest in business, especially starting my own.
My parents took over a deli for a short time when they were in their mid 20’s and owning a business at a young age was less common in the 80’s. A few years later they bought an old beverage business and that was really the start of it all. Their parents thought they were crazy, and even cried when they called them after the closing. They worked hard, built one store into two and two into more.
At a young age I was able to see how hard they were working. We prioritized family dinners and being together, but during the week I always remembered one of my parents leaving before we got up for school, and whoever didn’t leave early was the one that got home right before we went to bed; it was clear they were doing everything they could and working hard every day.
As I got older, I got more involved. I had small jobs in the business over the summers like being a cashier or cleaning up around the place, but my interest grew when I was able to understand the complexities of business more. I had an interest in it all. Pricing products right, keeping costs low with quality high, understanding margins and the bottom line, having a good online presence, staffing, and how to scale. I loved the idea of having a blank slate and creating any business out of opportunity.
What are your businesses and how did the idea for each of them come about?
Real estate keeps me the busiest. After a year in the financial industry in Boston, I left to come home and get involved in the family business in a management role. I really don’t remember the first time I got introduced to real estate, but it’s felt like I’ve always enjoyed it. I bought my first property a few years ago and after that it’s been full steam ahead. I learned how to use debt, how to leverage assets to get more, how to manage a building efficiently using tech and how to maximize airbnb occupancy.
My boat rental business Copake Lake Boat Rentals (no social media account) copakelakeboatrentals.com was born out of the pandemic. A bunch of people around the area knew my parents had a pontoon boat, but since I had worked at Copake Country Club, most of them would go straight to me and in some cases, didn’t even know my parents. Within a week or two of people asking, I noticed the trend of people coming up to the area and wanting to get on the water. I bought two pontoon boats, and now I have four going into 2022. It’s a great little business that mostly can run itself and has the best margin of anything I do; it’s a great side hustle.
My parents bought Copake Country Club in 2006, rescuing it from development and opening up The Greens Restaurant. In 2016 I came back from Boston to help run the golf side of the operation that was in need of some help. The restaurant was getting busier, putting out better food and hosting more events, while golf was losing membership, lacking sales and heading in the opposite direction. My involvement there was more of a consultant role. I came in, re merchandised, re structured the membership, upgraded the back-office tee sheet and POS system, started offering new incentives to join, and now, with a great Head Pro, we are on the right track.
My most recent dive is buying the Bromley View Inn. What seems to be somewhat of a forgotten place on the side of VT-30 between Stratton and Manchester Vermont. It was priced at $60 a square foot, which if you look at Zillow, you will know is unheard of right now. The business was still running and was in need of a little reboot. The plan is to make it through the winter and then start doing some updating of the building and the amenities. New paint, new furniture in the rooms and the lounge, acquire a liquor license, seating on the deck and bonfire down in the yard. The quick fix for this business was exposure, I fully redid the photography for all the rooms, making colors pop and clarify a priority. The place was never listed on Airbnb or VRBO before, so I made individual listings for every room to gain more exposure. It’s only been a month, but we’re off to a hot start and reviews of the place have been great.
Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship runs in my family and I touched on this above. I would say my mentors were always my parents, I’m very close with both of them, but I always gravitated towards my dad when it came to business.
I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I wanted to make this call. When I was living in Boston, my dad randomly drove out to get lunch with me and we talked to me about coming back to work in the family business.
After I moved back I noticed myself working hourly shifts on-site, but I was taking calls everyday, feeling like I had to answer emails all the time, and always had the “there’s stuff to do” feeling. I liked it, I still like it, it’s a good kind of pressure. I vividly remember when I asked my dad on a family trip, “since starting your own business, have you even gone one single day without doing something, even minor, work related?” and he didn’t miss a beat and said “Not one”. Since then I’ve had a respect for anyone that lives and works with the “Owner mentality” and always tries to keep the ball rolling and keep getting things done.
What motivates you and helps you generate new ideas?
Motivation for me comes in two ways. One, there are people that have helped me get where I am, they have spent time, money and other resources to assist me along the way and I owe it to them to make their investment in me worth it. Help along the way isn’t bad, but not getting the appropriate return out of that help is an insult. Two, my motivation can be making money, but not in a greedy way. I believe the more money you make, the strong relationships you create and the trust you build with people can be an extremely powerful tool for helping others. I have noticed the more money I’ve made, the less I’ve spent and the more help I’ve provided in my community.
What has been one of the most memorable experiences or opportunities that you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur?
I remember in my first few weeks at Copake Country Club I invited some friends from NYC and Boston to visit. One of my friends came early, fully dressed in his suit still, an outfit I would have been in months prior. I was filling Budlight into the cooler and thought to myself “This isn’t what I should be doing right now”. I almost felt above it, that it wasn’t a job I should be doing. Not even a week later, someone came in and wanted a 6-pack of Miller Lite, I had not stocked it yet and said, “we have a couple other options” and listed them off. The customer only wanted that type of drink, I lost a $20 sale not staying on top of such an easy and minor job. This is when the “owners mentality” lesson is learned and that cooler was fully stocked thereafter. As an owner there is no job too big or too small, what has to get done has to get done. At some point a business will grow and an owner will be “above the line” on certain tasks, but if you’re an owner and you can’t be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work, you won’t make it. I stepped out of typing this answer to plunge a toilet at the Bromley View Inn.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Dive in. Have a plan, and set goals, but just start. People will tell you it’s not a good idea, they will say it won’t work, it’s too hard, but just start. Answer your phone after 5pm, respond to emails on the weekend, be eager to meet people, and donate to local charities.
What is next? Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
There are three things I currently envision for myself in the next 10 years:
I have started two annual non-profit events that combined raise about $100,000 a year. I would like to create my own foundation that these events, and others, raise money for.
I will start my own real estate brokerage or become a partner in the one I’m at now, and I have been considering starting my own property management company.
I will continue to invest in real estate and help other do so as well but I really like the hospitality industry and I could see myself growing my presence in it over the next 5-10 years.