Prime Experiences is making waves
Success Stories

How Prime Experiences is making waves with yacht parties and corporate events

After Jose David Tobon and Juan Garcia threw a party for a friend on a 50-foot catamaran, everyone who attended loved it and started calling them wanting to know how they produced such an event. “We started seeing that there was a very big potential in the entertainment industry,” Tobon recalls. That would be the start of something big: Soon after, in 2011, the business partners launched Prime Experiences.

Tobon and Garcia started speaking with yacht owners and captains at marinas and understood this to be a massive industry they could tap into. They created a website and started marketing events for birthday bashes, bachelorette parties, family trips, anniversaries and other special occasions on vessels from 40 feet to 120 footers. Prime Experiences offers a variety of packages for catering options and VIP services such as a DJ and/or mixologist on board.

Jose David Tobon
Jose David Tobon

For Tobon, the new full-service events business was not his first foray into entrepreneurship. The former sushi chef always had an entrepreneurial spirit. “I started my own catering company, doing private events and private parties on the side. I was always thinking, how can I get better? How can I get bigger? How can I promote myself? I started taking courses, learning about marketing, and hiring people who knew more than me.” When you are an entrepreneur, the learning never stops.

Tobon called the first five years of running Prime Experiences “a great run,” but it was time to take the business to the next level. After some more research and coaching, Tobon and Garcia began offering services for corporate events for a couple hundred passengers at a time after they acquired the management of larger yachts – 80 feet to 250 feet. Prime Experiences offers a number of options but typically tours around Miami Beach, Star Island, Fisher Island, Downtown Miami and Brickell. It also operates in Fort Lauderdale and Cartegena, Colombia.

Prime Experiences

About that time, Tobon started talking to Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center within Florida International University’s College of Business that offers no-cost business consulting and training to small businesses in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. “We’re always looking to get help from people that know a lot about business,” Tobon says. SBDC at FIU delivered that expertise.

Tobon and SBDC at FIU consultant Ricardo Newark, an expert in finance and business growth, have been meeting regularly for the past couple of years. Initially, the counseling sessions were all about the numbers, Tobon recalls. “He started asking me a lot of very key questions, like ‘what’s happening with this’ and ‘why isn’t this one of the lines of your business that has better margins?’ ”

Newark inspired Tobon to look more deeply at metrics like sales per agent per month and they explored how they could improve every month. It’s been working.

One of the key early learnings from the deep dive into the numbers and the questions Newark asked were that expenses were too high, Tobon says. The key question: What do you really need for your business to run? By doing an inventory of expenses, “I started seeing so many things that we’re spending money on. For example, we had two storage units. We were paying for 10 different phone lines and we only needed six,” Tobon says. “They add up.”

Cutting back on many of those expenses, as well as trimming marketing spending a bit and letting go of an employee they didn’t need at the time, all made a big difference, Tobon says. “You’ve got to know your numbers.”

In a red-hot tourism market like South Florida, competition can be a challenge, but Prime Experiences differentiates itself by offering all-in-one packages, including catering and VIP style entertainment, and most importantly by its excellent customer service, Tobon says. “Our reviews are five-star reviews on all the platforms, and that has helped a lot.”

The company currently offers services in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and a smaller operation in Cartagena, Colombia, and is considering expansion opportunities in the Southeast and the West Coast.

For 2024, though, the big focus will be on expanding its business in corporate events, such as holiday parties, employee recognition events, client appreciation gatherings and executive retreats. With so many finance and tech businesses moving to Florida, Prime Experiences has been doing events for big companies, including Cisco, Yelp, Spotify, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and others. “We’re closing very well-known brands,” Tobon says. “It’s been tremendous and we’re thinking that these corporate events are going surpass sales for the B2C side.”

Tobon offered some advice to entrepreneurs just getting started: Find an accountability coach. He used one early on for about four years because when you’re the owner, you don’t have a boss, he says. It’s good to have someone that you meet with regularly to help guide you, he said, and he felt the pressure to accomplish what he said he would accomplish.

His second piece of advice is this: Educate yourself in marketing because it’s critical for business success. “You’ve got to know what strategies are out there and your ROI in marketing. You have got to keep educating yourself. Everything is going so fast nowadays and if you don’t keep upgrading your skills, you’re going to slow down your business.”

Lastly, he said: “I believe that it’s all about having a great team and working together toward the same vision and mission, and SBDC has been there to help us out on all the things that we need.”

Social Media:


Leave a Comment