New technologies have led kayak manufacturers to better, more durable
building materials -- and increased sales.
After Greg Redden finished an independent school project on designing trusses
for architectural applications, he realized that he had a knack for designing.
So he began designing his own sea kayaks. He got a full-time job after graduating
from college with a master's of architecture degree, but continued developing
his own sea kayak design.
Today, Redden is seeing profitable results. He says that marketing and
advertising are very important to his business, but are also very expensive.
For anyone looking to become a kayak manufacturer, Redden suggests a background
in structural design and a love for the sport.
"Kayaks are a type of personal watercraft that can be subjected to a great
deal of stress when loaded with camping gear and used as a piece of sporting
equipment. I'm a self-taught kayaker and I recommend that people who build
one of my kayak designs [his company offers build-your-own kayaks] become
familiar with their kayak and seek expert instruction on the fine points of
There are certain areas of the world where kayaking has risen in popularity.
According to Tim Niemier, founder of Ocean Kayak and Klub Kayak, water sports
are big and very organized in Asia. "New Zealand and Australia are also very
popular markets where people tend to have more leisure time due to the year-round
Today, Ocean Kayak and Klub Kayak employ 60 people and market products
to over 50 countries.
But owning a niche manufacturing business is much more than just designing
and building. Getting the word out can be the key to increasing sales and
converting new customers over from other sports.
South Carolina-based Perception Inc. realized the need to better educate
the public about their products. Although the company had a prime dealer network
and the broadest distribution in the industry, there was a definite need for
more customer interaction.
So president Bill Masters challenged the company to become fully interactive
with customers. That meant a professional call center, an interactive website,
and two technical field representatives to promote the sport of kayaking through
Perception has found that educating consumers is the key to success. Retailers
are now better trained to help kayak buyers, and fewer customers are calling
in for answers to basic questions. A secondary benefit is that field representatives
get immediate feedback on customers' reactions.
"Coaching from a skilled trainer, and the opportunity to try any of 30
kayak designs, help people push past their doubts and get out onto the water,
paddling closer to a future kayak purchase," says Masters.
Anatomy of a Kayak
Before setting out to design, build and sell your own kayaks, there are
several factors to consider. Unlike service industries, manufacturing firms
have to factor in expenses like overhead, delivery and production. Consider:
- What geographical region will you serve, and how will you get your products
into your customers' hands?
- Who will do the design work and research for your kayaks?
- Where will you manufacture and store them?
- What marketing avenues will you use to get the word out about your products?
- Are you prepared to hire help, expand, and possibly outsource some of
the work to other companies?
Kayak manufacturers have recently discovered new, durable materials to
use in the construction of their products. Polyethylene, a new material that
is virtually indestructible and recyclable, improves efficiency and is believed
to have greatly increased the number of kayaks being manufactured today.
To avoid "reinventing the wheel," newcomers to the industry would be wise
to look around at established and reputable kayak builders.
"I've found a lot of help from people already in the business," says Redden.
"There are also a number of organizations out there that can help people realize
their dream of owning a kayak manufacturing business by getting them connected
with the right business start-up information."
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