Nolin Veillard is the mastermind and founder behind the world’s top portable, toughest, and high-end performance kayaks available in today’s marketplace, TRAK Kayaks (https:/www.trakkayaks.com).
Just imagine… You are heading out to a lake for the weekend or on trip across the world, and there is no kayak available at your destination. Well, with Nolin’s TRAK kayaks, you can literally bring a kayak with you and paddle anywhere, with zero hassle – plus it looks freakin’ great!.
Trusting his instincts and focusing on the tasks at hand when he first started, Nolin has had a journey that is both remarkable and inspiring. After surveying over 1,600 paddlers when he first started to figure out what everyone truly needed, to then launching a crowd-funding campaign that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from all over the globe, to finally bringing his kayaks to market, Nolin’s story of success is one that must be told.
The Levity Ball sat down with Nolin to find out more about the various TRAK kayaks and what’s to come for the rest of this year and 2018…
1. To start off: When did you first know that you wanted to be an entrepreneur and create your own products?
Growing up, in my teens, working for my older brother’s cabinet-making company in the Northwest Territories and in my parent’s grocery store in a small prairie town. It gave me an “early in life vantage point” of seeing customers be delighted by the experiences that were made possible by family’s businesses.
2. Your overall life story is one of passion and perseverance… What has been the biggest life lesson you have learned so far? And what advice would you give others?
I have learned to trust my instincts, focus on outcomes, and stay the course. In my experience, I’ve realized that things don’t always seem as they appear, or happen as easily as you may think. I am grateful that I somehow have an instinctual ability to handle challenges, in all forms. I have learned to turn my disappointment and frustration into something that motivates me to find alternative approaches and to pull off the unexpected. I’ve also learned to balance this focus and commitment I have to my venture with my role as a husband and father. I am proud of being able to make it all work harmoniously…well, most of the time (and I have an amazing wife)!
3. Did you know your TRAK Kayaks were going to be the success they are today when you first came up with the concept?
Yes. I was very confident in this being successful, from the very early stages. Optimism is a trait that has served me well. What I did not know is how and when that was going to happen, and what failures and hurdles it would take to get it there. That’s where the personal growth has shown up. I’ve experienced the deep pain and pure joy ends of the spectrum. I’ve learned so much about myself through this entrepreneurial journey.
For us, the name TRAK was strong, precise, and would stand out in a crowd. In kayaking, tracking is a reference to how well a kayak holds course when you’re paddling, and how well it resists being pushed off-course by wind and current. The TRAK kayaks are naturally strong in this sense, as the hull design inherently produces strong tracking. On top of that, the TRAK 2.0 gives the paddler the ability to adjust the boat’s shape to fit the conditions and keep tracking, no matter what’s going on around them. Like the kayak, we as humans want to “stay on track” in our lives, keeping balance and alignment, physically and energetically. That’s another deep commitment the company has made – to have that kind of impact on anyone who comes into contact with us or our products.
5. Why is your product different than others on the market, and why do you recommend it to those adventure seekers and travelers out there?
We asked more than 1,600 paddlers for their input, and then set out on a path to build the ultimate. We say it is ultimate because it matches or exceeds the durability, toughness and performance of a high-end hardshell kayak, while at the same time being portable and able to travel with you anywhere. You can keep it in your closet. On top of the physical advantages of the product, we also see the TRAK experience (trips, events, skills training, etc.) and the incredibly high level of “TRAK Owner” support as something that sets us apart in the eyes of our customers and the global paddling community.
6. What about kayaking / paddling do you love so much?
Kayaking is therapy. We are made of 70%+ water, so when we get to experience it, from the cockpit of a kayak, we take on the energy of the water, which gives us a feeling of joy and an ability to disconnect from our busy lives and worries, and reconnect with our inner selves. You find your personal strength, courage, and a deep connection with nature…something we all need more of. And it’s something you can do at any stage in life. A lot of our customers are in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s.
7. Being a Canadian from Saskatchewan, was it difficult to expand your business across the border / to the rest of the world?
Not really. It of course took time, money and patience, and a commitment from many partners.
8. Crowd-funding has really helped your company. What steps did you take when putting together your online campaign did you find really got the ball rolling?
I think our commitment of involving our paddlers and the global kayaking community in the development, right up front, was very important. Input from the more than 1,600 paddlers surveyed plus other direct input set our design and development down the right path, and built support along the way prior to launch. Then it was a “no compromise” approach in working with partners, creating our crowdfunding video, and outreach strategies that led to early success.
9. When you do finally get some downtime in your busy business life, what do you enjoy doing, besides paddling?
First and foremost, spending time with my wife and two children is my favorite and most important thing I do. Raising a young family while on this entrepreneurial journey has been the biggest challenge for me, especially because I love kids and love being an integral part of my own kids’ lives. I also love staying connected with family and my close friends, especially ones that have roots in my small town and through sports that I’ve been involved with my whole life. I’m a people person.
10. Do you ever get to come out to New York? If so, where are some of your favorite places to hang, eat, paddle, etc.?
I have been to New York a few times. I love the energy of the city, and the amazing access to water. One of my goals is to bring a group of ten or twenty fellow TRAK paddlers together to do the circumnavigation of Manhattan by kayak. Seeing New York City from the water is a dream I plan to make come true.
11. Heading into the rest of this year and 2018, what’s next for TRAK? New kayaks? New products?
For 2018, we have a suite of new accessories, bag systems and outfitting options, so you can really customize your TRAK to fit your own life and style. But what I’m most excited about are the events we’ll be offering: launch parties, “discovery days” and kayak skills training camps. One of our missions is to build and support the global paddling community, and leading skills training and expeditions in “bucket-list” paddling destinations is a really fun and exciting way to do that.
12. And final question: What would you want TRAK Kayaks to be remembered for in years down the road when people look back at it from its starting roots?
I want TRAK to be renowned for transforming people’s experiences and reverence for water and water recreation, giving each person access to their own “shift in view” of how they see the world around them, and themselves. This will have happened one person at a time. And we will have done this through the amazing people and global community bonding together.