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From Paddles to PPE: A Kayak Builder Navigates a New Challenge

“I don’t know that you could really plan a pandemic in a way better designed to really just bring a kayak manufacturer to its knees.” Scott Holley, president and co-owner of Eddyline Kayaks, is direct about the challenges his company faced early in the pandemic.

The company had been building inventory over the fall and winter that was about to ship out to customers—representing a sizeable investment of time and money from the team over the previous six months. They had no idea if their customers would take the product or if they’d be willing or able to pay for it. As a seasonal manufacturer, their business depended on selling that product. They also employ 24 skilled craftspeople, many with 20 to 25 years of experience—furloughs or layoffs weren’t an option.

At the same time, there was a public health emergency and a looming shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). So, Scott and his partner got the idea to make a face shield prototype from parts on the workroom floor. A seat pan liner became headbands. Kneepads transformed into a contact point. Tip pad rivets held the shield in place. Out of that first prototype, the Skagit PPE partnership was formed. Eddyline, Chinook Enterprises and Skagit Rotary worked together to manufacture and distribute 2,000 face shields to frontline workers in the community using their existing supplier relationships.

While Eddyline focused on pivoting their operations, Heritage Bank helped them navigate the financial challenges they faced. As a small business partner for Eddyline for the past three years, we helped with their recent ownership transition as well as the acquisition and renovation of their current building. Our team reached out to Eddyline when the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was still in draft form to let them know about the upcoming opportunity, and we worked around the clock to help them through the application process. Eddyline was approved within a day of submitting the application and funded within hours of getting approved. The PPP loan allowed Eddyline to keep their employees on the payroll and pivot to face shield production. “That was incredible. It was a lifeline,” says Scott.

The face shield initiative meant a lot to the company and the community. They’ve heard thanks from kayak customers, who received the face shields at their health care jobs, and employees feel a sense of pride about being able to contribute to their communities during this time of need.

Scott has found himself kayaking a lot more recently as a way to deal with the stress of this time. “Having that release, having that ability to get out on the water, to find that quiet, magical place and let all of the worries and the cares and everything else fall behind you is something that is super important to me.”

Watch the video below to learn more about how Heritage helped Eddyline and other businesses in our community navigate this challenging time.

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