The Start Up Blog

Entrepreneur of the Week: Gherghisan Ion

river, delta, tulcea, swan, entrepreneurGherghisan Ion is living proof that bigger is not always better when it comes to being an entrepreneur.   Ion decided to start a vacation boating service on the Danube Delta, the second largest river delta in Europe.   He became a successful entrepreneur with just a handful of employees by out thinking his competition and developing a network for referrals through positive word of mouth.

Ion did not take a direct path to working in the tourism industry.  He grew up in Tulcea, a tiny, yet charming town in south-east Romania, located at the tip of the Danube Deltas three channels. Rather than chasing the opportunity to be an entrepreneur in another place, he decided to open there a chain of small retail shops.  It wasn’t until a couple of years later that he started flirting with the idea of switching to tourism. “Friends all over the country who knew I live so close to the water asked me to recommend them places to stay at while on vacation. So one day, my wife thought we could do that, we could be the perfect hosts for all these people”, said Ghergisan Ion.

The entire family took a major leap of faith and bought “Lavinia”, a boat named after their 14 years old daughter. After doing some research to find out more about the competition, Ion realized certain entrepreneurs were more concerned with turning a profit than they were with pleasing the clients. “Companies offering similar services were oblivious to the needs of their clients.  This gave me room to differentiate myself from the competition.  I was confident that I could provide a better experience than what was available at the time.”

Ion started by offering clients one day trips down the Danube.  He eventually turned the boat into a floating hotel that provides a relaxing experience for tourists.  The multiday cruise features fishing and sight sightseeing.  Freshly caught fish are skillfully cooked by a professional shelf.  Guests also explore the awe inspiring biodiversity of the region with the expertise of a local guide.  Guides show guests the amazing flora and fauna of the delta.  There are over 2000 species of plants and 5000 species of animals, including endangered or nearly extinct species like sturgeons. Guests leaving from Tulcea must choose one of three branches of the river to explore.   The Chilia Arm, Sulina Arm and Sfântul Gheorghe Arm each offer their own unique beauty. Any route leads to any number of pearls of nature from lakes and forests to small islands.

The boat is ideal for private parties, family gatherings, groups of fishing enthusiasts, photographers eager to capture wildlife landscapes or just people who crave for serenity of the Danube Delta.   Because it is a seasonal business, it has its ups and downs, there’s no better marketing tool than satisfied customers. Word-of-mouth recommendation not only worked wonders in terms of profit, but also brought him a sense of accomplishment. “This is a seasonal business.  I have three times more customers in the summer than I do during the winter.  I can’t complain though; I have my faithful clients who bring me new ones. This gives me a sense of purpose. It’s a constant source of joy”, says the Romanian entrepreneur. While he never set out to be more than a provider for his family, somehow he grew a very successful business and after all these years, he has clients from all over Romania and other countries from Europe as well including  Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, Norway and Poland!

 

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