Looking to the future of yachting, YATCO interviews several fresh faces in the industry to discover how they got their start, their career highlights so far, and what they predict for the future of the yacht market.
Featuring Zehra Aksu, Yacht Sales & Charter Broker of Wave Yacht Sales
How did you get your start in yachting?
After accomplishing a decade long career as an Architect and Construction Project Manager in my home country of Turkey, I spent eight years as a part of several yacht crews, logging countless nautical miles as a marine engineer, first officer, and licensed yacht captain in the waters of the Bahamas, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Now residing in Miami, Florida, I have made yachting not only my career but my lifestyle and can often be found networking, showing vessels to prospective buyers, or conversing with clients throughout the marinas of South Florida.
The more I dove into personal development, alignment and business growth, the more I discovered that it doesn’t really matter where you start but how you position yourself in this current business market and where are you heading into something bigger than where you are at now.
As far as my architecture and construction background, I have always been interested in yacht design and new build construction. Somehow my yachting journey started on superyachts as a yacht crew member, followed by training as a marine engineer and licensed captain. The entrepreneur soul within me took the risk of living on land after cruising eight years on board around the world and started my own business as a consultant in Hawaii which led me to have my permanent residency in USA through the business path. The next step was a logical decision for me, I realized I needed to be in sales for the massive growth that I wanted to achieve. I focused on learning new business skills such as marketing, branding, negotiations, strategic growth, luxury sales, brand partnerships, behavior science and business development topics during my time in Hawaii. There came a point in my life and career to which I was obsessed with business, and I was no longer enjoying the benefits of living on a beautiful island! It was time to move back to Florida from Hawaii for a big change! My yacht broker journey started! I am currently living in beautiful Brickell, Miami where I get to do what I love by incorporating yachting as a part of my lifestyle, career, environment and my passion.
As a younger professional in the industry, what trends have you seen, and what do you predict for the coming years?
Fundamentals of yachting will not change but will expand such as – yacht design and new build yacht construction.
Since yachting represents a lifestyle, yacht buyers are searching for yachts specifically designed to incorporate their needs and match their demanding standards. As a result, custom-built yachts are becoming more popular as owners seek to create more personalized and one-of-a-kind vessels tailored to their bespoke preferences. For that reason, I predict an immense growth in new build construction. We see many yacht builders and designers continue to elevate and push the boundaries of yacht design and functionality with the invention of or use of higher quality materials as well as cutting edge engineering.
Builders are responding to consumers’ needs strategically. All toys and tenders are being moved to the hull side pockets. Bow areas of yachts are being turned into additional sundeck locations or functional usage based on clients wants. Aft deck garages turned into beach clubs with large swim platforms and spa concepts. Yacht owners continue to want to be more connected with water and areas be more diverse throughout the ships.
These factors will create increasing new build yacht sales in the next couple of years.
In terms of yacht charters, younger individuals are becoming wealthier faster than ever before. This younger demographic tends to enjoy trying new things more often. Thus, chartering is a growing option amongst these young entrepreneurs. New technology and the online industry is creating an increasing population of new business owners with the financial comfort to charter yachts with increasing intensity.
Chartering yachts for weekend getaways, or weeklong vacations to remote locations are becoming more accessible, allowing people to enjoy the yachting lifestyle without the long-term commitment. Yacht charters will be more desirable in the next couple of years as charter clients are seeking bespoke and immersive experiences as well as adventures exploring remote and less-traveled destinations that will be documented on every social media app as content becomes the new currency.
This is also a growing emphasis on eco-friendly and sustainable yachting practices, with many yacht owners and builders incorporating green technologies, such as hybrid propulsion systems and advanced waste management.
Electric and hybrid propulsion systems are gaining popularity as the industry seeks to reduce emissions and reliance on fossil fuels. Many of the new build constructions I mentioned will innovate not just the major systems but sustainable materials in areas like upholstery, flooring, and other yacht interior and exterior components.
What kinds of challenges have you faced in yachting, and how have you overcome them?
Of course there have been “challenges” ranging from the difficulties while at sea to the precarious nature of doing business as a woman in a predominately male business but, as I have seasoned over the last decade in the yachting industry and grown as a visionary businesswoman, there is a universal truth, “there are no challenges in life.”
I know that sounds bold and audacious, but challenges are the resistance and the excuses we create in our minds while we fight with ourselves internally to stay in our comfort zone.
Through studying and networking with amazingly successful people from around the world, they and I have one goal – be our own hero.
Matthew McConaughey articulated this in a tremendous way during an acceptance speech and I agree, “You see, every day, and every week, and every month, and every year of my life, my hero is always ten years away. I’m never going to be my hero. I’m not going to obtain that and that’s fine with me because it keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.”
While today I have the listing of a lifetime, 60m KATINA, the next one will be even bigger. I will continue to aspire to be me in 10 years and encourage all of you to go after the hero in you to which we will never seize but will cherish the journey and growth while on waves of life!
What are some of your most memorable and successful moments?
I was invited early this year to the World Superyacht Awards Event at Ciragan Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. It was such an incredible reconnecting experience since it was the first time in five years that I had visited my native country. Interestingly enough, years ago I worked at Ciragan Palace as an architect at a design office.
During the trip and the event there were beautiful moments of joy to witness as many yacht designers and shipyards received well deserved awards for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. Real success is contributing to others achievements and being able to genuinely celebrate them for their results.
I believe when you put yourself in a room full of successful people that counts as one form of success. Amongst the hundreds of inspirational yachting professionals, I was very proud to see many of the Turkish shipyards in attendance, nominated for awards, and helping to sponsor this event.
Istanbul is a special city to visit and experience the vibe. So many cherished memories had and many more to come from my beloved city!
So, the biggest success I achieved this year by far is listing KATINA, a 60m superyacht build by Brodosplit shipyard in Croatia. I am very proud to represent KATINA as the worldwide central agent. Exciting days ahead!
What advice would you give to someone looking to join the yacht world?
Believe that you can do whatever you put in your mind to (as impossible as it seems). Your visions come true, and your reality relies on the actions you take. Move forward in life, no matter what happens, always step further forward. Follow up is the key to results. No matter how uncomfortable it gets, do whatever it takes to build strength towards rejection. Follow up relentlessly. Master your emotions, master your thoughts, once you reach the power of this wisdom you will be unstoppable. Remember to value kindness, honesty and integrity. Always focus on how to bring value to and for your clients. Build relationships in which you ASK for referrals and introductions. Be patient, measure your own progress. Do not compare yourself to others. Educate yourself in every aspect of yachting and never stop learning. Use YATCO MLS, it is the best!
FIND MENTORS! Collaboration over competition – every yacht broker out there should be seen as a future business partner, possibly representing buyers or sellers and closing a deal together!
What do you aspire to for the future?
I am not quite sure if this is going to sound wild, but I believe there is no end to goals and visions. Who I am today is constantly changing, so, who I will be tomorrow is changing. All I know is that I will continue to allow my intuition to guide me through the future while I aligning myself in the present moment.
Jim Rohn says, “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job. If you work hard on your job, you can make a living which is fine. If you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune which is superfine. Everything changed for me when I understood this philosophy. I didn’t mind working hard on my job, but things didn’t seem to change that much, then I started to work hard on myself to qualify. Success is something you attract by becoming an attractive person. Success is not something you pursue; it is something you attract by becoming attractive.”
Since implementing this philosophy, I have experienced tremendous growth and intense impact on my life and the ever-changing goals of my life’s journey and career.
I will aspire to become the me in 10 years and while I keep on that path both onward and upward, maybe just maybe, I’ll help to inspire the next generation of superyacht brokers!