Julie Harrelson, CEO of the Harrelson Group, Fund Manager of Cascade Angels, has a beloved penchant for taking selfies with entrepreneurs, investors and people of Oregon who support building a strong Oregon through entrepreneurialism. This blog continues a series of selfies + blogs about the amazing people she’s met in the last couple of years. #julieselfie

Recently, I had a wonderful visit with Meg Chun, co-founder and CEO at KIALOA, a Bend-based paddle company. Our conversation covered the early days of the company in Hawaii and making paddles on the lanai, moving to Bend and working out of a garage, her international paddle collection and Central Oregon’s growth.

Where did the idea come from for KIALOA and why Central Oregon?

KIALOA started on Oahu. My husband Dave and I were avid outrigger paddlers and Dave felt that there was a way to improve upon the paddles that we were using. He had strong beliefs about paddle design so he started building paddles on our lanai.

In 1992, after much research, we decided to move to Bend, Oregon because we couldn’t afford to buy a house in Hawaii. We’ve been Bendites ever since.  Today KIALOA sells 20,000 paddles a year to outrigger paddlers, SUP paddlers, dragon boat paddlers and kayakers around the world and is regarded as one of the best paddle companies on the planet.

Julie Harrelson w/ Meg Chun, co-founder of the KIALOA paddle company.
Julie Harrelson w/ Meg Chun, co-founder of the KIALOA paddle company.

Favorite mentor or inspiration?

I’m going to go way back here. The person who came to mind is Lynette Fassbender, my  “cooperating teacher” when I was a student teacher working with emotionally disturbed adolescents. She taught me how to draw boundaries, how to be kind but firm, how to manage difficult people and how to embrace individual differences.

So many beautiful paddles.

What are your top three suggestions to entrepreneurs starting out?

I have been asked this question multiple times and the same answer has always held true.

  1. Keep a low personal overhead so you have options.
  2. Ask for help and set up a mentor support system.
  3. Surround yourself with great people who share your values

If you could go paddling right now, where would you go? And how many paddles do you have?

If I could go paddling right now my first choice would be to do a downwind run from Hawaii Kai to Waikiki, with 4-6 foot swells. My Mainland second choice would be to do a downwind run in the Gorge from Bob’s Beach to Draino Lake, with the wind blowing 30 mph.

I’m a bit of a paddle collector. Not only do I hang on to the unique paddles that Dave has built for me but I also collect other wood paddle maker’s paddles. My collection of wood outrigger paddles includes builders from Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Tahiti.


Kelly Kearsley

Kelly Kearsley, the co-founder of StartupBend.com, is passionate about startups, entrepreneurship and Bend. In addition to writing this blog, she creates content and manages content projects for global financial companies, tech firms and startups. She began her career as a newspaper journalist and later worked as a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in WSJ.com, Money Magazine, CNNMoney, MSNBC and Runner's World. See her work at kellykearsley.contently.com or kellykearsley.com.

You can reach Kelly by email at [email protected].
Kelly Kearsley