By Ryan Waldrep, Georgia ESB Assistant Director
Small Business Spotlight | Cobb County | Region 3
You can tell that winter has begun to release its unrelenting grip on Georgia because everything outside now has a yellow dusty hue. But aside from the rising pollen count, the desire to get outdoors and bask in the sunshine is also increasing at an exponential rate. Maybe it’s a high school baseball game, a quick nine holes after work or, if you’re really lucky, a quick kayak paddle.
The popularity of paddle sports exploded between 2008 and 2012 and contributed heavily to the artificial inflation of the price range for yaks. Nowadays, a new fishing kayak can cost between $1,200 and $1,700. Yikes! Whatever happened to the well-built $800 kayak? Well, the folks at Vibe Kayaks in Kennesaw are putting the kayak world on notice by focusing on bringing more people into the sport with an excellent quality mid-range boat.
Owned by Josh Thomas, a self-professed kayak and fishing addict and saltwater junkie John Ewald, Vibe Kayaks promotes its tagline of “No Drama. Just Adventure” to thousands of kayak enthusiasts each year. Vibe’s focus is bringing more people into the sport that Josh, John and the rest of the Vibe team cherish.
“We want more people in the sport that I love.” -Josh Thomas, Founder, Vibe Kayaks.
And introducing more people each year to the sport of kayaking is just what Vibe Kayaks is doing.
Vibe launched in 2014 with only three models. Today, they are up to seven models including tandem yaks and a complete line of accessories of everything you need.
Josh says Vibe’s culture is just as much about strengthening the kayaking community as it is selling kayaks. This community, whether you are fishing or a recreational paddler, is a tight and inclusive community and is focused on teaching newcomers to the sport how to use and get the most out their kayaks. Vibe Kayaks also has one of the largest active owners’ groups, with over 9,000 active members!
The skyrocketing growth of the kayaking community also correlates to the growth of Vibe. In Vibe’s first full year in 2014, they had $250,000 in sales and two employees. Fast forward to the end of 2017, and Vibe had $7.1 million in sales and increased their employees to 17. Josh expects 2018 to be even better with sales topping out at $13 million.
Now instead of asking the time honored questions of where can we find more customers and how can we grow our sales, Josh is asking the questions of are we growing TOO fast and how can we sustain this growth? To better manage the growth, Vibe is entering 2018 with more of an enhanced strategic plan to make certain that the growth going forward will be manageable.
Currently, Vive Kayaks operates a 30,000 square-foot warehouse in Kennesaw. They import 250 containers per year and have 50 dealers across the country. They are looking to add another 30 dealers this year. And yes, they operate a retail space in Kennesaw.
Josh and the Vibe team have utilized several resources, including SBDC and the Georgia Centers of Innovation (COI) to provide insight on what to look for. Georgia COI introduced the company to an engineer, and they are now working on a future design with Georgia Tech and improving warehousing, logistics and shipping efficiencies.
“Working with these resources from the start has been a fantastic experience. I don’t think that many people know of the assets that are available,” said Josh.
Got a Small Business question? Start the conversation! Contact Ryan Waldrep, Assistant Director for Entrepreneur and Small Business Development, at (404) 877-8406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.