Some people develop a deep curiosity in a field or skill from an early age that shapes their career path. Such is the case for Jonathan Maiorine whose last name coincidentally rhymes with ‘marine’! As a young boy growing up in Barnegat Bay, New Jersey, Jonathan was always curious about the ocean. A friend from high school, who knew of his interest, mentioned a college focused on merchant marine and military services near Buzzard Bay, on the Cape Cod Canal.
Following his passion, Jonathan graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 1993 where he spent ‘semesters at sea’ on training ships to gain hands-on merchant marine experience and earned both a degree in Marine Transportation and an unlimited tonnage deck officer license from the US Coast Guard.
After a year of working aboard tank vessels and oil spill response vessels between New York and New Orleans, Jonathan joined the US Coast Guard where he served for 23 years inspecting commercial cargo and passenger vessels and waterfront facilities, traveling abroad and living in seven different homes across the continental US and Hawaii. Following a short break, Jonathan accepted a position as Vice President of Fleet Operations with International Registries, Inc, which helps manage the world’s third largest commercial vessel registry for the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Here he took on a global role and learned more about the commercial side of the maritime business until April 2021.
The Path to Success
Jonathan tells us, “I always wanted to have my own small business, but I never really knew how or when [to go about it.] My first taste of success was drafting the components of a business plan and forming the LLC.” J Howell Maritime was established in August 2021, providing short-term specialized maritime training and administrative support to owners and operators of commercial vessels and the government agencies who regulate these ships. Jonathan’s customers are commercial vessel and facility owners, operators, and managers in addition to government regulators who manage maritime regulatory compliance and operations. This is a large target audience with over 3,200 facilities of this nature in the US alone.
The decision to start his own business was quite timely given the dynamics in the global maritime industry. Jonathan describes the challenge this group faces: “an ever-expanding array of mandatory domestic and international safety, security and environmental protection laws and regulations.”
Maritime customers keep operations very lean, especially given the competitive global landscape and significant operating costs. Many outsource the training of their employees for this reason and also because these programs are specific to the needs of the company and the operation, requiring different subject matter expertise.
To get his business started with some solid guidance, Jonathan attended the 2021 St. Joseph’s University Entrepreneur Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) under the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) by Syracuse University. As part of his month-long training, he was introduced to SCORE for the first time and met his Mentor, Jerry Francis, who helped him polish and rehearse his business pitch for the competition. Jonathan is so grateful and shares, “My ‘shark tank’ presentation at the conclusion of the training before a panel of judges was awarded a top prize for the most complete pitch and…Jerry was behind the scenes supporting me every step of the way.”
Jonathan continued to work with Jerry to gain insights on opening a business bank account, obtaining a tax ID, evaluating options for company credit cards, and, most importantly, establishing his “BAIL” resource team including a banker, accountant, insurance agent, and lawyer. Using the free resources provided upon successful graduation from the EBV program at St. Joe’s, Jonathan designed his business logo with the support of a professional marketing company at no charge.
With his vast experience in the maritime industry, Jonathan obtained his first two customers by connecting with his contacts including other experienced maritime consultants to learn about who needed help. Jonathan has a strong professional network and uses LinkedIn and email to search for opportunities.
His first project in Manama, Bahrain, was an early sign of success for the company. Jonathan recognized this as a defining moment, when “I had the plane tickets in my hand to go support my clients in the Middle East. The business discussion was so good!” He met with foreign government officials responsible for port security to discuss their objectives and expectations of the training for their team.
How SCORE Helped
Jonathan appreciates the perspective and guidance he receives from his SCORE mentor, Jerry Francis. “Can you imagine having an IBM Executive on your start-up team? I love to brag about Jerry to my family and friends. ‘Yes, I am a small startup company, and I have an IBM Executive as a mentor who works for free and has no motive other than to see me give it my best.'”
The two professionals have become close, and Jonathan can’t thank Jerry and SCORE enough for their support and guidance. There are many things to consider that Jonathan says he would never even have thought to ask!
It is clear that his SCORE mentor who has years of leadership experience provides much more than some meaningful improvements to a PowerPoint presentation. The real value to Jonathan was “learning more about my personal and professional goals for the LLC and the world of a small business startup along the way.”
Jerry introduced Jonathan to Bill Pearce, an international trade consultant from Widener University. Together, they evaluated options for building a successful overseas business plan.
Jonathan relies on his team of experts including Jerry, Bill, and Hank Gillen, Director of the St. Joseph’s University Office of Veterans Services, which conducts the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans. He especially remembers their warning, “You will make some mistakes. We all do.” They were correct but are always there to help him learn from it and move on!
Jonathan acknowledges the mentorship and insightful guidance: “Their dedication and passion for assisting Veterans and new entrepreneurs is inspiring. Always available to listen, consider options, and provide on-target advice and encouragement, my mentors are a very important part of the J Howell Maritime team.”
Jonathan’s first project in Bahrain went so smoothly that he was personally requested by the customs team leader to complete the second program in Oman, also in the Middle East. Details for new opportunities in Hawaii and Alaska are being finalized as of April 2022.
While starting up, Jonathan highlights the good fortune he has had to meet so many talented people who “are more than happy to share their experiences and advice with me.” Beyond his connection to Veterans from the St. Joseph’s Bootcamp, Jonathan has connected with vessel Captains, former US Special Forces, US Embassy Officials, International Government and Military personnel, and professional interpreters from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and USA.
While in-person training is preferred, maritime consultants are considering hybrid programs where some training can be done virtually. This enables the projects to be more cost-efficient and still accomplish the customer’s objectives.
Jonathan’s maritime consulting business has had an impressive and well-planned startup. He is pleased with the progress: “I am traveling the world, constantly learning and developing plans for expansion…did I mention having the time of my life?”
Being a solopreneur, he has collected a list of lessons he has learned. Some were surprising to him. The more Jonathan learns about these aspects of business, the more comfortable he is with planning budgets and making decisions that impact finances.
- everything takes longer than expected, including sales prep and administration
- new business bank accounts are not created equally; shop around for one that suits your needs and budget
- find a CPA who will take the time to explain the requirements and the process
Paying It Forward
J Howell Maritime started giving back immediately. When Jonathan’s business was awarded a cash grant from the St. Joseph’s Veterans pitch competition, he transferred almost half of the funds to fellow Veterans who are leading small business efforts for homeless veterans and at-risk youth projects. Jonathan also now volunteers to serve on the board of directors for a non-profit in North Carolina.
In March 2022, Jonathan presented at the EBV at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA, sharing his experiences as a new entrepreneur with a new cohort of veterans. Why is that? “My business was already having a positive impact on the lives of others, and we had barely even started. What an incredible feeling” it was for Jonathan to be recognized in this way.
Jonathan is a role model for veterans and small business owners. He brings a lifetime of deep and broad experience in the maritime field. He is passionate about continuing to learn and reaches out to previous bosses and expert maritime consultants who served his former employers for additional knowledge….and appreciates all the advice he receives!
He shares his insights with others taking the leap to start up a small business:
- “Find out about SCORE. Take advantage of the available support, guidance, and free resources.”
- “Meet the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Widener University and learn about their programs.”
- “Continue to look for what support and free training is out there, especially for Veterans.”
- “The community and other small business owners want you to be successful!”