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Podcast: This Founder Made Space for an Unusual Obsession -- and It Led to a One-of-a-Kind Kayak Company

The entrepreneur behind a collapsible boat company explains how he used origami to fuel his passion.

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How Success Happens is a podcast featuring polar explorers, authors, ultra marathoners, artists and more to better understand what connects dreaming and doing. Linda Lacina, Entrepreneur.com's managing editor, guides these chats so anyone can understand the traits that underpin achievement and what fuels the decisions to push us forward. Listen below or click here to read more shownotes.

Oru Kayak

Not everyone would combine the Japanese art of paper folding with a love for the outdoors, but Anton Willis did. As a kayaker in San Francisco, he couldn’t fit his boat in his tiny studio apartment. But as an architect, he wondered if there might be a design solution that could get his boat out of storage.

After reading a story in the New Yorker about a physicist who became a full-time origamist, Willis began thinking about the possibilities of the folding paper art and whether it could be applied to solve the problem of the collapsible kayak.

He began to tinker. His first design was created with an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of printer paper. This design led to another and another until his living room turned into an origami workshop, and he was spending his nights and weekends working on this project, blocking out nearly everything else.

“I got weirdly attached,” says Willis. “I kept digging into it, creating better and better prototypes.”

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The 25th prototype would help build Oru Kayak, a collapsible boat company whose kayaks fold up to be stowed in a closet. Today, Willis, as the chief design officer, still starts new prototypes with a single sheet of paper and still understands the importance of making space for obsessions.

“You need to say, this is time that I need and an activity I need and I’m going to take it as seriously as meeting with a client,” says Willis.  

Related: Conversation is the Most Underused Innovation Tool

In this week’s podcast, he’ll talk about the uncommon connections that help fuel creativity -- and build his company. He’ll also share what he’s learned about making space for obsessions and what any side hustler working long hours in their own living room workshop can put into practice.

To subscribe to this podcast,  find us on the following platforms: SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes.

Linda Lacina

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Linda Lacina is the former managing editor at Entrepreneur.com. Her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Smart Money, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Family Circle. Email her at llacina@entrepreneur.com. Follow her at @lindalacina on Twitter.