Bellyak Wins Outdoor Industry Business Pitch Competition
Bellyak, a company in the A-B Tech Business Incubation program, was named the winner of the inaugural Outdoor Industry Business Pitch Competition sponsored by The Small Business and Technology Development Center and partnering organizations. The competition was open to small Western North Carolina-based businesses in the outdoor industry and held at Highland Brewing.
Adam Masters, founder of Bellyak, created a “lay on top kayak” that sprung from an idea from years of being a whitewater kayaker. “I was handpaddling in 2004 and I had the idea to paddle prone. The sensation was great, but the ergonomics were not,” Masters said. His Bellyaks allow the user to lie stomach within the craft, which is what he calls the best combination of swimming and boating.
“We are going to use the $5,000 prize money to refine the five kids models we’ve already built and work with a CAD developer to create a digital version that can be used to help us secure a licensing deal based on our utility patent,” Masters said.
“This will substantially lower our price point and exponentially increase our distribution. We will also use the funds for legal and strategic counsel as we pursue this new opportunity. The royalties created from this deal will help us to continue to grow the sport of prone paddling and pursue our next goal of designing a purpose built Bellyak for Swiftwater and Flood Rescue, which will be manufactured in Fletcher.”
“We are thrilled to have one of our Small Business Center clients who is currently participating in our business incubation program win this award. Bellyak is a great example of the flourishing outdoor recreation industry that is so important to our state,” said Jill Sparks, Executive Director of A-B Tech’s Small Business Center and Business Incubation.
Masters’ pitch was all about growing the business from his core passion, which is whitewater, and using his patented mode of aquatic travel to branch into the recreational paddlesports market, which will allow Bellyak to scale the business, specifically by working with a large kayak manufacturer that can blow mold, a process that significantly reduces the cost of goods and allows for a much lower price point.
Masters used to work in real estate and as a fiddle player and then in 2010, he revisited the idea of prone paddling. “I started building prototypes and started the business in 2012. In late 2012, I grew out of the space I had and moved to Weaverville,” Adam said. His manufacturer is located in Fletcher, so every aspect of the business is local.
“Our main thing is marketing and promoting the sport and product. The Bellyak not only shortens the learning curve for whitewater, it can be used by adaptive paddlers and summer camps, resorts, lakes and swimmers. We are able to get more people into water sports," Masters said.