Even when the waters are calm, running a fishing charter business isn’t always smooth sailing. “To be out on the water all day and then come home in the evening and have to return calls and e-mails is tough for guides, as well as for their families,” explains Alicia Aloe, chief executive officer of Open Angler—a Mount Pleasant-based business that, two years ago, began lending those entrepreneurs a hand.
Using her background in restaurant-reservation technology (her company, Table Maestro, was bought by Open Table), Aloe partnered with chief technology officer Eddie Edenfield to start openangler.com. Think of it as the Airbnb of charters: users browse business profiles and check availability, book and pay for trips, and review their experiences. Guides can confirm reservations with the click of a button (or even a text message). “It’s so exciting to watch as trips get filled each day,” says Aloe.
But benefits for charter operators go far beyond the streamlined reservation process. Free membership with the site includes search-engine optimization, business-trend tracking, referral management, and tax-form generation. Over the past two years, Aloe and Edenfield have reeled in $500,000 in funding and hand-picked businesses in 28 states to come aboard. Now, their focus is on improving the site for members, including a redesigned user interface and tools to generate more business for operators.
Reeling Them In
Open Angler is growing by the day. Here’s a look at some up-to-date stats
➼ Users can peruse more than 2,500 trips offered by 1,700-plus charter operators. Between 50 and 100 new guides sign on with the site each month.
➼ Open Angler is operating in 28 states, with Charleston ranking as its number-one destination. ”Since it’s our home base, we’ve spent the most time developing this market,” explains Aloe.
➼ The company earns six to nine percent of the price of each trip booked. Part is paid by the user, part by the charter operator.
➼ You can take three friends onshore fishing for eight hours with Open Angler’s farthest-flung operator, AllWater Boat Rentals, Charters, and Expeditions in Dana Point, California, for $1,065. Locally, a similar trip with Fly Right Charters is $905.