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 Post subject: Folbot Sold!
PostPosted: Tue Sep 18, 2007 2:20 pm 
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For Immediate Release
September 17, 2007


Charleston-based Folbot ANNOUNCES NEW Ownership, Management

Long-time Owner to Turn Full Attention to Design


CHARLESTON, SC – Folbot, Inc., a manufacturer of folding kayaks and accessories, has been acquired by a business partnership that seeks to grow the company’s market share and expand its current offerings of six models.

The announcement was made today by Phil Cotton, long-time owner and President, who will now assume a full-time position as chief designer. “My partners and I bought Folbot in 1983 because I loved the product, and I admired its design. Thanks to our new owners, I can focus my attention fully on our product, and let other, very capable individuals handle the day-to-day business and long-term strategy.”

The Folbot brand was launched nearly 75 years ago in England and has been located in Charleston since 1955. Today, the company is a leader in the growing niche of folding kayaks, and its products are distributed throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, South Africa, Australia and Asia. Fans praise the company’s customer service, and the boats’ durability, stability, and engineering advances.

The new owners, David AvRutick, who will serve as President & CEO, and Tony Mark, who will serve as chairman, bring a wealth of entrepreneurial and corporate experience managing and growing businesses. AvRutick was founding president of the American College of the Building Arts, and has been a leader in book publishing and other businesses. Mark has been a leading executive at publicly traded technology firms, Avid Technology and Centra Software.

From its facility in Charleston, Folbot (Folbot.com) hand-produces kayaks, all of which are designed to be easily transported and assembled. Six models allow for various combinations of speed, solo or tandem paddling, ruggedness and pricing. The boats are used by recreational paddlers, fishermen, bird watchers and even in transoceanic expeditions. The company enjoys a highly involved network of customers, many of whom routinely visit the company’s web-based forum to share tales of their recent kayaking trips, swap tips about gear, and otherwise focus on their Folbot-fueled lifestyle.

“We are very excited to help harness all the tremendous support that Folbot has among its fans, and will work hard to convert more paddlers into enthusiastic Folbot users,” said AvRutick, who notes that the kayak market has been growing in recent years. “We see folding kayaks as serving a growing need among both urban enthusiasts and people who want to travel widely and wish to bring their kayaks along.”

Folbots can be disassembled and stored in a case easily transported by plane or in a car trunk. “It is critical that we grow the company, but without affecting the quality of the product, the fantastic customer service Folbot provides or losing the essence of the brand.”

Mark, the new chairman, will focus much of his effort on operational improvements. “We are exploring ways to better serve Folbot’s customers and even improve on Folbot’s reputation for unparalleled customer service. The passion Folbot’s customers feel for its products is amazing. That made it a very attractive business to acquire.”

For more information, visit http://www.Folbot.com.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 10:54 am 
Hmmm, I wonder if I was the first order (Cooper) on the first day of new ownership. :D

Btw, I'm all for business growth and success, but hopefully not to the point where customer service calls are routed to Pakistan. :(


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 12:48 pm 
I doubt that their vol. of calls warrents a call center offshore. I suspect that the previous owner recognizes where he can best apply his talents and there was obvioiusly a desire for change.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:23 am 
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This is an enormous change for Folbot. Phil was the heart and soul of the company. His personal touch drove so much of the business. His dedication to customer service was a hallmark in the industry.

This quote tells it all (emphasis added): “It is critical that we grow the company, but without affecting the quality of the product, the fantastic customer service Folbot provides or losing the essence of the brand.”

They feel they are not big enough; the new owners want to make more bucks, and feel the Folbot line can expand its market niche. I wish them luck at that, but suspect it will be a difficult task. So many of their sales have been via word-of-mouth from their legion of satisfied users. It is fair to say Folboteurs are nearly a cult.

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Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:37 am 
And didn't Mr. Kissner expand the line to a large number of different boats attempting to widen the market niche? From what I've read, it was Mr. Cotton's retrenching, if that's the word I want, that made the company viable.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:40 am 
I notice they've already changed the company logo, and the new one doesn't have "The Stable Kayak" in it... maybe they're planning to do some sportier boats - the Cooper was already a move in that direction. With Phil Cotton full-time as designer, I'm sure there's more boats and accessories on the way.

In any case I wish them luck. Phil Cotton has always been committed to the product, and I'm sure he wouldn't still be involved if he felt product quality or customer experience were going to be compromised.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:26 am 
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nohoval_turrets wrote:
maybe they're planning to do some sportier boats - the Cooper was already a move in that direction. With Phil Cotton full-time as designer, I'm sure there's more boats and accessories on the way.
Here's hoping.

If I have permission to speak frankly (and I hope I do): Phil will do well to incorporate heavy feedback in the design loop from aggressive and talented paddlers. He is not a coastal paddler, and I do not believe coastwise paddlers have had much influence to date. to produce market-niche-filling boats, they need to be:

1. sleek
2. sporty
3. of high value per dollar
4. solid and reliable

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Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:29 am 
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Christov_Tenn wrote:
And didn't Mr. Kissner expand the line to a large number of different boats attempting to widen the market niche? From what I've read, it was Mr. Cotton's retrenching, if that's the word I want, that made the company viable.


Pretty much. Phil drastically cut back the range, redesigned the boats, switched from wood and PVC to aluminum and Hypalon, and did continuous improvment to the line over the years. My 2005 Yukon is better in every single way than my 1990-something Aleut- better hull, better ribs, bettter seat, better coaming.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 6:38 pm 
lord high faltbotmeister
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Location: Stone Mountain, Ga. U.S.A.
My guess is that they will take some hints from quality companies like Feathercraft and Longhaul. Not that Folbot isn't quality in its niche, but as Dave hints, there line might do well to be more sleek and sporty. I think they already have high value for the dollar and are solid and reliable.

It will be interesting to see what happens. They may feel squeezed a little with competition from the aforementioned companies and lets not forget the new upstart that, though out of their league in price, is still a folder, Trak.

Chris


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 Post subject: Re: Folbot Sold!
PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 12:15 am 
mje wrote:

Mark, the new chairman, will focus much of his effort on operational improvements...


I smell outsourcing here.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 1:28 pm 
krudave wrote:
They feel they are not big enough; the new owners want to make more bucks, and feel the Folbot line can expand its market niche. I wish them luck at that, but suspect it will be a difficult task.

Expandind the quantity is one way to make more bucks, - but the size of the customers base is a limiting factor here.

Expanding through wider assortment is challenging and expensive, because the more different models you carry, the higher are the production costs, besides, new models not always become a success, and then it's a 100% losss on related R&D, production and marketing, plus damaged reputation.

krudave wrote:
So many of their sales have been via word-of-mouth from their legion of satisfied users. It is fair to say Folboteurs are nearly a cult.

I don't see what changes here with new ownership. First-time buyers come to forums, ask about "the best boat" for them, and almost always somebody recommends some Folbot (on Folbot forum it will always be Folbot, naturally - "cult members" don't want to talk about other brands, and most of them don't know much about other brands). In the majority of cases after these recommendations the decision is made in favor of Folbot, because of lower prices and hard to estimate difference in quality compared to FC or Fujitas (and even harder to compare with wooden frames - they are too different). Polish Wayland beats Folbot prices (on comparable models) by wide margin, but this brand is too new, the fact hasn't sunk in minds yet. Users are also wary, especially in North America, because Wayland not only isn't local, but comes from that scary and mysterious nearly thrid-world place, so after-market support could be problematic (though I don't think it would, considering existing predecessors of this clone, and due to unsophisticated technology of wood repairs).

Unless Folbot quality drops down due to possible outsourcing and few unsuccessful new models, I think new company owners have nothing to fear. Especially now with $US standing so low against other currencies - imported brands become more expensive, and this will probably last for a while, - good news for Folbot North American market.


Last edited by Alm on Sat Oct 06, 2007 1:48 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 1:45 pm 
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Alex wrote: First-time buyers come to forums, ask about "the best boat" for them, and almost always somebody recommends some Folbot (on Folbot forum it will always be Folbot, naturally - "cult members" don't want to talk about other brands, and most of them don't know much about other brands).

That is a bit over the top, Alex. Seems plain you have not spent much time reading what folks say over there. I had my tongue in cheek a bit when I chose "cult" although tis true, Folboteurs are a clannish lot. So, also, are Feathercrafters, in my experience.

For the record, I have several times recommended a hardshell choice to potential Folbot buyers, over on the FF. Here, also, at times. It is best to fit the boat to the person's needs, instead of vice versa.

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Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 2:01 pm 
Dave, you're one of the few exceptions.
Yes, I've stopped reading Folbot forum years ago - don't have any of their models now, and more than once noticed that the forum provided too distorted picture both about Folbot models, and other boats. Not just distorted, but totally upside down. Like Balogh rig needing more fumbling to assemble than Folbot rig, or that hardshells being slower than pre-Cooper Folbots, or the first version of Cooper skin (TPU) being so hard, harder than Hypalon - that no reinforcing strips were needed at all (and this was perhaps the most abrasion-sensitive skin of all folders in the last dozen of years). There are some things that people may not know - one can't be knowledgeable in everything, - but the problem is when people don't want to learn anything new.

krudave wrote:
I had my tongue in cheek a bit when I chose "cult"

I didn't. But this was more about particular forum than particular brand. Just too much "noise".


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 4:09 pm 
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Alex, we do not disagree much on this. :shock: What can I say, sometimes it happens!! :)

You said: Yes, I've stopped reading Folbot forum years ago - don't have any of their models now, and more than once noticed that the forum provided too distorted picture both about Folbot models, and other boats. Not just distorted, but totally upside down.

Where we disagree, I think, is that I see this same sort of thing on all such boards (including this one, at times), and do not find it to a significantly greater degree on the FF, where I have first-hand experience to evaluate statements made about boats (etc.).

Basically, I think sometimes free advice is worth what you paid for it. When it is useful, I consider it a bonanza. And, we have a lot of terrific expertise here, at its best when posters focus on what they have tried or own. This is a great place for folks new to folders to find that expertise. And, you are a valuable resource here. I listen carefully to what you have to say, and respect your expertise.

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Dave Kruger
Astoria, OR
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Folbot Kodiak, Cooper, and Edisto; three hardshells; Mothership: Surf Scoter the Bartender; dinghy Little Blue Duck.


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 Post subject: folbot sold
PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2007 4:43 pm 
Brotherhood of the Golden Paddle

Joined: Mon Apr 18, 2005 3:40 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: isles of scilly UK
We seem to be getting away from the heading. I have had Klepper aerius 11 for over 30 years, i now have two. This year i bought a new YUKON from folbot and my observations are that the yukon is very good value and i would recommend it. But the Klepper aerius 11 is easier to assemble and dissasemble than the yukon when on your own. As regards other foldups i can,t comment as i havn,t any experience of them, most others i havn,t seen. Reading the folbot forum most folbot owners seem to "car top" their folbots, does this indicate somthing.


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