The Tow Skim Story
A combination of a few different activities that my sons and I played around with lead to the Tow Skim idea.
Firstly, like a lot of people do, I towed my boys along the beach on their body boards. This was fun for a short time but as the rope on the body board was quite short the spray from me running splashed water into their eyes at certain speeds.
We lengthened the rope to solve this problem but as the older boys enjoyed being on their knees it wasn’t long before they wanted to stand and be more creative. They tried holding the rope to give them better balance but this made them stand differently and made it difficult to ride. We still did crazy stuff with it though and had loads of fun.
We also had a ski boat at the time and my eldest boy wanted to try wakeboarding, however, the noise of the engine and being in the deep water wasn’t to his liking as he was 5 years old…..
So we put the boat on anchor, got the wakeboard, set him up at the waters edge with the ski rope and I would run along the waters edge towing him. Because he was in the shallows his confidence allowed him to focus on the riding without the other factors and he picked up the wakeboarding very fast. We did the same for my second son with the same result and he was three years old. Needless to say the boat sat on anchor more than I would have liked!
With these two activities now the main attractions for all visits to the beach, I was relieved at a local surf competition when the local surf shop owner, wanting to promote his new stock of skimboards, threw some skimboards down for the kids to play with at the beach and I could relax and watch. Of course my boys were first to grab and try to ride them.
Sitting there that day watching the different levels of skills of all the kids on the skim boards gave me the basic idea for making boards and combining them with ropes. After chatting with my sons on the way home that day – also trying to work out how I can get out of buying 3 x new skimboards as my kids were hooked – we decided to try and make some boards as a project together. As my boys were ages 2, 4 and 6 years the logical way forward was to make three different levels so they could all enjoy riding. We cut out, bent and painted three boards made some ropes with PVC pipes as handles and headed to the beach.
The boys went nuts over the boards and as they could all ride at their own respective levels made it even better. While at the beach on the first day, people would stop and watch us skimming along and other parents approached to ask where they can get these boards.
I decided that it would be a great family project to make some boards and sell them to friends in the area as everyone enjoyed it. Also at the same time I could teach my kids some entrepreneurial skills. I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to teach them the basics of business from an organic level. As I was working full time I began discussing the ideas with a colleague/friend of mine during lunch breaks who has, and continues to provide great advice for the project and is also involved in the development of the business.
Subsequently, the company I was working for restructured, and many people were made redundant, including me. I looked at the redundancy as a challenge and thought that maybe I should really focus on this idea and see if we can really do something with it. My boys were very keen and had amazing ideas so we decided to focus our energies full time towards making it work. The name Tow Skim was born.
We made and tested some prototypes, researched factories to make the boards and ropes, made logos and designs for the boards and merchandise and created the Tow Skim brand that you see today.
Realising that my kids don’t really have long attention spans at their ages I have tried to involve each of them in the business at a suitable level for them. I have always been amazed at their enthusiasm and their ideas. Production of all the items is slow so in between receiving samples and products we focus on other things. They have been very involved in the actual branding, website contents, modelling and videos. They have been involved in the social media set up, merchandise designs and even the finances.
The project provides a great platform to teach the kids about basic good business. Planning, products, marketing, customer management etc. They are learning valuable public speaking skills, reviewing photos and videos and seeing how they can be improved, scrutinizing product samples and coming up with constructive ideas to make the products better.
From the beginning the boys have been very keen to develop some kind of ‘foundation’ to help other less fortunate kids. We decided that we would keep US$2 from each board sold and put it towards helping other kids. We still haven’t locked down exactly who yet but have some fantastic ideas and we will share them soon.
Full Steam Ahead
After deciding to do this project on a full time basis the playing field has changed many times. It was a logical step to patent the product which has slowed getting the product to market. Also to check if making the product ourselves locally would be a better solution to buying out of China.
The website has had more face lifts than most Hollywood celebrities, but we think it now looks and works great. This, in large part, is due to the hard work and dedication of Eric and his team at PrimaryNde, who continue to be a source of inspiration and trust, as well as an endless fountain of ideas and solutions for our business and emarketing needs.
There is lots more to come as we are only just beginning the Tow Skim story…