Story by Emily Kolkemo
Classwork and books are common teaching methods, but for a group of Waldport students, a business class has become a real-world experience.
Waldport High School Youth Entrepreneurs run the Kayak Shack, a rental and tour business that capitalizes on Alsea Bay’s natural assets.
The adventure business concept was initiated by community members and became linked with the entrepreneur class three years ago.
Justin Overdevest, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Small Business Development Center at Oregon Coast Community College, has been working with the students over the last year.
“The community was very involved from the get-go,” says Overdevest. “A group called the Friends of the Kayak Shack formed to support the business and to help the students get started.”
The Ford Family Foundation, Trust Management Services and Waldport High purchased kayaks, and from there the business took off. Students now take care of every aspect of the business, from marketing and advertising to everyday operation of the Kayak Shack.
“The business is essentially all theirs,” explains Overdevest. “They run customers through the safety DVD, show them how to use the kayaks, and a couple students lead tours for groups.”
Overdevest cites responsibility, the ability to interact one-on-one in a professional setting, and customer service as key skills the students acquire from running the Kayak Shack. “Their first experience with business can be so positive and with real-world experience,” says Overdevest. “They get really excited about the possibilities.”
In fact, the students have excelled in their endeavors. The Kayak Shack was presented with the Rural Award of Excellence Youth Award in 2006, awarded by the nonprofit Rural Development Initiatives.
Alsea Bay is a perfect venue for the business. The students offer kayaks for rent and guided tours of Lint Slough, Alsea Bay, and surrounding areas. Not wanting to miss out on an opportunity to explore the coast, I chose a guided tour of Lint Slough.
As we glide across the calm waters of the slough, my guide and kayak instructor, Steven Jackson, recounts the history and ecology of the area.
Lint Slough is a paradise for birders, and on my short sojourn up the waterway I spot a snowy egret, kingfishers, osprey, shorebirds, and ducks. In fact, Alsea Bay has been designated as an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society.
Resting sculpins kick up sand as they dart in front of the kayak. When it’s time to turn around, Steven shows me how to dip the paddle to make an effortless rotation. It was a pleasant journey, courtesy of the coast’s future entrepreneurs.
The Kayak Shack is open every day through Labor Day and weekends in September and October depending on tides. (541-563-3476; www.whskayakshack.com)