How to Start a Canoe and Kayak Rental Business

Many people enjoy being on the water, but either don't own a boat or want to go boating where they can't bring theirs. A canoe and kayak rental business lets people rent canoes and kayaks to take out on nearby waterways. Customers can take canoes out for as little as an hour or as long as a day or more.

Learn how to start your own Canoe and Kayak Rental Business and whether it is the right fit for you.

Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.

Start a canoe and kayak rental business by following these 10 steps:

  1. Plan your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business
  2. Form your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business into a Legal Entity
  3. Register your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business for Taxes
  4. Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
  5. Set up Accounting for your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business
  6. Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business
  7. Get Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Insurance
  8. Define your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Brand
  9. Create your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Website
  10. Set up your Business Phone System

We have put together this simple guide to starting your canoe and kayak rental business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.

STEP 1: Plan your business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Canoe and Kayak Rental Business Name Generator

If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.

When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:

  • Your state's business records
  • Federal and state trademark records
  • Social media platforms
  • Web domain availability.

It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.

Want some help naming your canoe and kayak rental business?

Business Name Generator

What are the costs involved in opening a canoe and kayak rental business?

The startup costs associated with opening a canoe and kayak rental business are sizeable. Business owners must purchase several canoes and kayaks, which can run anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $1,000 each, depending on style and quality. Life jackets and paddles must also be purchased. The other sizeable startup cost is the price of securing a place to store the canoes, kayaks and other equipment.

In addition to these major costs, business owners also need to pay for any certifications they obtain and insurance.

Some businesses may need to pay a fee to launch canoes and kayaks at a public or private launch. Businesses renting to customers taking long trips may also need a vehicle and trailer to transport canoes and kayaks.

Business owners that are trying to keep their costs low can do so by only purchasing a few canoes and kayaks to start with, building a storage area for the boats on their own property and using inexpensive launches. If their customers are taking long trips down rivers, business owners might be able to hire another company to transport canoes and kayaks for them -- so they don't have to invest in a vehicle and trailer. The additional cost of hiring another company could be built into the rental prices. One student managed to start a business with $12,000.

Read our canoe and kayak rental business purchasing guide to learn about the materials and equipment you'll need to start a canoe and kayak rental business, how much to budget, and where to make purchases.

What are the ongoing expenses for a canoe and kayak rental business?

A canoe and kayak rental business' ongoing expenses include insurance premiums and employee wages (if the business has employees). Businesses that pay to launch canoes and kayaks, or to transport them by trailer, also have these ongoing expenses. All businesses have to occasionally pay to repair or replace damaged canoes and kayaks.

Who is the target market?

Canoe and kayak rental businesses have two ideal customer types. Businesses near cities often cater to customers who like being on the water but don't own their own boat. These businesses usually offer shorter rentals, such as half-day and full-day rentals. Businesses in remote areas often offer longer rentals, including week-long rentals, and cater to canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts who are taking trips down rivers or across lakes.

How does a canoe and kayak rental business make money?

A canoe and kayak rental business makes money by charging for canoe and kayak rentals. Rentals may be by the hour, half-day, day or week.

How much can you charge customers?

Rental rates for partial days generally fall between $25 and $35 per boat for 2 to 4 hours. Full-day rates are usually between $40 and $60 per boat. A few companies offer reduced daily rates for week-long rentals. Exact rates vary with the type of boat (e.g. single kayak, double kayak or canoe) and geographic location.

How much profit can a canoe and kayak rental business make?

A canoe and kayak rental business' income is directly tied to the number of canoes and kayaks it rents out. A business may have a total of eight canoes and kayaks, but on an average day it might rent out only three of them for half a day. (The other five can help the business meet demand on busy days, but not all days will be equally busy.)

If the business charges $30 for a half-day rental, it'd bring in an average of $90 per day. In most regions, such a business is seasonal. Assuming a business' season was 6 months long, its revenue would be $16,200 for the year (even though it was only open for 6 months).

How can you make your business more profitable?

Canoe and kayak rental business owners can increase their business' revenue by offering guided tours, renting out other types of small boats (e.g. jet skis or standup paddle boards), renting other equipment (e.g. tents or fishing equipment), leasing storage space for people's personal canoes and kayaks, and selling canoes and kayaks.

Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!

STEP 2: Form a legal entity

The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your canoe and kayak rental business is sued.

Form Your LLC

Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC

Have a Professional Service Form your LLC for You

Two such reliable services:

You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.

Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

You can acquire your EIN through the IRS website. If you would like to learn more about EINs, read our article, What is an EIN?

There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:

  • Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • Makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.

Get a business credit card

Getting a business credit card helps you:

  • Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.

Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from BILL and build your business credit quickly.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a canoe and kayak rental business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA's reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

Liability Waiver

Liability waivers are essential since consumers will be in high risk environments, operating equipment in potentially dangerous environments/circumstances. For this reason, it is best to require protective gear. Here is an example of one such waiver for canoe and kayak rental businesses.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional release of liability form for your canoe rental business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Certificate of Occupancy

A canoe and kayak rental business is generally run out of a physical location. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord's responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a canoe rental business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business' location to ensure your Nightclub business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get business insurance

Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.

There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.

Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.

FInd out what types of insurance your Canoe and Kayak Rental Business needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Canoe and Kayak Rental Business.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.

Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.

If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.

How to promote & market a canoe and kayak rental business

Word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of marketing for a canoe and kayak business. The canoe and kayak community is a small, tight-knit community, and word will spread if a place has good equipment, service and prices.

Online marketing through social media and guest blogging can also be an effective way to reach potential customers, because people often research destinations and rental companies online before signing up to rent a canoe or kayak.

How to keep customers coming back

Business owners can set their canoe and kayak rental business apart by tailoring it to the local waterways. Not only should business owners be able to talk about all nearby bodies of water in detail, but they can also purchase equipment that's specifically suited for the local waterways. For instance, a place along the coast might invest in high-grade touring kayaks that have lots of storage, while a business near small lakes may focus on fishing kayaks that have mounts for reels and depth finders.

STEP 9: Create your business website

After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.

While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.

Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:

  • All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
  • Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
  • Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.

Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.

Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.

STEP 10: Set up your business phone system

Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.

There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.

Recommended Business Phone Service: is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.

Is this Business Right For You?

Anyone who enjoys canoeing and kayaking may be well-suited to open a canoe and kayak rental business. Business owners also must be strong enough to move canoes and kayaks on shore.

Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?

Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!

Entrepreneurship Quiz

What happens during a typical day at a canoe and kayak rental business?

A canoe and kayak business owner's busiest parts of the day are when they're giving boats out to customers and when customers are coming in. Before customers head out on the water, they need to be given a canoe or kayak, paddle and life jacket, and shown how to paddle and use the boat safely. They may also want to ask the business owner about places to paddle to. When customers come in, business owners need to check the equipment, put it away and make sure the customers enjoyed their time. When not sending customers out or welcoming them back, business owners usually spend their time taking reservations, performing clerical work, and repairing damaged canoes and kayaks.

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful canoe and kayak rental business?

Business owners should be experienced in both canoeing and kayaking, so they can show customers how to properly paddle and steer. The American Canoe Association (ACA) offers many different classes in both canoeing and kayaking. The Red Cross also offers a course on Small Craft Safety, although this class doesn't go into as much detail as some of the ACA's courses. In order to help customers get the most out of their time on the water, business owners should also be familiar with the local waterways. The best ways to learn about an area's bodies of water is to join a local canoeing or kayaking club and to spend time out on the water. Finally, business owners should be certified in at least basic first aid and CPR. It may also be wise to become certified in more advanced first aid and water safety. The Red Cross offers a variety of first aid courses.

What is the growth potential for a canoe and kayak rental business?

Most canoe and kayak rental businesses have one or two locations and serve a particular geographic region. In theory, a business could open up additional operations or franchises in other areas, but it would need to find employees who are familiar with the bodies of water in those areas.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Learn from other business owners

Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.

Resources to Help Women in Business

There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:

  • Funding
  • Events
  • Guides
  • Support

If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.

How and when to build a team

A canoe and kayak rental business can be run by one person, but having staff can let a business provide more services. Many businesses hire a part-time employee for their busiest hours to help get people outfitted with canoes and kayaks, life jackets and paddles. Businesses may also hire employees to be guides if they offer guided tours.

Read our canoe and kayak rental business hiring guide to learn about the different roles a canoe and kayak rental business typically fills, how much to budget for employee salaries, and how to build your team exactly how you want it.

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