Canoe and Kayak rental business

Does anyone have any advice on how to start a Canoe and Kayak rental business? What all is involved?

Thanks for the help,


Don’t use money you cant afford to lose

specifically a rental business or
a business in general?

What all such businesses have in common
All rental places I’ve seen (except for a rental service provided by an actual paddleshop) that stay in business have one thing in commom. They all are located very near a creek or river that is very popular for recreational daytrips. None of them are primary income, just a spare-time, seasonal thing, and the owner just bought enough boats to have something to offer his customers and took it from there. Bottom line, I think your location (near popular water) is the most important aspect.

rental business
I was thinking of a weekend seasonal rental business to start out. I have a river near me that might be a good candidate. I would just have to find land owners willing to allow access to take out spots. There is one access point that is a state owned access. It is a raw idea for now; I have not talked to anyone locally about the idea. I am not for sure of the local laws that would apply to such a business. My idea was to start out low budget on a trial basis, then maybe look for investors willing to help out.

start here

Kin yer afford de liability insurance?
Ahhhhhhhh! Fly in de ointment. Sorry about dat, pilgrim.


Canoe and kayak rental
I’ve seen several rental businesses go under because they lost the lease or access to launch sites. Nobody can promise you a sure thing in a venture like this but you need to look at all the angles. Bless all the fools that have started a livery business because they love paddling and the outdoors. Good luck. VF

My long time dream
is to open a canoe livery. I keep it a dream so it won’t become a nightmare. The first thing you need is a wife (or husband) with two god jobs who doesn’t mind you spending all the income on your venture. That should work a season or two until the divorce is final.

You Could Make A Small Fortune …
… but only if you started with a Large Fortune !!!

I used to dream of owning my own livery and guide service, but after a number of years in the biz I now would rather own a hotdog cart … less headaches, steadier work, and bigger profit margin !!

I know that many liveries have seen their insurance more than double since 911.

10 Yrs in Outfitting–A Survivor Speaks

– Last Updated: Jan-31-09 12:56 PM EST –

From the way people are talking here (some pretty funny quips aside), you would think setting up shop to rent a few kayaks is riskier than spending a week in a Gaza hotel.

After 10 years running a small kayak shop, guiding tours, and renting, I'll just say I don't regret any of it. True, it is not my main source of income. If your plan is to make some easy money, forget it. Don't do it unless you are pretty certain you have other reasons to do it besides the bottom line. As others have said, running your own outfitting business will place huge demands on your time and life energy. But if it running a business fits with your lifestyle will add to the overall quality of your life, go for it.

book recommendation
Here is a book review that covers a book that you may want to consider getting. General business start up book that is quite good (not specific to the water sports industry).

Thanks for all the advice. Good or bad I would still like to learn more about what is involved. I think i would like to talk to some owners in the area and find out about local laws and liability insurance.

check with your state’s small business
agency, or whatever it is called. There are likely to be licensing issues and tax laws to consider. You would want to most likely form a Limited Liability Company to isolate the rental activity from your personal assets. There is a federal Small Business Administration (or something close to that) that probably has a “package” they can send you about starting a small business - most likely, your state has something similar, but more specific to starting a business. Typically, many state’s Department of Revenue website will have a section about starting up a business and what licensing etc may be required - many cities also require a city business license if you will be within city limits. At a minimum, unless you are in Oregon or New Hampshire, you will need to get a state sales tax license, charge your customers the sales tax on the rental, and remit that to the state - regardless of how you set up your business. Having a sales tax license will allow you to buy your rental fleet tax exempt - the exemption being a purchase for “resale” - a rental is considered to be a short term sale. IF you get into doing guided tours, you wind up with another/different can of worms to open - different rules apply in each state.

So do some research on your own state’s website first, to see what is required to start a business.

Now you’ve done it!
You’ve outlined the dream. If you don’t do it, well, thirty years from now you’ll be playing what if as you rock yourself to sleep on the front porch down at the Shady Rest Home.

In my area there are rental companies where canoe/kayak rentals is all they do. One of those companies has expanded into sales and has since sold the rental biz to one of their competitors. But rentals is what brought them to the dance. So, don’t let nayone tell you it can’t be done or shouldn’t be done.

Of course, maybe it can’t or maybe it shouldn’t but there is only one way to find out. And that’s the same way every small business finds out-JUST DO IT!!

There’s lots of ground work to do, from figuring out how big the market is and how many boats to start with, to calculating the cost of the delivery vehicles, to how much will labor cost you? Not to mention all the mundane-insurance-permits etc.

Nothing is guaranteed yet every business was started by someone with a dream and a willingness to take that chance.

Better to try and fail than to spend a lifetime asking What if?

No matter what…
Don’t put your house up as colateral for anything, and don’t have your wife (or husband) cosign. Keep the business in one name and protect your house if you have one.

Also, LLC’s do not completely indemnify you. Check local regs. You might want to incorporate.

Lastly and most importantly, find a good lawyer you can trust, and listen to their advice.

A little middle of the Road advice
First, don’t just DO IT! That’s the best way to get in trouble. If you serious don’t run from your idea because someone on hear said it was a bad idea. Bottom line, we don’t know if it is good or bad. Those that have done it have a better idea though.

As a small business owner and looking at starting another I have a piece of advice you probably will not take it, but it is the best advice I have ever had. Go to the SBA (Small Business) or someone similar and find a good outline for a Business Plan and work up one for your idea. Start with the big things like Insurance, land access, feasibility of the idea. Then start to go through it HONESTLY and figure out what it will cost to operate and how much you can make (or loose). The hardest part is guessing how many people you can get.

I did this a couple of years ago and thea business and it was very promising. What I didn’t factor it was despite the fact it was a great idea, I had to ‘educate’ the people to what a great idea it was since it was something new. I discovered I was underfunded and sales was not my strong point. Advertising was a killer!! I was floored at advertising costs.

Best Advice So Far - Makinwaves
+1 what Makinwaves said.

Do a “Serious” business plan with all the contingencies that you can think of built in (trust me that you can not think of all of them).

Go to the local college and sign up for a business plan development course. It is a lot of Biz-101 stuff, but you would be surprised at all of the things you are not thinking about that are extremely important that they will bring to light. Those are usually available through their business incubators, and with all the recent job losses, those programs are springing up everywhere.

Just because someone already doing it says it is a bad idea, that may not be true. They just may not be doing it right (everyone who has answered so far excluded :slight_smile:

Good Luck.


consult the Small Business
Development Centers.

Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC), representing America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network.

In Ohio:

Find the SBDC nearest you. They will be a valuable resourse for developing a business plan, meeting regulations, and finding other resources. It is the Small Business Administration directed Federal government program some previous posters refered to.

Every previous post contains good advice. Be careful, be prudent, AND don’t let anyone steal your dream.

Good luck!


Just so we’re on the same page
When i say Just do it, i don’t mean just get the check book out buy some boats and go for it. I’m speaking more to the motivational emotional side of starting a business. There isn’t enough bandwidth here to give you all the step by step advice you can use to get started. Just don’t let anyone talk you out of something you want to do.

A couple more thoughts:

The advice regarding start up money is right on. Number one reason businesses fail- they are under capitalized. it will take more money than you think. Knowing that upfront you can be prepared for it.

You are entering a business related to something you are passionate about. That’s good and bad. Good that you’ll bring that passion to the business and to your customers, bad in that you are turning something you love into work. For example, i use to love to fly helicopters. A multimillion dollar foray thru the contract helicopter charter business killed that passion. Not to mention the debt I racked up. I’m recovered now, but what a learning experience!

A word about risk. It’s there with all businesses. Fred Smith bet his entire 4 million dollar inheritance on his dream. And for years it was touch and go. His company was down for the count more times than I can remember. But he believed it could work. No doubt you know his company FedEx.

I’m not suggesting you bet every dime you have to get up and going. Just know that that’s the kind of committment it sometimes takes. There a at least a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t move forward and only one why you should. My advice, is to go with that one reason.