Chattanooga business hopes customers stand up for paddleboards

Chattanooga business hopes customers stand up for paddleboards

June 14th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Sara Liberto, center, Mike Baldwin and his wife, Kim, owners of L2 Boards in downtown Chattanooga, walk to the docks Saturday morning for a paddleboard lesson on the Tennessee River.

Photo by Jenna Walker /Times Free Press.

• Name: L2 Boards

• Location: 100 Market St., across from the Tennessee Aquarium

• Products/services: The store sells stand-up paddleboards, rents them and offers guided trips throughout the area. Longer excursions to Williams Island, the Ocoee River and elsewhere are available upon request

• Prices: Rentals are $30 per hour, and lessons are $65 per hour. Yoga sessions on the water, island eco tours and paddle-fit classes cost from $25 to $30.

• Startup investment: $50,000. A typical board can cost $750 to $1,500, while a handmade carbon fiber racing board could cost $2,600.

• Annual sales: $250,000

• Target market: Anyone can go, according to owners Mark and Kim Baldwin, with children as young as 12 and adults as old as 90 able to enjoy the sport.

• Biggest hurdle: Because of the sport's explosive growth, it's actually difficult to order paddleboards from manufacturers, who have a hard time keeping popular models in stock.

• Biggest reward: "Seeing the smile when someone walks across this passage after trying paddleboarding for the first time," Mark Baldwin said.

• Challenges in the future: If the economy tanks again, many of the Baldwins' customers could be reluctant to spend four figures on a paddleboard.

• Lesson learned: "When you're starting a company, everything takes longer and costs more than you thought it would," Kim Baldwin said.

• Five-year goal: The Baldwins would like to have a chain of five stores in five years to better keep up with demand and capitalize on their early-adopter status.

• Contact: 531-7873

- Compiled by staff writer Ellis Smith, or 423-757-6315