When Julie Andres and her sister Susan Mau purchased Mau Marine from their parents, they were unaware that their position - two female owners in the largely male-dominated marine world - was rare.
"I didn't how unique it was until we started going to meetings with other dealers," Andres said. "You find yourself in these large conference rooms, and as you are looking around, it is like, `One of us is not like the other.'"
Andres has always been proud of the fact that so many businesses in her industry are family-owned, like her Okoboji, Iowa-based dealership. And she looks to leverage her dealership's own female, second-generation ownership to help incorporate more women into the buying process, as well as at the helm.
Marine dealers, both men and women, are beginning to understand that females in a household play a pivotal role in purchasing decisions. At Mau Marine, Andres said a heavy emphasis is put on selling to the whole family.
"Females play a huge role in the purchase," Andres said. "And we are listening to what is important to her as far as safety for kids, colors of the interior and ease of operation."
Outside the showroom, Andres said she has not seen the same progression.
"I am amazed when I look out at the lake. I feel like it's 1950 still when it is really only men at the helm," she says. "We want to move that needle and put more ladies at the helm."
As seen in other dealerships, Mau Marine will offer boating courses exclusively for women this June. Andres said recreational boating is an excellent family activity and increasing the comfort of all involved has great benefit.
As women boaters get more comfortable at the helm, Andres expects more women to enjoy recreational boating outside of family excursions.
"You can look at using the boats in different ways, maybe more ladies would go out, not necessarily having a man aboard," she said. "Taking friends out to water ski and not necessarily have dad around. I think the more hours we can put on, the better."