In Milam, Texas, Andi Sanders runs Toledo Bend Kayak Rental, located between Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Lakes. The company offers fully insured kayak rentals and is expanding to include kayak sales, accessories, and custom rigging.

Sanders has successfully run Talon Fishing Unlimited in Milam since 1985, and it is planned to close in 2025. With her experience as the first female member of Charger Boats’ field staff and a BassNGal Touring Professional Angler, she has a strong foundation for her new venture. Her husband, Ivan, a bass fishing and kayaking expert, supports her as an advisor and cheerleader.

“Fishing has been our livelihood for a long time, and over the past 30 years, we’ve built strong connections in the industry that have kept us going,” Andi said. “However, after 30 years, we’re ready for a change. We both love kayaking — my husband has been kayaking since high school, and I started about 10 years ago. Our industry connections have made this an easy transition for us to step into the kayaking business.”

“We started with the rental part of it in 2023 because we live on the lake, and Toledo Bend’s first official kayak trail is less than a mile from our house,” Andi said.

Seeing a lack of local rental options, they decided to fill the gap. They soon discovered a high demand for quality kayaks and accessories, leading to their expansion into sales and service.

Andi’s move from running a tackle business to the kayak rental and sales market has been supported by Communities Unlimited (CU). CU’s Lending Team and Senior Economic Development Loan Officer Chris Ranniger provided a loan for renovation costs, inventory, and marketing.

"Chris (Ranniger) has been wonderful. He helped build my confidence, especially with filling out projections, something I’d never done before with my bait company. His support has been valuable, helping me transition to a retail business and see the reality of it from a new perspective. It’s been wonderful.”

Andi Sanders

— Andi Sanders, Owner, Toledo Bend Kayak Rental

The loan, funded by CU’s partner, the T.L.L. Temple Foundation in the East Texas region, will help Andi Sanders turn an inherited woodworking shop into a dedicated kayak store.

“We realized that to get the inventory we need and to renovate the building, we needed outside help,” Sanders said. “Communities Unlimited came to one of our chamber meetings, and we decided to apply for a low-interest loan instead of putting everything on credit cards.”

Toledo Bend Kayak Rental is well-positioned to serve a growing market. Seeing limited local options for premium kayaks and accessories, Sanders recognized a great opportunity.

“We found that many people were buying kayaks and accessories online because the nearest place to get them was 200 miles away,” Sanders said. “We decided to offer these products locally, along with on-the-water demo opportunities.”

The company has already taken pre-orders for kayaks, even before renovations are complete. “It’s amazing because people are already coming in to buy kayaks, and our building isn’t even finished,” Sanders said.

“I enjoyed working with Andi,” Ranniger said. “She taught me a lot about the kayaking industry and bait shops. Her experience and connections in both of those industries, along with her enthusiasm for success, should allow Toledo Bend Kayak Rental to be a huge success. After working on this loan request, I now want to go kayaking to see if it could be an outdoor hobby that my wife and I enjoy together. We are waiting until it cools off in the fall.”

Toledo Bend Kayak Rental is collaborating with CU’s Entrepreneurship Team and Management Consultant Trent Thomason. Together, they have focused on loan readiness, reviewed marketing strategies, and provided feedback on general business questions, such as choosing an accounting system.

“Trent has also been helpful,” Sanders said. “I need to connect with him soon for advertising and marketing ideas, especially since social media is one of my weaknesses. He has the connections I need to develop this aspect of the business. Trent gave me the confidence to move forward, showing me I know more than I thought. His support has been valuable, too.”

“I’ve been impressed with Andi’s drive and vision for the kayak sales project. She went into the process well-prepared and did any assigned homework expediently. I’m excited about their shift from bait into kayaks and interested to see how it unfolds.”

— Trent Thomason, Communities Unlimited Management Consultant

With her love for the outdoors and understanding of her community’s needs, Andi, with CU’s help, is steering her business toward a bright future.

“The whole team has been fantastic,” Sanders said. “Getting the loan disbursement was smooth and easy, and everyone has been so friendly and supportive. I’m happy with the experience and hope to pay off this loan early. If I need another loan, I’m confident I can work with them again because they’ve been wonderful.”