In January 2010, Allan Monroe was preparing for the April opening of the Wildwood Lake Canoe Company (WLC), a canoe manufacturing shop in St. Mary’s, Ontario. Monroe planned to build 30 canoes per year and he wondered what strategy and tactics would maximize his profits.
The initiative for WLC evolved from Monroe’s canoeing and woodworking hobbies. Monroe had canoed recreationally for more than 20 years and had built three canoes, which he sold after using them each for a season. Last spring, when Monroe decided to purchase a canoe for the first time, he suffered what he described as “sticker shock.” He could not believe the price and poor quality of retail canoes. Monroe saw an opportunity to build handcrafted cedar canoes, which he would sell for a premium.
Monroe wanted assistance starting his company, so he enrolled in a 12-week business program in St. Mary’s. He didn’t find much value in the classwork itself, but after completing the course and creating a business plan, students could enroll in a start-up and mentoring phase conducted on-site. WLC would rent space there for $351 per month, starting in April 2010. The shared facility gave Monroe access to a wide range of business resources, including instructors and a woodworking shop. Monroe hoped these resources would give WLC a competitive advantage.
WLC was going to specialize in 16-foot Peterborough canoes, which were a classic Canadian design. These canoes were popular worldwide and had gained a reputation as agile, fast, and stable. The canoes would be made from long, thin strips of cedar and constructed with epoxy (a type of glue that binds when heated). Monroe described building canoes as “relatively easy,” although it took time and woodworking skill. Canoes produced at WLC would have exclusive features that included walnut decks, brass fasteners and cane seats. The finish would be hand-sanded, rubbed with epoxy and treated with Carnauba wax,...