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John Ratliff called me today on the way home from work, after realizing that the 2nd boat off the line today- a Red 2007 Star, was our 10,000th kayak since our first boat in April of 2004! You could hear the emotion in his voice, as he must have had the past three season’s of hard work flash before his eyes, realizing just how incredible it has been, and how lucky we are to be where we are today. I told him to pull the boat aside and we’ll think of something good to do with it.

We are estimating that out of the 10,000 boats, our first employee, Jase Bouldin, has hand trimmed about 8,000 of them himself. Jase is someone that anyone who comes to work at Jackson Kayak should look to as an example of excellence, dedication, and the Jackson Kayak way. So many others were there along with him, working hard on one boat at a time, under the banner “build it like it’s yours”. We are growing and are lucky to have new employees coming on board and will be ramping up even further this next few weeks, going from 200 boats per week to 300 boats per week in production and with the addition of Jackson Rec boats coming out in May and June those numbers will continue through the summer.

When we assembled boat number 1, it was after midnight on a Friday night, the day before Spring Splash by NOC. I picked up all of the foam parts needed to assemble the first Fun 1’s in Kentucky, where they are made, where I spent two days helping to run machines myself, with John Ratliff turning a blind eye (his former job). I drove the RV down from Kentucky, pulling in after midnight, with Kristine, her mom, Hal, Jase, Brian, and Will all waiting for me to show up. It was there that we put our first boats together, and worked all night long. Kristine went home to take a nap at about 3am so she could drive the RV loaded with Fun 1’s to Rock Creek Outfitters, and then NOC to deliver the first ones. We didn’t have an assembly line, but instead, we each built a boat from scratch to finish. By the end of the night, we got a system down for an assembly line that was a far cry from what we are doing now, but it worked.

The RV was loaded to the hilt with Fun 1s and at Spring Splash they sold all 8 of them in one weekend, with Milton Mann getting the first Jackson Kayak in history for his son, who was quite little then. We built our boats in 2004 and 2005 out of a 735 square foot factory that was originally a paint shop for cars. Last year we bit the bullet and bought a 92,000 square foot facility for under $300,000 with special financing and it is still way bigger than what we need. The efficiency of our boat building has increased dramatically this year with better processes. Jane, Jase’s mom, has taken over the purchasing and inventory of our parts that make up the kayaks and we are no longer running out of parts like we used to (almost daily!). Brad stepped up to the plate as assembly manager and has really started to make that new position worthwhile, freeing John Ratliff up to do more things I need him to do. Goat has been shipping manager for a couple of years now and is the only shipping guy we have. His job keeps getting busier as we grow! He also does receiving, so you can really see his pace picking up, especially this spring! Carman has been the voice on the line, representing the dealers, customers, and everyone else that calls Jackson Kayak. Phone Calls, Emails, and tons of background work that you don’t see has her working in a high paced job! She is a direct link to the factory work they do, creating work orders for the exact kayaks in the exact color she needs to fill the customer orders. This is a special relationship between sales and production that you don’t find very often. This is just a sampling of our incredible staff at the factory that has been a part and should be very proud of our milestone that was achieved yesterday- our 10,000th whitewater kayak produced.

Thank you JK staff!