Andres Avello: Founder & CEO of PADL – Ep. 85

About Andres Avello & PADL:

Andres Avello grew up in Florida, where the water was a big part of everyday life. Discover how his life took a series of unexpected twists and turns, leading to him leaving a great and stable career to build a business.

But like so many successful people, he wasn’t content to stop there. He knew he was meant to build a company, and he knew he was meant to do something with the water. Now he’s built a company called PADL that offers first-of-its-kind paddle board and kayak rentals all over Florida and soon the world. Just subscribe, and unlock the board at any location, take it out, return it, and lock it back up. It’s a novel twist on the model you might have seen for scooters around your city.

Full Unedited Audio Conversation:

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1:53 – “We created a network of self-service paddleboard stations. We’re currently adding kayaks to them as well. But these stations are located right on the water, exactly where people want to be able to rent them and use them. So part of the day-in, day-out, of my job and my team’s job is to visit these stations, constantly around different locations. I have the most beautiful backdrops you’ll ever see.”

9:17 – “If we were going to take this to a scalable business, how are we going to ship this? So by design, we can fit the station on a flatbed truck, inside a shipping container and really send it anywhere in the world…And then on the sales side, we started reaching out to every single city that we knew, and we started trying to get any contractor that would come by, build it from there. And happily, we were able to really build this out throughout Florida, and next year you’ll start seeing these coming across the country.”

14:40 – “As you can imagine, it being homemade, everything went wrong. We learned what worked, what didn’t work. Eventually we started working out the kinks. The product that was out there month one was very different than the product that was out there in month three. But the one thing that we saw, that really made us know that we were on to something early on, was that even with all these challenges, people kept coming back and they kept renting and it was the same people…So we were able to establish that even with all of these problems that we’re seeing, and the customers facing, as long as we keep improving them, and we provide support to alleviate those initial challenges, it’s a winning ballgame.”

17:00 – “We had 20 locations a couple of months ago, we’ve opened another 5 since then. We’re opening another 10 now and we’ll be at 50 by this summer. So our goal at the beginning of the year was two and a half x business, and add kayaks. Those are the number one and two roadmap items that we have. We’ve been able to do it so far, so we’re happy.”

18:16 – “I will say this to aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone that wants to do something like this, it’s not the easier route…It is initially definitely the most stressful route. There’s no structure. There’s no understanding of what you’re going through. It’s a lot of research. It’s a lot of trusting your gut and going for it in the early stages. Once you get a little bit more formalized, you kind of run the data and you understand where your path is on the right path. But to get through those early stages – and to be frank, we’re still in the early stages – it takes a village to get there, and I wouldn’t have been able to get to the point where we are without my partners, without my wife, without my entire family really being able to support this.”

20:28 – “It’s not a job. And it doesn’t feel like a job. We have a goal to really provide self-service recreation. And we’re starting with water sports in Florida but this is just the beginning, we’ll be adding different vehicles, we’ll be going across the country, and across the world, and knowing that we’re on this mission to really be able to give back that time to people when they’re on their free time and be able to provide a better option…You have that time with your family, with your friends, and to be able to make sure that you enjoy the most of that free time. I know that we can provide that to other people. It resonates. So it is a mission that I’m happy to be a part of.”

24:24 – “You have to take those little leaps, make the phone calls, meet everybody that you can possibly meet. You never know who you’re going to meet and you never know who is going to love your idea. Or you never know who’s going to hate your idea until and tell you probably some of the best advice you’ve ever heard. Take everything with a grain of salt but know what’s out there. So no one should ever not make a phone call…When you’re first launching your product, get customer feedback. Your customers will always tell you what they like, what they don’t like, and you’ll be able to quickly figure out, one, who your customer is, and also, what you need to build them.”

27:03 – “Having someone dedicated on customer support has been really life changing and probably the best thing we ever did because now customers are getting the full attention that they deserve. That’s not to say that I’m still not answering calls or my partners are not answering calls. But just to have dedicated times where people aren’t over burnt out and really focused in, being able to provide a true delivery of customer support. At the end of the day, we’re a hospitality company…we’re catering to people when they’re traveling and when they’re on their free time. So I consider ourselves a hospitality company.”

30:59 – “Fundraising is almost a full-time job on its own…I was taking 30 meetings a week at one point and just on fundraising, which really it takes away from the aspect of being able to run and operate the business, which my two co-founders really stepped in and took over a lot of that work…If you’ve built and sold a couple of companies before, it definitely helps if you already have your network. But if you’re coming in fresh and you don’t have a network and you don’t even know where to begin – step one is build that network.”

31:53 – “We’ve had investors who reached out to us because they rode with us. And that’s really what kicked off the decision to actually crowdfund the business…We had a lot of riders asking us, ‘hey, how can we invest in this company?’ and it is customers that try the product, they love it, and they see opportunity, so that’s why we did our crowdfunding round.”

35:15 – “A lot of our riders actually do own their own boards, but some of our riders, they live on the water and it’s easier for them to just throw the board down behind their house. But when they’re going to go to the beach and they’re going with a cart, two kids, a cooler, umbrellas, chairs, the whole thing, the last thing you’re going to take is a 12-foot paddle board. So by having the equipment onsite, they just know that they can subscribe to our membership. It’s 25 bucks a month and they have full access. They can ride 2 hours a day, every day under one of the boards.”

37:22 – [On getting involved with beach clean-ups] “It was in partnering with an organization called Fill A Bag. So Fill A Bag, they have a post with reusable buckets that you hang on these posts and anybody that’s going on to walk can grab one of the buckets and they can clean up trash on the beach, or in the park, wherever they’re walking. And they did a lot of these clean-ups and they started bringing us in…and we wanted to get involved. So as a company, it’s something that we have as part of our mission.”

38:10 – “We’ve already done the R&D work for a new prototype that we’re launching. And this prototype attaches to the bottom of the boards so when our paddlers go out on the water, they’ll be able to collect key information on the water quality. So: water temperature, salinity levels, pH levels. And through the G.P.S. cellular communications that we have, we can send this information back in real time.”

40:05 – [On marketing strategies] “The most effective for us has been through local partnerships as well as good old-fashioned signs…directing people that are going into these parks or into these beaches, letting them know, ‘hey, there’s paddleboard rentals over here’ and having signs, pointing them in those directions, that’s been the number one most impactful. Once a rider rides with us, then they’re introduced to our email marketing channels and push notifications to the phone. They receive different incentives, such as referral incentives, so really the more internal marketing is what we look at. In terms of sourcing new customers it’s really a lot of local press. Local press has been a big driver.”

46:21 – “It’s been a crazy path. I mean, early on, going back to even school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to start my own company, so that doesn’t really pave a normal path for you. Then got steered into finance, got steered into hospitality, somehow ended up leaving both and then did an MBA and came back into both. But it’s been a great ride…It’s just making the most of every day and making the most of every moment, and really understanding that if you have a challenging moment, you’re going to get through it and just keep at it. Determination really helps. That’s the best advice I can give.”

52:08 – “What you’re hearing on Instagram is that overnight success is the common theme, and that this is the norm, and the reality is that it’s not. It’s a lot of determination, a lot of grit, a lot of pushing forward…Just focus on the hard work early on and make sure that you put that effort in because it will pay off in the later stages. It’s not the easy path out, but it’s definitely the most rewarding.”

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