Making of a Legacy | Eric Jackson | Dickies
Back in 2003, ERIC JACKSON, world champion whitewater kayaker and Olympian, was designing boats for a kayak company when they nixed one of his favorite ideas. Convinced that his playboat designs would be a hit, Jackson, his wife, and another partner went into business for themselves, setting up shop in an old laundromat. His intuition was right, and over the years Jackson Kayak had created 100 boat designs and launched a wildly popular kayak-fishing line. The growth processes involved a lot of time, money, and failures, but now the company, located in Sparta, Tennessee, is the largest whitewater-kayak manufacturer in the world.
Eric "EJ" Jackson is a world-champion freestyle kayaker, kayak designer, Olympic slalom kayaker, founder of Jackson Kayak, and a Professional Bass Tournament angler on the FLW Tour. Interested Sponsors who wish to work with Jackson during the 2018/19 season or media who wish to profile and/or attend competitive events, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Life Without Compromise | Eric Jackson | Nissan
Before launching his eponymous kayak-manufacturing company in 2003, Eric Jackson spent a day in California soaking up the wisdom of one of America's most revered entrepreneurs. Yvonne Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, had agreed to act as informal adviser to the startup, based in Rock Island, Tennessee. Jackson, a first-time founder, sought his advice on subjects like sustainability and leadership.
Chouinard and Jackson have much in common. Both started their careers as athletes (Chouinard scaled rocks; Jackson shot rapids); then designed equipment for their sports; and then created businesses to serve practitioners of those sports. A more profound similarity is their belief that fiercely protecting work-life balance benefits both company owner and company.
"Yvonne talked to me about MBA--management by absence," recalls Jackson. "You can either be a domineering leader who knows what is going on at all times and enforces how things are done, or you can step back and let people have the ball and do it their way."
The step-back option suited Jackson. By the time Jackson Kayak launched, he had been living with his family for six years in an RV, motoring from river to roiling river to challenge new waves and train for competitions. Resolutely he had resisted pleas from his employer, a midsize kayak manufacturer, to work from the confines of an office. Chouinard's experience encouraged Jackson to believe he could run his own business the same way.
Jackson Kayak employs 185 people and does $23 million in annual sales. Jackson says he expects to hit $100 million in a few years. The company competes aggressively on innovation. "For every new model our competitors make, we make three," says Jackson. "A lot of accountants would look at that and say, you need to slow that down. But it is our tool for growth.”
Eric Jackson's most important tool for growth -- personal as well as business -- is a lifestyle document concept he and his wife began developing in 1996, when they were questioning the traditional ways of going about achieving goals and living life. Titled Life Without Compromise, it ranks both spouses' priorities and states that all decisions will be based on those rankings. Jackson's top four priorities are 1) his wife 2) his kids 3) kayaking and 4) his company. Prioritizing in this way has freed him to spend at least 300 days each year chasing thrills on the water and developing ideas.
Prioritizing in this way has freed him to spend at least 300 days each year chasing thrills on the water and developing ideas. "You see on the list that my kayaking is more important than my business," Jackson says. "And that has been good for my business."
The beauty of Life Without Compromise, explains Jackson, is that "it guides you toward doing things that are mutually beneficial. So I find a way to do something that is good for both my kids and my kayaking, or for my kayaking and my business." Life becomes a series of "ands" instead of "ors."
The Jacksons still spend most of the spring and summer traveling together in their RV. The couple finally built a house in 2006, from which Jackson works much of the fall and winter, when kayaking falls off in other regions.
When Jackson is home he will pop into the factory once a week to check on things, particularly prototypes he's working on. True to form, he has no office there. "If I spend time at the factory I'm going to see things I want to do differently," says Jackson, echoing Patagonia's Chouinard. "Then I'm on the road and gone and the managers have to deal with it. Better if I'm not there much."
As for Jackson's kids (priority 2), they are deeply involved in priorities 3 and 4. Both Emily and Dane are professional kayakers. Dane, who is now 25 and travels on his own path around the world to events and expeditions, has won the freestyle world championship and the Whitewater Grand Prix twice. Emily also has dominated many tournaments, including the 2013 Payette River Games in Idaho, where she took first place while nine months pregnant. Both are influencers for the business and work on marketing and social media.
Jackson's competition schedule is no less grueling than it was 33 years ago. In November he competed with both his children and his son-in-law at the world kayaking championships in Argentina. He is on the fishing tour as well. Those commitments have not prevented him from opening a second $6.5 million manufacturing facility in Sparta, Tennessee.
Jackson has, on occasion, attended the Summit Series: an invitation-only event for creative people and business leaders that attracts the likes of Richard Branson and Ted Turner. "There are a lot of entrepreneurs there, and when you talk to these people you realize they know how to grow a business quickly and sell it," says Jackson. "But they seem most interested in talking to me about how they can redesign their life to be happy and successful in other areas."
Jackson believes he has life figured out, and it's simple. Decide what things matter most to you. Then design your world around them. "I am free to change my priorities at any time," says Jackson. "I have never changed my priorities."
Jackson returned to an old love: bass fishing, which he learned as a kid from a neighbor in Florida. Now he is pursuing a national championship in that sport. To accompany his quest, Jackson in 2011 launched a line of fishing kayaks, which comprise the fastest-growing part of the business.
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August 14-18 Film kayak fishing, camping, exploring for Dickies in Ontario
August 20-31 Teach advanced Whitewater kayaking on Ottawa River in Canada
September 1-4 Ottawa River filming
September 6-13 Rock Island, TN. Fishing training & whitewater kayaking
September 14-17 Gauley River Festival
September 19-22 Filming TV Show (Fishing University)
September 24-27 JK Dealer Summit (House Party)
October Farewell trip to White Nile in Uganda (whitewater & environment trip)
October 21 Run Marine Corps Marathon with wife and daughter
November/December Training for 2019 Fishing Season
January 5-13 FLW Tour Event #1- Brookland, TX
February 2-10 FLW #2. Kissimmee, Florida
March 2-10 FLW #3 Bainbridge, GA
March 16-17 USA Freestyle Kayak Team Trials- Rock Island, TN
March 23-31 FLW #4 Grove, OK
April 6-14 FLW #5 Jefferson City, TN
April 27-May 5 FLW #6 Dayton, TN
May 10-20 Training for World Freestyle Kayak Championships
June 22-30 FLW #7 Plattsburg, NY
July 2-7 World Freestyle Kayak Championships- Sort, Spain
Eric Jackson | History
Some might wonder how Dane and Emily Jackson became dominate forces in competition kayaking. The answer is simple: take the genes of kayaking legend Eric Jackson and add a lifetime of practice. Literally a lifetime. In 1998, when Dane was only around five years old, the family made a drastic change. Selling their house and all non-essential possessions, they bought an RV and began a non-stop road trip, traveling with EJ on the paddling competition circuit. Homeschooled by their mother Kristine, the children lived and breathed kayaking as they grew up driving from river to river. So this short video, narrated by the Jackson kids, may have a moral: If you want to dominate the kayaking world, try growing up in a kayak.
ERIC JACKSON, Eric “EJ” Jackson is to kayaking as Laird Hamilton is to surfing and Tony Hawk is to skateboarding or Kevin VanDam is to bass fishing. Dedicated to the sports since his father first turned him onto it when he was just a teen, EJ – with the support and encouragement of his best friend and wife, Kristine – has followed his passion for more than three decades, accumulating along the way an unprecedented number of competitive titles and recognition including Olympian, World Champion, and inductee, International Whitewater Hall of Fame. Never content to settle for the status quo or take conventional wisdom too seriously, EJ innovates on and off the river. On his way to becoming the winningest kayaker in history, EJ invented such staples of the freestyle boater’s bag of tricks as the Splitwheel, McNasty and Lunar Orbit. Off the water, he – along with longtime design partner David Wright – has been designing some of the sport’s best-selling kayaks.
EJ sincerely believes in better living through kayaking. To make sure more people, especially kids, have access to kayaking, in 2003 EJ and business partner Tony Lunt launched Jackson Kayak. With the widest range of boat sizes and trademark emphasis on comfort, durability and ease of use, Jackson Kayak quickly became the best-selling brand of whitewater kayaks for all ages and abilities. In 2010, Jackson Kayak debuted its first kayak fishing boat. The Coosa became an instant hit among anglers spawning an expansion of the line to include hot selling environment-specific boats designed to increase enjoyment and success on any inland waterway or offshore fishing outing.
When the iconic athlete turned 50, he still continued to pull down Top 10 finishes and remain a perennial threat at the world's biggest competitions. His lifelong dedication to a level of fitness allows him to continue to be a threat in every competitive venue has also been recognized by the likes of PEAR Sports, where EJ has provides workouts for the innovative real-time fitness coaching app. His fiftieth birthday also marked a full quarter century that EJ's been a member of the USA Canoe Kayak National Whitewater Team and perhaps more importantly, it was his silver wedding anniversary to his wife, Kristine. EJ is among the most prolific authors of instructional books and videos helping others learn everything from basic strokes and concepts to the most advanced freestyle moves. Among his proudest achievements, EJ co-authored the next generation of kayaking champions and innovators – his daughter Emily, a two-time World Champion, son, Dane arguably the top whitewater kayaker in the world today and son, KC, a budding kayaker-to-be. EJ and Kristine are also proud grandparents to Tucker, the son of Emily and her husband Canadian National Champ and another World Champion titleholder, Nick Troutman.
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