your b oat?
Name: Pelican International
1000 Paul-Kane Place,
Laval, QC H7C 2T2
Products at costco.com:
10' Pursuit Kayak, Pursuit
140T (two-person), Apex
surf kayak (one- and two-person), Mist SE five-passen-ger pedal boat
Comments about Costco:
“We buy many products
from Costco, from electronics to food and supplies for
our company cafeteria.
Almost all of our 250
employees are members.”
PHOTO COURTESY PELICAN INTERNATIONAL
Innovation in materials
makes kayaks such
as Pelican’s Esprit 100 a
value on the water.
THE VOICE on the phone surp rises production time of more than 90 percent.
me—it’s calm, friendly, jovial. Not at all “For big retailers like Costco who
what I had expected from someone who require us to deliver on demand, it means
helped create the number-one company that we can react more quickly,” explains
worldwide in pedal-boat sales and the Antoine Elie. “This new use of TST allows
second-largest kayak manufacturer in us to respond promptly to our clients’
the world. But don’t let the soft voice needs. It also means that we are reducing
fool you: Antoine Élie has commerce our production costs drastically and that
paddling hard through his veins. This we can offer a much lower retail price on
third-generation businessman is well an item of equal value.”
versed in his trade and, when warmed to Does the key to Pelican’s success reside
the topic, speaks passionately and in its ability to stay on the cutting edge of
intensely about the company he heads technology? The success of the implemen-with his brother, Christian. tation of TST in kayak production and the
In 1968, Gérard Élie, the father of invention of new materials by Pelican—
Antoine and Christian, purchased such as RamXcel plastic, which is lighter
Eskay, a small plastic-sheeting com- and stronger than most materials
pany based in Granby, Quebec. Two presentlyused by theircompetition—
def-years later, the family began the pro- initely points in that direction.
duction of the first-ever plastic pedal But as triumphant as these busi-boat, a product they named the ness breakthroughs have been, Pelican
Pelican, which quickly took flight. The International has no time to rest on their
success of the Pelican was such that laurels. With competitors always riding
the entire operation was eventually in their wake, it’s crucial that they don’t
renamed in its honor. deviate from their course and that they
Over the next 15 years, new prod- stay profitable every year. “We always
ucts were added to the array of have to be two, sometimes three, years
merchandise manufactured by ahead of our competition. It is essential
Pelican International: canoes, to- that we reinvest in both our personnel
boggans, wading pools, wind- and our equipment,” states Élie.
surfers and fishing boats. The So is Pelican International revolu-brothersboughtthecompanyfrom tionary? Yes. Do they take risks? Of
their father in 1995, with Antoine course. But not at any price: “Taking
taking the helm as CEO in charge of busi- risks is a part of doing business,” says
ness development, sales and marketing, and Elie. “Someone who doesn’t want to
Christian as president, taking over opera- take a chance shouldn’t be in business.
tions and research and development. But the risks taken should be well calcu-Pelican had tested the waters in the lated. Often, entrepreneurs are passion-kayak market previously, using a process ate people. It’s easy for them to get
known as rotomolding; it proved to be caught up in the emotions, to see the
unprofitable. It was not until 2001 that the tree but not the forest.”
company again took the plunge and invested Consequently, the team at Pelican
the time, expertise and money to adapt an International appoints two to four outside
existing technology to kayak production. businesspeople to look over new high-risk
They discovered that twin-sheet thermo- endeavors and rein them in, if need be.
forming (TST), a process commonly used to This formula appears to have worked
manufacture rough industrial goods, such as splendidly so far. Not only do they see the
plastic packing crates, could be adapted to man- tree, they see the forest, the lake and the river
ufacture aesthetically pleasing kayaks identical in beyond it—and they provide us with all the
look and function to other craft. What is extraordi- gear to go for a nice paddle! C
nary about TST is the speed at which it can turn out
a finished product. What used to take more than an Mireille Messier is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
hour now takes just seven minutes—a reduction in She also enjoys canoeing.