Most 20-something entrepreneurs today are using technology as a means to build their empires, but Austin Hayden (’15) is taking a decidedly retro approach when it comes to selling his recreational water pads.
“We do not sell online,” Hayden said. “We respect the brick and mortar of the boating industry.”
As a sophomore in college, Hayden debuted the ParadisePad after receiving inspiration while spending some time on the lake. The product is a foam water pad that attaches to a boat or dock and is used as a platform to hangout on in the water.
Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, Hayden originally came to Truman to play soccer and obtain a business degree. His main focus was on his game and grades, and ParadisePad added an opportunity to gain experience while still enjoying his college years.
“I looked at it as a very serious annual internship, which I created,” Hayden said. “ParadisePad was something I did in my free time or where my mind wandered many times during class.”
As graduation got closer, sales began to increase, and Hayden knew his idea was turning into something more than an internship. That growth was achieved without the
help of online retailers. Initially due to high shipping costs,
the use of local businesses for distribution formed into something special.
“It quickly turned into a respect thing,” Hayden said. “We’re supporting the boating industry as well as local businesses.”
In order to ensure customer satisfaction, Hayden will ship a product direct if there are not any dealers already carrying ParadisePad. However, sticking to his mission to help local businesses and grow his own, Hayden will then call up a dealer in the area and let them know they missed out on a sale. Despite operating outside of the current marketing norms, ParadisePad has grown and is now sold in 40 states with occasional shipments to Europe and Australia.
Looking to expand the product line, Hayden has added inflatable stand- up paddle boards, large inflatable pads that are more buoyant than the traditional foam pad, and an inflatable pad for yoga on the water.
In addition to helping people have fun in the sun, Hayden has a goal to give back. ParadisePad is currently partnering with Folds of Honor, which provides educational scholarships to the families of fallen and disabled soldiers. That is not the only patriotic aspect of ParadisePad. Hayden has made it a point to ensure each pad is constructed entirely of American-made products in an effort to guarantee their quality.
“Once I was able to test the first ParadisePad made in America, it was evident I was about to be producing the best foam water pad in the industry,” he said.
While his approach may be old school, Hayden’s attitude is still youthful, and the sky is the limit when it comes to ParadisePad’s future. Along with the new products, he has many ideas for expanding the company, including obtaining more dealers, adding more products, attending more events, sponsoring a professional wakeboarder or wake surfer, taking over lake markets and being more established overseas.
“As a 25-year-old who has been selling foam water pads for a living for six summers now, I feel like I’m still starting up,” Hayden said. “We want to be known as a big player in the boating industry, as a family business that makes high-quality water products, gives back and continues to come out with groundbreaking products summer after summer.”