Tauranga-based boat maker Tino Marine is challenging traditional boat manufacturing. Founder Nick Fenton, 33, discusses his current project.

What is your business?

Tino Marine was established as a design consultancy specialising in small luxury day boats and superyacht tenders, but lately we've branched out into developing our own line of production trailer boats, rather than custom boats.

How big is the team and how long have you been operating?

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At the moment there are only two of us, but we have quite a few part time staff who come in when the need arrives. We're based in Papamoa Beach in Tauranga and the business started in 2015.

What inspired you to start this kind of business?

Tino was started out of sheer passion. A passion for boats from a young age and a passion for always pushing the limits of design and technology.

It was a natural progression.

It's easy to do something different from the normal, but it's very hard to do something genuinely better - that passion keeps us going every day.

It got to a point where I decided I could do better than what was available, so I sat down and thought about what would be the perfect boat for Kiwi families and came up with what was known as a rig - a rigid inflatable boat. I wasn't happy with what I came up with so we pulled it apart and went through every aspect of the boat, ran it through our design criteria and came up with something different.

What is your current focus?

Currently we're in the final stages of development for our Tino 570HS.

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The Tino 570 HS is a premium sports fishing and family trailer boat designed for the Australian and New Zealand markets. It will be unveiled around May.

This particular boat has been in development for two and a half year, so it's taken some time. It's quite unique to most other boats available in New Zealand and even around the world. It is the smallest in a series of boats, this one being 5.7 metres, and will be the smallest one we build.

A diesel-Electric Hybrid Limousine, designed for a client from the Middle East.
A diesel-Electric Hybrid Limousine, designed for a client from the Middle East.

The market for this boat is luxury, so initially we're aiming for New Zealand and Australia, but part of our design when creating it was that we wanted it to be at home internationally wherever it went in the water.

Where did the business name come from?

Tino is a Maori word. We wanted a name that reflected and paid homage to its origins, but would easily fit into an international market. Tino translates to importance, main, best, top, principal - when used before a noun it indicates something unrivalled, true or genuine.

What makes your boats different to others?

The main thing we wanted to do was have a holistic design that was functional and formed together. Typically you find a lot of boats that are functional but not very pretty to look at, and then you have boats that are very pretty to look at but extremely infunctional, so we wanted to get the perfect balance in between.

We've also developed a system where our pontoons are made from a special kind of foam so they are unpuncturable, basically. If a kiwi bloke goes out fishing and he puts a hook in the side of his boat then it's still going to perform exactly the same as it would without a puncture.

We're definitely not the only ones using this system - the military and commercial ferries use it too - but what we're doing is pushing it further.

At work inside Tino Marine's workshop.
At work inside Tino Marine's workshop.

How easy was it starting Tino Marine, is it your first business?

Starting Tino Marine was definitely a big challenge. The parts of the business that I thought were going to be easy have proved to be quite challenging, and parts I thought were going to be challenging have proved to be quite easy.

I spent the last six or so years working overseas in various companies and I came back to New Zealand expecting to find the same products available to us as we had overseas, but it's been a really big challenge to get the products we need to build a really high-end product here in New Zealand as we're just so far away.

For example, we import steering wheels from Italy but to get them to New Zealand they have to go to a company in the US, to another in Australia and then we have to buy it off of them which works out to be 400 per cent more expensive than the original price from Italy. Those are the sort of challenges you don't really think of right at the beginning before you start.

What are your long-term plans for Tino Marine?

We are going to take the standard concept we have now and expand on it.

We'll be exporting to Australia, but want to go further abroad than that. In the marine industry we're recognised but we're also a very small part, globally, of what's available, so we want a slice of a bigger pie.

What's the best thing about running your own business?

I think it's the satisfaction to be honest. The satisfaction of seeing something go from a pencil sketch in our design studio right through to seeing the boat on the water or seeing a customer happy with it - that's the satisfaction for me.

What advice do you give to other people thinking of starting a business?

Trust yourself and back yourself. If you know your industry best then stick to your guns. The times I've had problems have been when we've trusted so-called experts, when I should have trusted myself.