Catching up with Amber Grant Winner Hey Paddle
March 20th 2019
In July of 2017, we received an application from a unique business that provided fitness classes on stand up paddle boards. (Neat, right?)
That business — Hey Paddle — was selected for an Amber Grant. Co-founder Becca Tongsinoon impressed us with her business smarts, go-getter attitude and vision for the future.
Well, about a year-and-a-half later, we’re checking up with Becca to see what’s transpired since securing a grant. We’ll keep this open-ended, diary-style format going with other past grant winners. The goal is to inspire, learn and grow from the journeys of fellow women entrepreneurs.
So, let’s jump in the water with this Austin, TX based business.
Hey Paddle Backstory
One hot summer day in Austin, I struggled between going paddle boarding on the lake with my buddy, Chris, or going to the gym. Luckily, Chris is a personal trainer, and suggested we do both! She led us through a series of stretches, plyometrics, cardio, and strength training on paddle boards. This worked our core and balance as we occasionally “fell in” to cool off.
Afterwards, we realized that this full body workout could not be compared to anything on land. We also experienced a spiritual journey, listening to the water gently hitting the boards while we cooled down and stretched as the sun set into the lake.
We knew we had to share our workout with the outdoorsy and fit people of Austin. After a couple months of experimenting with anchors, weights, ropes, and resistance bands, Hey Paddle launched its first official class in late summer, 2016.
Hey Paddle hits the water
Our classes began with just family and friends, then friends of friends. One of our biggest milestones was achieved when a complete stranger signed up for a class, who neither of us knew! We were gaining momentum and filling our classes just as the cold weather arrived, and thought we might be able to transition into boot camp style classes on land with the boards. We put the boards on modified foam rollers to try and emulate the water, but it was never quite the same. Plus, people in Austin are not really welcoming of weather below 50 degrees!
We were excited when March arrived and we could head back to our favorite place, the lake. Again our classes began filling up and we realized we needed to expand, hire additional instructors and staff as well as come up with a plan for the winter season.
Amber Grant impact
In July 2017, we were fortunate to learn about the Amber Grant and apply. We were excited and thrilled to have the additional funding, PR, and most of all, proud that our idea and growing business had been validated by others not in our industry.
We immediately went to work recruiting instructors and staff, training our new team of talented and inspirational fitness enthusiasts, and creating additional class types. We now have five unique classes: Paddle Conditioning, RIP (Interval Training choreographed to music), FIT (timed intervals with kettle bells and resistance bands), Yoga, and Pilates Plus. Our team of four instructors are skilled, encouraging, and approachable, and our staff can set up and tear down a mobile floating studio in about 30 minutes.
Offseason brings challenges, tough decisions
Our next frontier was Winter 2017, and since our outdoor land classes did not go well in 2016, we decided to try Live Online Fitness classes. We put the boards and water equipment in storage (my garage), and converted the apartment above my garage into a fitness studio. Our flexible team of instructors set up boot camp, yoga, pilates, and barre classes available online. The instructor could see and hear the students, and the students could see and hear other students and the instructor. While there were technical challenges at times with slow bandwidth, or volume/camera issues, when things worked, the classes were effective, students did not need to leave their homes, and anyone in the world with an internet connection could take our classes!
We realized we had accidentally started up another business — one completely different from Hey Paddle — that would require 100% of our attention and effort.
After many hours of weighing the pros and cons, ultimately we knew our heart belonged with paddle boards in the lake. We wanted to make sure we maintained focus on our initial vision and dream, even if it meant we were a seasonal business. As difficult as it was, we know we made the right call and have focused all of our efforts on making Hey Paddle the amazing fitness community it is today.
Big Plans in 2019 and Beyond
We would love to see Hey Paddle grow beyond Austin —eventually anywhere with a lake or body of water. We continue to put our focus into growing our community and we have been so grateful to have the support of WomensNet. Seeing women supporting women has been inspirational and one of the core values at Hey Paddle. It continues to be an honor for Hey Paddle to be a part of this powerful women’s community!