The Amazing Boathouse Story

A brief history of Boathouse

As you might have guessed, Boathouse Sports owes its origins much to the sport of rowing. Founder John Strotbeck, a two-time Olympic rower, started the company in 1985. The goal was simple: provide rowers with high quality products that would help them train and race as best they could.

It’s been over 20 years since then, and Boathouse Sports has expanded into much more than rowing apparel and gear. The focus on excellence has remained, however, and the company has partnered with many elite organizations to provide on- and off-field apparel to athletes, coaches, family members, and enthusiasts.

Microsites grow success

One thing that has set Boathouse apart from its competition has been the company’s adoption of cutting-edge technologies, which have allowed Boathouse to offer team-specific stores filled with high-end, custom-made apparel — complete with team colors and logos. This allows athletes to get their apparel easily and focus on training, not on clothes. Boathouse’s microsites also relieve pressure on parents and coaches as well, so it should come as no surprise that hundreds of schools — from high school to the Ivy League — have come to count on Boathouse Sports.

Success, a double-edged sword

Such success, though, was naturally accompanied by some growing pains. The commerce platform that Boathouse was running had become more and more bogged down as its microsite model became more and more popular. As growth compounded, the system began having severe trouble handling the load. Additionally, the microsite model was turning into a nightmare from an administrative standpoint. Boathouse’s internal team ended up spending far too much time managing microsites, instead of investing the time into promoting and marketing the differentiating offering. Two other needs that the impending solution needed to address were subpar reporting, as well as some technical challenges Boathouse was facing with logo generation for apparel customization.

Performance meets custom development

Essentially, Boathouse Sports needed a scalable platform that would grow with their customer base as it continued to expand. Echidna replatformed the system to Kibo, which would do just that, along with boosting performance of the site as a whole. Echidna also designed and developed a flexible and admin-friendly application on top of the Kibo platform to adhere to Boathouse’s highly custom needs. The solution that Echidna designed and implemented ultimately allows customers (athletes, parents, and coaches) to set up their own stores, freeing up Boathouse to focus efforts on expanding business.

Reporting and logos, solved

Neither Kibo's out-of-the-box reporting system nor an industry-leading ready-to-use reporting tool could fully address Boathouse's reporting issue — instead, Echidna built a unique reporting system using JasperReports and Apache POI that could execute crucial day-to-day business activities and write to a variety of targets, including PDF and Microsoft Word and Excel files.
The other key technology challenge that Boathouse Sports faced was apparel customization allowing customers to use their teams' own logos. To solve for this challenge, Echidna built a custom logo generation tool that takes multiple inputs and positions them dynamically in pre-defined hotspots, showing customers exactly what the end-result would look like.

Looking forward

From an administrative standpoint, the new system has been invaluable for the entire Boathouse Sports team. With the confidence of a fully capable system and the freedom that comes when customers can set up their own microsites, Boathouse was actually able to execute its first large marketing push for the microsites, a huge step for the company, and something outside of the realm of possibility prior to the project. Boathouse Sports is just getting started, and we’re glad that we had the opportunity to partner with them to foster success.