Matt Carter, co-owner of Quest Kayaks, started the business in 1999 and has grown with the town of Lewes. Carter works along side his childhood friend, Aaron Hood.
“When we started, Lewes was very small, low key, it was before Lewes and Rehoboth really got going and now we’ve been going on 17-18 years,” Carter said with enthusiasm. “It has grown every summer— more people, more houses, more tourists, more locals and we’ve created more adventures.”
Quests Kayaks offers a variety of different kayaking tours ranging from ‘Pints and Paddles,’ a dolphin tour, a tour partnered with the Lewes Historical Society, a ship wreck and sunset tour, among other specialty tours.
Carter says the ‘Pints and Paddles’ tour is one of the most popular, where kayakers make their way to the Dogfish Head Brewery and back. The dolphin tour is also a popular one, allowing groups of kayakers to go along Cape Henlopen Point.
According to Carter, one of the aspects of the business that keeps them flourishing in a beach town is their ability to adapt to change.
A few years ago, the stand-up paddle boarding craze took over the coast and since then, Quest has obtained a fleet of 25 stand-ups. According to Carter, SUPs have become just as popular as the kayaks. Now with the 2016 summer season approaching, Carter has been brainstorming up big plans.
While vacationing in Charleston, South Carolina, Carter was introduced to floating mats, in fact, he realized there was a whole market for it on Delmarva and he decided to get a few of his own.
Carter says these floating mats are huge party mats; 6 x 21 foot foam pieces, anchored down. He compares them to a floating mat yoga, a floating dock but soft, holding up to 10 adults. Kids are able to jump on and off for a day long of fun.
In addition to kayaks, SUPS and floating mats, Quest Kayaks has held beach parties for large groups and gatherings.
A beach party consists of 4 single kayaks, 4 tandem kayaks, beach chairs, umbrellas, tables, tents and beach games. Quest does everything except the catering. Come 8 p.m., Quest puts together a fire pit and it’s all waiting for the guests. Carter says beach parties in Lewes typically attract corporate retreats, family reunions and more.
How did Quest Kayaks turn into such a booming business from something so small?
Carter had one short answer—the customers.
“The customers feed us…these ideas pop up through them. It was a windy day and we couldn’t do a dolphin tour so we tried a salt marsh tour. That suddenly became a popular tour. We are always looking for new ideas.”
Meet Matt Carter and His Business
Matt Carter grew up in Milford, Del.
After graduating from high school, Carter went on to play football at Salisbury University for a year and a half. After his football days were over, Carter went on to Fort Lewes College in Durango, Colorado to study Exercise Science.
In Colorado, Carter was able to try extreme sports including rock climbing and snowboarding, which sparked his interest in outdoor sports. His last semester of college, Carter ended up being short two credits.
“I took an entrepreneurship course and the whole semester the object was to design a business. I ended up starting it that next summer.”
The business started out with rock climbing, bikes and kayaks, and Carter says he learned the hard way what worked and what didn’t
“It’s never easy but I think I started too early… but I started small and grew with the town.”
Carter focuses his lifestyle and his business on sustainability.
“An eco-friendly business in this town is very called for… It’s very needed… It’s such an amazing area, the ocean, the bay, the saltmarsh, the creeks, sunsets and sunrises. Lewes is quaint, it’s kind of a secret, not a boardwalk town but quieter.”
Carter says he loves his job and it has shaped him into who he is today. Although there are many aspects of his life and work that are great, he says there is one thing that takes the cake…
“I’m outside all day… I see people come to the beach for a week and we’re on the beach every day, I feel bad for them, I see their smiling faces at the beginning of the week and then everyone’s heads are down at the end. I also love meeting so many new people, and my staff is awesome…”
Carter compares himself to a concierge. He is able to work with the visitors in the town and point out restaurants and various destinations to go to.
Although he admits it is hard work, being out in the sun from 7 a.m.- 9 a.m. with heavy lifting, he wouldn’t change it for the world.
To learn more about Quest Kayaks, visit www.questkayak.com.