Rowing to success

Dave Stewart
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Three brothers launch kayak and paddleboard rental business on the Charlottetown waterfront

Aaron Hansen of Charlottetown said he and his two brothers saw a tourism business opportunity on the Charlottetown waterfront and recently opened Paddles, a paddleboard and kayak rental company at the yacht club.

Three Charlottetown entrepreneurs have aspired to fill what they see as a void in the tourism industry on the city’s waterfront.

Aaron Hansen and his two brothers, Keith and Luke, have opened a kayak and paddleboard rental company called Paddles adjacent to the parking lot at the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

The first one to operate out of downtown Charlottetown, it is open seven days a week. As long as the weather is good enough to be on the water, the Paddles shack is open for business.

“We’ve been aspiring to do some entrepreneurial activity for a while and actually last year we thought, ‘There’s no kayak rentals in Charlottetown’ and we just kind of mulled it over the winter months and as of this spring we just started the process of going toward the end goal,’’ Aaron Hansen told The Guardian in an interview.

“Things kept falling in line and now here we are.’’

Two of the brothers currently live in Stratford while the other one calls Charlottetown home. The Hansen brothers have always been into water and swimming activities so they figured opening a kayak/paddleboard business was a natural fit.

Aaron himself is a former boating and swimming instructor with the Canadian Red Cross while his brothers have done their share of canoeing.

“We decided to start a business so we started going through the steps to get to that end goal. We had to create a business plan, we had to come up with assumptions on how busy it would be, how many boats we would need. You have to get your balance sheet to work so that it makes sense for your business to exist. You have to think about staffing and who’s going to work when.’’

Most aspiring entrepreneurs will tell you the business plan is the toughest part of starting a business and can take months to complete. The Hansen’s got lucky. Keith works at MacPherson Roach and Smith Associates and does business plans for a living. Aaron deals with new projects in the economic development at Charlottetown Area Development Corporation while Luke does research for the federal government.

“The goal here is to build a business and make money. We aspire beyond this venture. What drives us is larger aspirations down the road.’’

Paddles opened on June 21 and had what Aaron describes as a fantastic first weekend.

“We exceeded expectations easily as we assume that will continue all through the summer. I think there is enough demand in Charlottetown to keep a fleet of boats going this summer.’’

There’s certainly no shortage of people along the waterfront to entice - thousands of passengers will be pouring off cruise ships for the next few months looking for adventures and there’s plenty of clientele from the yacht club itself.

Aaron Hansen said it hasn’t been a hard sell to tourists.

“We just so happen to be located on one of the most beautiful waterfronts in Atlantic Canada and I think everybody should aspire to be active and get off the couch and do things.’’

Paddles offers paddleboards as well as single and double kayaks ($35 per hour). They rent by the hour (single kayaks and paddleboards $25), by the half day and full day. They generally send people up the North River.

“We don’t want people crossing the harbour over to the Stratford side or heading towards the Hillsborough Bridge. You’re opening yourself to dangers if you get out in the currents. We encourage people to stay within a couple of hundred metres of the shore.’’

Aaron said their Facebook page (paddlespei) is the best way to keep track of when they’re open.

“We’ll be open every single nice day for the remainder of the summer.’’

A closer look

- Paddles is a new paddleboard and kayak (single and double) business that operates out of a kiosk at the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

- Owned and operated by Aaron, Keith and Luke Hansen.

- On Facebook: paddlespei.

- On the Web:

Organizations: The Guardian, MacPherson Roach and Smith Associates, Charlottetown Area Development

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Stratford, Atlantic Canada North River

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Recent comments

  • Negative comment aside...
    June 30, 2013 - 12:16

    Ignore the 'backhanded' compliment from Tim Paine! Congratulations Paddles on your new venture - wish you well and all the best!!!

  • Tom Paine
    June 30, 2013 - 09:40

    congratulations and do hope they succeed... and it seems the kind of business that probably got up and running with funds from friends and family, not the all knowing bureaucrats and politicians at "tourism" or "innovation", thought the work history of the entrepreneurs indicates that public funding might be "one of those things that fell into place."