33-year-old with a six-figure side hustle: ‘People underestimate how much it takes to be very successful'

JP Mancini II

This story is part of CNBC Make It's Six-Figure Side Hustle series, where people with lucrative side hustles break down the routines and habits they've used to make money on top of their full-time jobs. Got a story to tell? Let us know! Email us at

JP Mancini II didn't hate his general manager job at a car dealership in Hampton, Virginia. It paid well — up to $300,000 per year — and he enjoyed interacting with customers.

But he longed for more time to travel, and wanted to find more creative ways to earn cash. So, in 2020, he took out a loan and bought a $170,000 boat. He started a chartering business called SeaEO Nautical Ventures, initially intending to just cover the boat's payments.

The business proved more lucrative than he expected. Mancini took out another loan to swap his boat for a fancier one, left his job in November 2021 and started relying on rental platforms like Boatsetter and GetMyBoat as his primary means of income.

Today, the 33-year-old has two boats — one in Hampton, and another in Key West, Florida — that brought in more than $466,500 in rental revenue from January 2022 through January 2023, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

Mancini's take-home pay is less than his old 9-to-5 salary, since some of his revenue goes toward vehicle maintenance and paying off $550,000 in debt from the boat purchases, he says. But he only works 30 minutes per day, he adds, giving him more time to travel and relax on the water.

Here, Mancini discusses how he created his six-figure business and how you can potentially replicate his success.

CNBC Make It: Do you think your side hustle is replicable?

JP Mancini II: Definitely. People underestimate how much it takes to be very successful.

I think there are three key elements to understand [before you start]. The biggest thing is safety. With a big thing like a boat, it's not like renting out a car where general knowledge is applied to drive it.

Then, there's the legality of it. You have to make sure you're compliant with Coast Guard laws, because it's a ton of information. You also have to have the capital to do things right. It's like an Airbnb business: If you start renting a house without the proper permits, you're going to get fined.

I wouldn't say my current circumstances took luck, other than meeting the right people through networking. A friend of a friend named Neil helped me get started in Key West: He helped me build partnerships [with the local boating community] that allowed me to focus on other aspects of the business.

Did you have boats growing up? If not, how did you learn about those safety and legality concerns?

Nope. It was a lot of research. I also learned a lot through experiences [and] failures.

Last summer, a customer illegally chartered my boat, which meant I, the actual owner of the boat, was suddenly noncompliant with Coast Guard laws. It put me in a bind: People thought I was doing stuff illegally, even though I had no idea the renter was doing it.

I've found when something happens to me negatively, like a bad review, I always find a way to channel all my energy into either understanding it or preventing the problem from ever happening again. It takes a lot of talking to people and working with my lawyer to really understand how to be legally compliant.

My reputation suffered, but I built it back up by maintaining a great customer experience. Understanding what you need to provide the client is really important — answering people's questions, not hiding anything, taking care of them.

Do you need cash on hand to start this side hustle?

When you're dealing with high-grossing products, like boats, you need capital to start. If you need newer equipment and you skimp and buy a cheaper alterative, it could affect your efficiency, time, experience quality and end up hurting you via revenue.

I focus on [making sure] my depreciating assists are liquid, paying bills two months or more ahead of time and having enough capital on hand for emergencies. Once those baselines are established, anything that comes in I can reinvest in the company and pay myself.

What has your shift from full-time job to nearly passive business been like?

A typical day before I started my business was a million miles per hour. I had hundreds of text messages coming in all the time.

Once I got [my business] operational — which I would say took 60 days — it became mostly administrative work. I've actually gotten to the point where I'm really bored. I feel complacent when I'm not challenged, like I'm going to the gym and doing the same workout every day.

It's a beautiful thing to wake up and do everything remotely, but I've even considered looking for another job. So, I'm trying to step it up and get refocused on my goals. I'm always trying to build the business more, too — whether it be advertisements or social media or following up on [customer] requests.

Which of your skillsets or habits helped you the most while growing this business?

I was born to be a salesperson. When you really understand sales, you know there's only two reasons people buy things: to fix a problem, or because they love something. I think you have to understand the psychological aspect of why people spend an exorbitant amount of money [on anything].

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Get CNBC's free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire's No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do's and don'ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.

Sign up now: Get smarter about your money and career with our weekly newsletter

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us