Suzanne Roig
The Bulletin

What: Kialoa

What it does: Manufacture outrigger, dragon boat and stand-up paddles

Employees: Nine including Meg and Dave Chun

Pictured: Meg Chun

Address: 747 SE ­Business Way, Bend

Phone: 541-382-5355

Website: www.kialoa.com

Inside a tidy warehouse on the east side of Bend, Kialoa hand makes paddles that are being used by water enthusiasts from Brazil to Japan, Washington to Hawaii.

On one side of the warehouse an employee creates wooden shafts that will be used for Hawaiian-style outrigger canoe paddles. On another an employee glues paddles to carbon fiber poles to make adjustable stand-up paddles. These two halves make up the bulk of the business created 26 years ago by Meg and Dave Chun, former Hawaii residents who moved to Bend to live and build a business.

This year the company will have sold 10,500 paddles, Meg Chun said. At the height of the stand-up paddleboard fad, the company sold 19,000 paddles, she said.

The paddles are designed by Dave Chun. Some have Hawaiian names, while others are named after Bend’s Mirror Pond.

Kialoa is well-known in the warm waters of Hawaii, but not in Central Oregon. The Chuns were in Bend several years before a local purchased Kialoa six-man outrigger canoe paddles. Then came stand-up paddling, and their business took off.

“When we came here there was no market for outrigger canoe paddles,” Chun said. “But when stand-up happened, we got into REI, Tumalo Creek and Stand on Liquid. But not everyone knows our brand is from Bend.”

Chun talked to The Bulletin about the paddle-­making industry. Her responses have been edited for length and content.

Q: How do people learn about Kialoa?

A: We have three different markets. Outrigger and dragon are niche markets, and because we have been in that market for so long we have organic positioning online. In that niche market, our primary marketing is email, online, ambassador programs and word of mouth. Stand-up is different. It’s email marketing and online advertising, some vendor pop-up stores at events. The market is more traditional. We have 10 independent reps and dealers that carry our products. Reps do marketing at local events. The distribution is more formalized in stand-up.

Q: What makes Kialoa paddles different than other paddles?

A: There are a lot of paddle builders out there, but what sets us apart is years of design experience. It’s Dave. He listens to a lot of brand ambassadors; he tries to take their comments and hear what they’re asking for and turn it into a design. Dave is always thinking about design with the paddler in mind. His goal is to make the paddle disappear in the hands of the paddler. He wants it become one with them. It’s Dave’s ability to understand the dynamics of paddling and how it relates to the changing craft.

Q: What have you learned as an entrepreneur?

A: One of the biggest things is to understand that there really is a global economy. Communication flows through so many channels, and you have to embrace that. We’ve had to change a lot. We don’t advertise in print any more.

Q: What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out?

A: Get involved with Opportunity Knocks, a peer-to-peer nonprofit organization in Bend; Outdoor Worx, an outdoor industry venture fund and mentor program; and Economic Development of Central Oregon. Get involved with all the support network there is in Bend. There’s a lot going on that is supportive of new. Get out there and meet all those people.

—Reporter: 541-633-2117, sroig@bendbulletin.com

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