An appearance on the reality show, Dragon’s Den airing January the company’s general manager of Seaward kayaks, a small family owned kayak manufacturer on Vancouver Island at the time told the panel of fierce potential investors of the company’s plan to expand a rotomolded kayak division to open up into the under $1,800 affordable recreational kayak market. The Dragon’s so usually under-inspired to come on board after hearing countless pitches had nothing but good things to say about the pitch by Seaward. Dragon David Chilton beat his competitors with interesting counter offers of their own. In the end, Chilton and Seaward agreed to his offer of the asked $300 thousand, but added an additional 15% equity stake in the company as well as a 5% royalty until his initial investment was recouped.
They had faced the Dragon’s and won without feeling too much heat. In some ways this was seen as a success as this small comapny could now compete more fully. In my opinion, the result of the episode was the first nail in the coffin of a terrific local company building signature hand crafted kayaks that were second to none (with the exception of my Pygmy Coho that is). The move to banging out inexpensive kayaks and forcing them into a market place so over-stuffed kayaks that are only attractive in price seemed foolish to me. “If they are going to do this then why not have the shells made in China and just put the bits and pieces on the kayaks here?” my friend suggested over a coffee the morning after the show aired. “Why not just put the money into expanding into a signature line of excellent kayaks? Why not use the money to hire more staff? I added. “Make the cheapies if you want, but don’t focus your entire stake on them alone. Seaward should stick to producing hand crafted boats that are a bit more expensive but show it. Seaward should stick to what they know best, and leave Walmart kayaks to Walmart.”
In the weeks after the show appeared on my screen some added details have come to light. Remembering that the show was recorded in April of last year and much can happen in the meantime. Items such as the general manager is no longer with the company, the owners Steve and Jacquie Ree have sold off the rotomolded division of Seaward, and to my delight turned down Chilton’s offer after some sober second thought and due diligence.
Turning down the opportunity of a new business partner, and a direction that all too many kayak manufacturers are going, not to mention the added financing has nudged this great small company back to its roots. A small family owned business making a superior product.