High School Entrepreneurs Seek to Make Sailing More Accessible

While still in high school, 16-year-old Jack Theunissen and his friend, 18-year-old Jack Freeman started Wavelink Performance Sailing Parts to make sailing accessible for more income brackets.

Both Freeman and Theunissen have sailed since they were 10 years old, with each of them inheriting their passion for the sport from their fathers.

“My dad grew up sailing. He did Chester Race Week quite a few times and he was quite involved with the sailing scene when he was younger. When I was around 10 or 11 it kind of piqued my interest, so I started sailing at the cottage with my neighbours. When I was 15, I started sailing 420 at the Hubbards and switched to laser this past year, and I’m going to coach this summer now.”

After being introduced to the sport, Theunissen started sailing in the junior sail program in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Eventually, he began to participate in local races, which is where the idea for Wavelink first came about.

“I was training up for one of the regattas they have down in Bedford Basin in the summertime. It was about a week before, I was sailing in high winds, and I lost my rudder. Trying to find a replacement rudder was pretty strenuous,” said Theunissen. “That kind of showed me some of the supply issues that exist in the industry, and it allowed me to take some of my interests in business and finance and apply it to a community I’m not only a part of, but a community I’m passionate about.”

Not long after the two Jacks met, they were working as business partners thanks to their similar interests and drive. While Wavelink is in its infancy, the two have started to make sales and have “got the ball rolling.”

Wavelink is a dropshipping company. Drop shipping companies like Wavelink, in effect, act as a middleman. The company itself has no inventory, but order products on behalf of their customers from third-party suppliers. The supplier then ships directly to the customer. Through this model, Wavelink has very little overhead expenses, which they use to pass along savings to their customers.

“Our goal is just to make sailing more accessible and more affordable. Through our experience, we’re able to see that high barrier to entry and just how expensive it is,” said Theunissen. “We’re trying to use this business model to make it more accessible, solve those problems and grow the sport.”

In trying to reduce the barrier to entry for aspiring sailors, Freeman and Theunissen have been in contact with sailing schools around the province to provide them with a larger amount of spare parts at a more affordable price point.

“Right now, we’re just trying to work with people to make the sport more accessible. That’s the main thing we’re passionate about with the whole company. That’s our main mission,” said Theunissen.  

As one can imagine, it can be tough to juggle schoolwork and running a homegrown business. Freeman said he has the benefit of being homeschooled and having flexible classes online, which allows him to prioritize business or academics as he sees fit. Theunissen, who attends Dartmouth High, has to work around his class times to further his business interests.

“My school starts at 8:25, so I just wake up at 6:00 a.m. and do an hour, hour-and-a-half of work each day,” said Theunissen. “I try to spend at least a solid hour each day just trying to move the business forward.”

Freeman is in grade 12, while Theunissen is in grade 11. As the end of their high school journey quickly approaches, the two have resolved to keep Wavelink Performance alive and well into their college years.

“We want to continue it, and I think our end goal is to sell the company at some point to some pretty big people in the sailing industry,” aid Theunissen. “We want to build as much experience as we can and do as much for the community until we just can’t anymore. That’s our main goal.”

With Theunissen eyeing a bachelor’s degree in commerce after high school and Freeman on track to earn a business degree in his future, the two of them are sure Wavelink Performance Sailing Parts will not be their last business venture.

“I have always been a bit of an entrepreneur and explored different business ventures here and where I can, so it’s just going to be one of many for me, most likely,” said Freeman. “We’ll see what happens down the road as to how it pans out.”

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