13 Things I Learned in My First Year as a SUP Business - by Shanon Dell

What I learned in my first year as a SUP Business – 13 Tips / Shanon Dell / Given to Glide, Sequim, WA

I started a SUP/kayak/canoe rental tent in Sequim, WA last summer and it turned out to be an interesting challenge and great learning experience. I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned that may help anyone considering opening a rental business this summer. Some of these are no-brainers but good reminders.

1. Research the climate of the area where you plan to operate including not only the average temperature but also try to get a sense of how much the wind blows each day. It may be sunny and 72 but if a North wind blows 5-10 mph each day as well it will be much cooler and the local perception that it’s too cold to be on the water will be hard to overcome. I found 75 degrees to be the magic number. Above 75 would get lots of people out but below 75 and I wouldn’t see a soul. 

2. Get started now. Nail down your location and get contracts signed and insurance lined up as soon as possible because you need to get out and meet people, get rack cards out and get your advertising rolling long before the season starts.

3. An hour rental is really an hour fifteen to an hour and a half because the mini-lesson for beginners, getting people to and from the water and just general chit-chat with the customers takes more time than you think. This is essential to remember when you are making financial projections or deciding if you should hire some help. You also need time to clean up the gear to get it ready for the next customers.

4. Think about the demographics of your area. Do you have a lot of adventurous 20 some things in your area or is it primarily families and older folks?

5. Ask people’s ages on your liability form. Not everybody will fill it out but you may get some very interesting information about the demographics of the people who are renting from you. You can use this info to target your advertising dollars for the next season. 

6. Think about having a large board or two for families who want to take their small children out on the board with them. Having an extremely large board is also a good option for people who aren’t feeling confident about being out on a SUP. My Amundsen Source 11’10” (34” wide) was a great asset for me although heavy to carry around. 

7. Try to pick a location with access to a hose. You’ll be spending a lot of time cleaning boards and PFDs and getting them ready for the next customer.  

8. Boards with white deck pads are hard to keep clean and looking good in a rental situation. 

9. If you plan on getting soft-top boards, make sure ahead of time you have someone who is willing to repair them or be willing to dig into the repair yourself. I struggled to find someone to fix mine when it developed problems. Most shops only wanted to deal with composite/glass boards. 

10. Put a lot of thought into how you will be transporting your gear in all aspects of the business, even if you are only covering short distances to the water or to your storage area. It’s all heavy and all takes time. 

11. Put as much effort and money into advertising as you put into the rest of the business. No matter how much potential walk up traffic you think you’ll have, don’t assume they know about you or your prices or what options you have available. Make sure they have a good impression of you before they ever walk-up.

The most important things I learned
Give yourself time away from your rental location, for two reasons:
12. Renting the gear is only one part of the job. There is a ton of work that needs to be done beyond just renting equipment or doing lessons. I thought working hard at this meant being at my rental tent every day. The truth is, my time would have been far better used working on advertising, working on my website/social media, meeting people and staying caught up on my bookkeeping. 

13. You also need time away to take care of yourself. It’s just good for your mental and physical well-being. This is a very physical job. I ended up with both knee and shoulder problems by the end of the summer. I also ended up with very little time to paddle for myself. 

Visit Shanon at his Given to Glide on Sequim Bay on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State.

http://www.giventoglide.com  PSUPA certified.


Ryan Kuja said…
Thanks for the words of wisdom Shannon! Great to hear your voice here...