Beach Butler Eliminates the “Haul” From an Ocean City Holiday

Jul 2, 2020 11:21 AM

By Liz Douglas Medcalf M '17

Ocean City vacations are loads of fun, but not uniformly pleasant. They come with issues like traffic, sunburn and the struggle of hauling a day's worth of chairs, snacks and toys to and from the car or the condo.

Alums Justin '08 and Sarah Greenwood Ports '06 can't help with the traffic or sunburn, but they have come up with the solution to the task of hauling and setting up beach gear with their business, the Beach Butler.

Longtime beach lovers, they drew from their own frustrations with the routine once they became parents and their volume of beach belongings increased.

"We got into an argument on the beach about our then-infant daughter's beach stuff, how to set it all up, put it all away, etc. It was hot, sand was blowing and the umbrella stand person was laughing at us," Justin said. "At that moment I said to Sarah, 'We are starting a business that does this for people.'"

With a slogan of "We ensure your vacation stays a vacation," they made it their business in 2019 to take on what their website calls a "majorly annoying task" for other vacationers. Their clients leave their chairs, coolers, toys and totes outside the door of wherever they are staying, designate what part of the beach they want to stake out, and the Beach Butlers do the rest. They collect the items, transport them to the beach, set them up, then send the client a picture of the location. At the end of the day, they perform the same service in reverse.

Options range from the "I Could Do This by Myself, but WHY?" to the top line "No Divorce" package, depending on the volume of gear that needs to be transported. They can be booked by the day or the week.

It's not a big enough enterprise yet that they can quit their day jobs. Sarah teaches elementary school in Howard County, and Justin is a project manager for a general contracting firm. But their FSU experience still informs their business operations.

"My degree is in communication studies and I'm constantly interacting with our customers on the phone, email and in person," Justin said. "I also owe Capt. O (Dr. Evan Offstein) a lot of credit. The lessons he taught me in his business ethics class and in his book, Stand Your Ground: Building Honorable Leaders the West Point Way, are invaluable and have guided me with how I operate our business."

They relish the thought that they are helping families maximize their time together.

"The average mom/dad spends 45-60 minutes in the morning getting their beach gear ready, loaded on a cart/wagon or in a car, then getting it through the sand and setting it all up. It takes the same amount of time in the afternoon bringing it all back," Justin said. "That's a lot of missed time being with your family when the purpose of vacation is to spend uninterrupted time with your loved ones."

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