Kayak Manufacturer The Buzz


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 kayaking."

The Market

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 mild climate."

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 education.

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."

Links

Coast and Kayak Magazine
Get the latest industry news

American Canoe Association
Canoe and kayak information, events and resources

U.S. National Whitewater Center
Official U.S. Olympic training site

Paddling.net
Great source for canoeing and kayaking information