What to do with an extraordinary snake skin: an interview with Project Identity

The superyacht industry is full of quirky individuals with strong ideas on what accessories they would like on board their yacht and the money to make it a reality. Yachting Pages spoke to Susan Byrne, owner operator of Project Indentity to get the inside scoop on working with superyachts.

When was your business founded?

Project Identity was founded in January 2009. I had just relocated to Cairns, Australia to start a new life with my now husband. Previously I was in a business partnership based at Coomera on the Gold Coast doing interior refurbishment projects on luxury yachts around the 40-70 foot mark. I dreamt that one day I would get to work on an international superyacht and as it turned out my first job was the full interior refit of 48m Feadship Major Wager, three days after arriving in Cairns. I couldn't believe it.

In your own words how would you describe your business?

Project Identity's core business is finding solutions to yacht problems. I am ‘sort of’ a yacht interior agent/project manager. I get invited on board to assess the enquiries, usually it is something quite basic and small, and then after a few conversational questions, the wish list is mentioned. That could be creating a sun shade awning to facilitate the use of a top deck, which is just too hot for guests in this part of the world, or re-upholstering the bosses one of a kind 1950's armchair, to finding that elusive favourite French tipple here in Australia at short notice.

Over the years I have earned the nick name "Cairns fairy Godmother", but to be honest the key is having an amazing team of clever trades people who love working on superyachts just like I do.

What makes you unique from your competitors?

I wouldn't say that I am unique, but I do have a very strong customer service ethic. I care about delivering a quality job and I intrinsically understand the client.

What’s new with your business?

Funnily enough I am working towards domestic interior design. At home we have undertaken massive renovations, doing most of the work ourselves, and it has really made me focus on how we live and not about how we are supposed to live as portrayed in magazines.

I would like to concentrate on building a service where I teach / help clients to unlock their personal style and give them confidence to create interiors that work for the way that they live.

Who is your key target audience?

Superyachts make up the bulk of my business. I divide my time between working on them, spreading the gospel about how wonderful the Great Barrier Reef region is for them and educating the naysayers to appreciate them.

What are the biggest challenges that you face in the superyacht industry at the moment?

Challenges come from the yacht management companies. Budgets and cost effective purchasing have made a firm quote the norm, and the "do and charge" a thing of the past in a lot of my jobs. Fine tuning the procedures involved in processes and still getting paid for your time and worth can be a bit of a battle.

How is business?

Business is improving every year. Australia as a whole has been affected by our high dollar from 2010 to 2013. Industry bidding for large superyacht refit work during this period has been difficult, however the end of 2014 and this year has seen enquiries up, which is encouraging.

Cairns has a great reputation for superyacht refit work through the old guard of superyacht captains. The trick is letting the new guard know what can be achieved and giving us a go.

Yachting Pages is not only helping superyacht crew find my business in Cairns but also the hundreds of other superyacht qualified businesses here.

What are your top tips in your industry?

Know your products and the environment that they will be in. A can do attitude wins every time.

What is the most bizarre client request you’ve received?

Cushions made from real snake skin. God that was a huge python once.

I had the skin laid out on the office floor to remind me that I had to do something with it. It gave a few people a heart stopping moment.

What are the current trends in your sector at the moment?

The emergence of pattern, which I love, especially in floor and wall tiles, and the emphasis on comfort as well as function. I also love the up cycling trend of re-purposing furniture and objects, such as a mass of colanders made into a kitchen chandelier.

What superyachts/big clients have you worked with that you can share?

Some of the really interesting ones have been Plan b, Vava II, Archimedes and Arctic for all different reasons.

Who would be your dream client?

A yacht owner with a will to re-create a yacht interior that reflected the essence of their personality and allow me the opportunity to explore it.

For more information, visit Project Intentity

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