A Chat With...Jon Beery

DARIEN — Jon Beery was one of the lucky ones who got a job after graduation. After finishing college at UConn in 2010, the Darien native moved to Boston to work in auditing and consulting for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But his heart was always somewhere else. On days when it was windy, everyone in the office knew Beery would be coming in late or leaving early to hit the waves kiteboarding at beaches in the area. Then one day in 2014, after a bonus cleared, he put in his two weeks notice and left to work at a kiteboarding school in North Carolina.

“I was driving home from work at 11:30 one night and I was like ‘You know what, if I wanted to go on an adventure at any point in my life, it would be now,’ ” Beery said. “I have no family, no kids. So I went to this company on the Outer Banks, the largest kiteboarding retailer in the world basically.”

After working there for about a year, Beery and his business partner, Jake Hoefler, who he met in North Carolina, decided to venture out on their own. The two began looking into opening up a business in Nantucket, Mass., last November. In January, they presented their plan to the hesitant town and wowed them with their strategy. They then became the first ever kite school approved by the Nantucket Board of Selectmen and were agreed upon with a unanimous vote.

“They ended up being super helpful to us,” Beery said. “The one mandate was we couldn’t rely purely on public resources. We needed a home base and someone with waterfront properties. So, the next day, we walked the harborfront taking pictures of every single business.”

The partners cold

called each business and ended up getting in touch with the HarborView

Nantucket, a waterfront hotel, and the two were able to partner with them. Now, their school, Next Level Watersports, which opened in April, teaches kiteboarding, as well as wakeboarding and hydrofoiling to hotel guests, locals and other tourists.

Beery said that many of their clients are initially hesitant about trying water sports, because they seem so extreme. But Beery said he’s had students ages 8-87 and all are capable of doing it.

“People think kiting, you have to be super strong and an extreme athlete. People think it takes all this athletic talent,” he said. “It’s not a matter if you become a kiter, it’s a matter of when if you stick with it.”

Beery said he hopes that all his clients continue kiting, especially those in Fairfield County. A 2005 graduate of Darien High School, Beery began kiteboarding while still living in the area and said it’s a great spot for kiteboarding.

“Darien is incredible for kiting,” Beery said, citing Weed Beach as a good spot to kite. “It’s best in cold months. People think you have to travel, but it’s accessible right at their fingertips. It’s a matter of people learning how to do it.”

Despite the availability of kiteboarding anywhere, Beery said what he likes about the sport is the traveling he’s been able to do with it. Beery has kiteboarded in places like Hawaii and spends winters working as a kiteboarding instructor at a Ritz Carlton in Puerto Rico.

It’s this love of kiting that keeps Beery going at his job.

“I feel like I’m in busy season for auditing again,” he said. “I’ll put in 13 hour days on the water, eat and reconcile books, finish up at 1 or 2 in the morning, wake up at 6:30 and put the boats in place again.”

Beery handles the accounting side of the business, while Hoefler handles the PR side. Beery said his accounting background has helped tremendously and is part of what’s made his business work.

“I’d be absolutely nowhere without the time I invested at my old company,” he said. “What i have going for me is I am a systems and accounting guy. When I did consulting, I was installing accounting systems for Fortune 500 companies, solving problems and making them more efficient. Now I feel like I’m doing consulting for myself.”

Through the partners’ combinations of skills, they’ve been able to have an “amazing” first year which Beery said exceeded their expectations. Part of their success is due to the town, he said. Not only has the Harborview been generous enough to provide their waterfront space, but locals in town have been able to lodge the partners and their employees.

“The community in Nantucket surprised me. You think they’d be skeptical of the new guys, but they’ve embraced us and marketed us,” he said. “I want to make this island my home and every day, I feel like I have more and more family here. I feel like the island is taking us in and we’re paying it forward.”

Beery said that as they enter into their fall season, he’s focusing more on improving the business in their new home rather than expanding elsewhere.

“It’s focusing on quality and really delivering premium experience, but we want to grow the company out here,” he said. “We’d love to grow to multiple sites but right now, we’re focused on growing Nantucket. Clients here, they expect white glove service and that’s what we aspire to. When you’re learning the sports you feel secure and safe. It’s not a grueling thing.”

Running a business itself, especially a new one is grueling though. Beery said he’s still not at the point where he can step back from his business. But that’s okay.

“This is what I love,” he said. “And I’m willing to put in 13-14 hour day and it doesn’t feel like work. I just do what needs to be done.”

For more information on Next Level Water Sports, go to www.nlwatersports.com.

ekayata@hearstmediact.com; @erin_kayata