Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

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Apathizer
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Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by Apathizer »

While this might not be news exactly recent developments seem to indicate Folbot might be out of business or at least on hiatus. They apparently don't respond directly to phone calls and emails and about a year and a half ago owner Eric Thome indicated they were streamlining.

Since there seems to be no official word from the company I'm just speculating, but the latest indications don't look good. If anyone has any additional info it would be appreciated. Here's the statement from Eric Thome from August 2014:
http://blogs.wsj.com/experts/2014/08/26 ... -business/
Last edited by Apathizer on Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:05 am, edited 2 times in total.

john allsop
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by john allsop »

First their forum disappeard with out any apparent comment, now the web site has gone. They can,t be on holiday so it looks like those lifetime warrenties no longer exist. As their forum was very active at one time i would have thought their members would come to this location, there is everything here and more for them.

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chrstjrn
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by chrstjrn »

Agreed, John. It seems surprising all around. And the way it was handled... no warning... very off-putting.
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flatwater
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by flatwater »

I've been holding off posting here until I knew some facts.
I still don't have facts so I'll post what I do know.

The forum went down mid December.
Since then I've been trying to contact Eric to no avail. email, text, phone - nothing
Last week I began getting a "voicemail box full" message at the Folbot number.
Now the folbot.com domain has expired - it's renewal time.

I fear the worst. If anyone has concrete info, please share it.
Thanks.
Five Folbots - Super TSF, two GIIs, Kodiak, Gremlin

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gbellware
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by gbellware »

The CEO of Folbot has taken another job. https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericthome The company is toast.

g
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Apathizer
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by Apathizer »

I think it's important to consider that prior to buying Folbot Eric Thome knew very little about folding kayaks and probably not much about kayaks in general. I remember watching on interview with him shortly after the purchase. It seemed like he bought the company mainly because it was a convenient business opportunity. His family had been living in the NE he and wanted to move to the SE largely because of better weather. His wife got a job in Charlotte and at the time Folbot happened to be for sale so he bought it with his investors.

Unfortunately it seems like he bought Folbot without knowing much about folding kayaks; both in terms of design and the unique aspects of such a niche' business itself. Consequently, it seems the company made a few mistakes, some of which seemed to snowball and now the company is out of business.

Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic, but I'm a bit more hopeful for most other folding kayak companies because their ownership seems to be in it for more the right reasons. At Pakboats, I know Alv Elvestad has been an avid paddler about 40 years, so it's not only a business for him, but a genuine passion. The same seems largely true of Doug Simpson, founder/designer of Feathercraft. Prior to starting the company, he had a strong interest in outdoor recreation, including paddling. While Trak founder Nolin Veillard hasn't been in the industry nearly as long he also seems genuinely interested.

I guess my point in all this is that it's important to have at least some interest in the inherent basis of the business one is involved with. Sure, it's a business, and all businesses need to be profitable in order to survive long-term, but if ownership isn't all that interested in the inherent core of what the business does, they seem more prone to make mistakes and less motivated to persevere when difficulties emerge.
Just my 2-cents.
Last edited by Apathizer on Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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flatwater
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by flatwater »

Yes, I knew about the LinkedIn listing.
He's been with Urban Electric for about a year.
If I were to guess, I'd wonder if perhaps he took that job for cash flow so he wouldn't need to draw income from Folbot. Just a wild guess.

Meanwhile, the Flamingo Flotilla information will be appearing here fairly soon. Beyond that, it's whatever Folbot owners begin to contribute as they find this as, perhaps, the new home for Folboters.

If in fact Folbot is going down, it will be a very sad ending to over 8 decades of great boats.
Let's hope it's not the end.
Five Folbots - Super TSF, two GIIs, Kodiak, Gremlin

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flatwater
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by flatwater »

The Folbot web site has come back up - just a few hours ago.
It may have been an issue with Network Solutions over the domain name.
Or maybe Eric jumped on it and renewed it. I sent him a message about it (no answer) but he may have responded with action.
Just guessing.
Five Folbots - Super TSF, two GIIs, Kodiak, Gremlin

BSSmith

Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by BSSmith »

While things clearly are amiss at Folbot (if indeed, there still is a Folbot company), a couple points to note:

As has been observed, according to LinkedIn, Eric Thome does have work in addition to being Folbot's President and CEO. He's shown as The Urban Electric Co.'s "Bespoke Value Stream Manager." But LinkedIn indicates he's had this position since March 2015 (again, as flatwater has pointed out), long before Folbot's current MIA status. LinkedIn also reports Mr Thome remains with Game Day Blazers as "Founder." Readers may draw their own conclusion as to the feasibility of these combined responsibilities.

A second minor point is that while the Folbot Forum has been unavailable for over two months, much of Folbot.com remains accessible. Albeit without extensive testing, it seems only http://store.folbot.com/ gives an HTTP Error 404--although this of course is a rather important piece not to have. (I now understand from flatwater's posting that the outage recently was more severe.)

In addition:

After several days of being unable to access FolbotForum, on 23 Dec 15 I attempted to contact flatwater via his listing as Folbot "ambassador" (http://folbot.com/community/ambassadors/) for insight. Apparently such correspondence was filtered through Folbot because on 5 Jan I received the following response from info@folbot.com:

Thank you for your E-mail. We are working on getting the forum back up and running and are sorry for the inconvenience. If you have any questions we might be able to answer, please let us know.

Regards,

Margaret


Was Margret "blowing smoke," unaware of the true status, or did the situation deteriorate since then? We can only wonder.

What happens next? It seems implausible that the long-lived company might simply cease to exist. While one can imagine it wasn't a particularly healthy business (for example, much of FolbotForum correspondence in recent years concerned existing boats, with rare mention of new "from Folbot" purchases, at least in my memory), it would seem to still have value to a new owner.

While not eager to kick a fellow apparently down, Mr Thome never impressed me as a good leader for Folbot. And yet, while I was quite pleased with Folbot's owners that took over from Phil Cotton (David AvRutick, Tony Mark and Bill Turner), their exit was brusque and unexplained. Perhaps any Folbot problems were then already clear from the inside.

One hopes that with better management, Folbot might continue. Or perhaps the challenge of making a US-built, labor intensive product in face of global competition is too great. We await further developments with great interest.

And thank you, Michael, for hosting FoldingKayaks!


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scribbler
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by scribbler »

Thanks for the update, flatwater. I emailed Folbot on the 15th of February about a replacement valve for one of the safety bladders in my Greenland II and Maraget replied to me on 20 February. I emailed Margaret again on 27 February and it was bounced back as undeliverable, so I re-directed the email to Eric and it wasn't bounced back. I also noticed that their website was back up, but their forum isn't. I am hopeful. Flatwater, you may be right about Eric's dual Folbot / Urban Electric roles and yes, the latter has been visible on LinkedIn for a while and long before the Folbot site went down. I have my fingers crossed that Folbot can sort out the problem(s) and resume manufacturing their folders. I have a Klepper Aerius Expedition single and a Folbot Greenland double and I like them both, (for not entirely dissimilar reasons), so this is a little about self-interest, but also because I have my own company and staring over the precipice is a not altogether unknown experience. If Eric is reading this, Dare to Struggle! Dare to Win! as the Chinese have been want to say. I hope we see the Folbot sewing machines being cranked up again. Nice kayaks and did I say affordable? That's no mean feat.

scribbler

p.s. gbellware, be careful; your schadenfreude might be showing just a little. s
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john allsop
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by john allsop »

Good news let,s hope all is well.

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flatwater
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by flatwater »

As has been pointed out above, there are still dead links in the Folbot site.

The most critical is the Folbot Store. It's completely broken. You can't order anything. That needs to be fixed right now. How can you sell a boat when the store is dead and you can't order by phone since the voicemail box is full?
This is critical.

And yes, all the live links in the Ambassador page are also inoperable. In fact they aren't even links anymore - just plain text. All you can do is email info@folbot.com and cross your fingers.

I'm guessing again, but based on various stories from the people I am in touch with, Margaret is probably not at the plant full time. Or she's trying to carry the whole operation and is buried. I'll continue to try to contact her as well.
Last edited by flatwater on Wed Mar 02, 2016 4:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Apathizer
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by Apathizer »

BSSmith wrote:While not eager to kick a fellow apparently down, Mr Thome never impressed me as a good leader for Folbot. And yet, while I was quite pleased with Folbot's owners that took over from Phil Cotton (David AvRutick, Tony Mark and Bill Turner), their exit was brusque and unexplained. Perhaps any Folbot problems were then already clear from the inside.
That could well be and it seems odd AvRutick, Mark, and Turner owned Folbot for only about five years. AvRutick and Mark bought it in 2007, Turner joined them 2009, then they sold it to Thome in 2012. That's substantial ownership turnover during a 5 year interval so maybe there were fundamental problems with the business even before Thome took over.
Last edited by Apathizer on Fri Aug 23, 2019 1:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

HoosierPaddler
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by HoosierPaddler »

I too have been calling, emailing, and checking for the folbotforum, facebook and website almost daily. I needed to get some changes made to my Folbot Ambassador page. I've emailed every Folbot address I have. Maybe a brief response via email in January, but silence since then. It is especially unfortunate that the forum is down as there is so much accumulated knowledge there. It would be great if that could be rescued and migrated to another platform.

I have contacted the last two people who were said to be in charge of Folbot, no response.

I hope this isn't the end of Folbot :(

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mje
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Re: Is Folbot on Hiatus/Out of Business?

Post by mje »

I've sent messages to a few other people I know in the industry to see if they've heard anything. I'll report back what I hear. I certainly hope Folbot is still around. Their boats are a great value.
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