As the Head Coach and Executive Director at City Island Rowing in Bronx, NY, Guy Monseair has dedicated his career to nurturing young athletes and promoting the values of teamwork and personal growth through the sport of rowing. With a diverse background that spans entrepreneurship in art galleries and horticulture, he has found his true calling in coaching, where he aims to impact lives both on and off the water.

How did you get started in this business?

I initially ventured into entrepreneurship with art galleries dealing in art work from Zimbabwe, and developing a horticulture and wildlife preservation operation in Zimbabwe. Working in conjunction with friends, we fenced a 7000 acre property that was dedicated solely to protecting and re-introducing the natural wildlife of the area. The horticulture project, growing and exporting the exceptionally beautiful “Flame Lily ” (Gloriosa Superba) which were sold at the Dutch Auction floor – Alsmeer, funded the wildlife preservation project. My journey into rowing began somewhat serendipitously when the sons of friends of mine started rowing in Zimbabwe and having rowed a little in Australia as a schoolboy, I volunteered to help out. It wasn’t long before I found myself behind the steering wheel of a launch, and somehow I had become a coach! Discovering the incredible life transforming opportunities that abound in this demanding sport, I quickly came to develop a passion for the sport and coaching, leading me to sell my businesses and commit fully to rowing coaching.

How do you make money?

Our main revenue streams at City Island Rowing come from membership fees, program enrollments, and hosting rowing clinics and events. Additionally, we receive sponsorships and donations that support our athletic programs and help expand our outreach and equipment upgrades.

How long did it take for you to become financially stable?

Starting a new club from scratch is definitely a challenge, however we were blessed to have very supportive members, and demand for membership way exceeded our capacity, so our initial financial challenge was funding our growth. This period involved a lot of community engagement and building a reputable program that attracted more athletes and their families. It took about three years to reach the point where we had funded our capital equipment needs, and then had a modest operating surplus from membership dues and fundraising. As a not for profit, we re-invest all of our funds into the club, for the betterment of our program.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work?

Starting out was definitely challenging, especially in the early stages. Balancing financial management with quality coaching delivery was daunting, but the passion for the sport and the visible progress of the athletes kept me going. However, there was so much positivity and determination from the athletes and their parents, there wasn’t any doubt it would work, but we definitely had to be careful with our resources.

How do you get your customers?

It may sound cliche, but word of mouth is absolutely the biggest lead for new athletes at City Island Rowing. We have built a quality program and have a very enviable reputation for outstanding recruiting success. Our alumnae attend a multitude of amazing colleges, so many families chose City island Rowing for that avenue. It goes far beyond college recruiting though. We strive to find a work / life balance while remaining regionally and nationally competitive. We train significantly less than a lot of other area teams, so that our athletes can get great grades at school and participate in other extra curricular activities. Parents appreciate the investment in the development of the whole athlete, and spread the word to their friends.

What is one marketing strategy that works well to generate new business?

One effective strategy has been “bring a friend to row day”, where our current athletes can bring a friend, a neighbor, a kid they used to babysit for, so they can get a taste of this amazing sport. Rowing has a way of instantly sparking an interest in the sport. It takes a little while to get used to it, but even just a few solid strokes where the boat glides swiftly and quietly, often gets newcomers hooked, and they sign up for our Summer Learn to Row programs.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

By far and away the most difficult decisions, and the one most coaches dread, is line up selections for major races. Rowing is unique in that there is not “time-out”, no time to swap out athletes so everyone gets a turn. We commit to a line-up that gets to race from start to finish, and that is it. Everyone wants to be in the “top boat”, and works hard to earn their seat. However there are only a finite number of seats, and inevitably there will be disappointed athletes. They still get to row in a different category, but that doesn’t mean they are not devastated at kissing out… seat selection is the toughest.

What do you think makes you successful?

I believe my ability to connect with athletes on a personal level and genuinely invest in their growth has been crucial for success. Also, maintaining a clear vision and consistent values in coaching has helped establish a strong and trusting community around our rowing program.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

One of the most satisfying moments was seeing our rowing teams win national competitions. The joy and pride on the athletes’ faces, knowing all their hard work paid off, were immensely fulfilling.

What does the future hold for your business?

Looking ahead, we plan to expand our facilities by building a boathouse of our own. This will allow us to incorporate more advanced training technologies, as well as manage inclement weather in a more predictable way.

What business books have inspired you?

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins has been particularly inspiring, providing insights into what differentiates top-performing companies from the rest. It’s a valuable resource for understanding leadership and organizational effectiveness.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would advise my younger self to worry less about immediate outcomes and focus more on long-term impact. Patience and consistency in your values are key to lasting success.

Are you willing to be a mentor?

Our club is built on the mentor / mentee philosophy where we encourage our veteran athletes to invest time and energy with our younger / newer athletes to shorten the learning curve, and build a more cohesive club. In a similar way, I have worked with and mentored several coaches just getting started in the journey, and it is always a great sense of pride to see them grow and take on bigger and bigger coaching roles, sometimes as Head Coaches in their own right. Sharing knowledge and experiences to help others grow professionally and personally is something I find deeply rewarding and essential for the development of the sport.

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