If dreaming up your own kayak design doesn’t sound like enough of a challenge, imagine also planning, engineering and building your own kayak manufacturing equipment; and then constructing a factory to put it in. And when that’s all done, producing boats, marketing them and running the entire business.
From high factory windows, tropical evening sunlight splashes across rows of candy-colored boats stacked neatly in racks. It’s after hours and the concrete floor of the Titan ‘Fantasy Factory’ is quiet; everyone has gone home except for owners Anthony Yap and Jackie Hennessy. In their office overlooking the factory, Jackie works on filling orders while Yap is in the research and design room—his favorite part of the building. Located on the edge of an industrial area in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Titan factory is only a 10-minute drive to the jungle, making the fantasy even more palpable.
This international power couple are the brains and brawn behind the ever- growing Titan Kayaks. Hennessy, an Irish paddler, met Yap while he was competing at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in Australia.
“We’ve worked 60- to 70-hour weeks for the past two years here in Malaysia setting up the factory,” says Hennessy. “Everything we have has gone into the company and it’s still just Anthony and I running the whole thing.” Yap’s name is usually the focus of attention and recognition when it comes to Titan because of his freestyle competition background, but he is quick to point the praises and credit toward his partner. “Jackie and I started it together,” he says, highlighting how the idea really came to fruition when they met.
With the new factory in action, Titan Kayaks are gaining momentum. “Our sales for the first three months in our new factory have doubled that of the last two years,” says Yap.
Titan sold their first boat in 2010, but Anthony began working on designs and prototypes years before that. The freestyle Genesis is by far their best seller, and can be found in outdoor stores around the world.
The company started production in Asia because Yap had family and connections in Malaysia. Titan Kayaks went from renting a small corner of another factory and third-party rotomolders to having their own custom-made equipment—including a new oven designed by Yap and created from scratch, specifically for making kayaks. Hennessy designed the layout of the factory with sections for modeling, assembly, packaging and storage. Together, they have developed the factory production line, trained their staff and even developed their own plastic. “We can finally have full control of quality and production times. Now, there’s nothing really stopping us,” she says.
Their next step is setting up a home base in Canada. “The dream is to have the Fantasy Factory in Malaysia that can build all the cool toys,” says Yap, “and have a design hub in Canada on the Ottawa.”
“The most satisfying moment of this work is seeing someone paddle into an eddy in your boat,” says Yap.
Yap and Hennessy can be seen on the factory floor in tank tops, shorts and sandals, going from admin to management and designer to laborer. Yap flies from one production stand to the next on his longboard. They may have a fancy new factory, but at its core, it’s still the same athlete-based company.
“We are kayakers making kayaks,” says Hennessy.
This article was originally published in Rapid, Volume 18 • Issue 3. Read this issue.