In 1991 Marine Technologies International (MTI) was a start-up, founded in a
suburban home in Watertown, MA, by Dorothy Takashina and her sons Yoshi and Simon. Dorothy had a vision to design life jackets for the watersports that her college-aged sons loved: whitewater kayaking, sea kayaking, canoeing and quiet water kayaking – emerging sports at the time. Mad River Canoe was introducing paddlesports to thousands of people across with country with their ground breaking “You Can Paddle! Day” events. With the development of roto-molded recreational kayaks, companies like Wilderness Systems, Perception, and Ocean Kayak made kayaking affordable and accessible. MTI grew with the rising popularity of recreational paddlesports.
But this was no ordinary entrepreneurial endeavor. American-born, Dorothy Takashina had married into a Japanese family that had been making life jackets for the Japanese recreational boating market since 1935 in Osaka. The same year that MTI was founded, Dorothy’s husband Hisaya was busy opening the first joint-venture PFD manufacturing plant for Takashina Life Preservers in China. It was only natural that the new paddlesports life jackets that his wife and sons were designing would be built in this new state-of-the-art factory. For over a decade, MTI hangtags featured the timeless, dead-pan face of Yoshi and Simon’s grandfather, wearing a 1935 life jacket with the slogan “Three Generations of Skill and Experience.” From the beginning, MTI products were born out of a personal passion for the sport and built on a legacy of PFD design and manufacturing.
Fast forward to 2001. Dorothy had stepped back to let her sons run MTI. With Hisaya looking to hand over the manufacturing company to his eldest son, Yoshi moved back to Osaka to begin the succession process. Takashina Life Preservers was now a large operation, building PFDs for companies all over the world. It soon became clear that Yoshi could use his brother’s help. But first Simon had to find someone to run MTI – someone who might treat it with the same passion and respect as the Takashina family. Someone who really understood life jackets for paddlesports.
Gordon Colby was the product manager at Confluence Watersports for the accessory division, Voyager, and brand manager for Mad River Canoe. A paddlesports industry veteran, he had already designed one award-winning PFD – the AF 6.5 – which MTI was building. Conveniently, MTI also had an opening for a sales manager. A perfect match for Gordon’s wife, Lili, who also worked for Confluence and Mad River Canoe. Gordon took up the reins of running MTI and pursuing PFD design work, and Lili developed the sales, customer service, and branding areas. The Takashina family had found not one but two people with a passion for paddlesports and life jackets. But more importantly, people that they could trust to grow MTI as if it were their own company. Never in a million years did Lili and Gordon think that they would get an opportunity to buy MTI from the Takashina family. Ten years later, in 2011, that dream of ownership came true. 2016 is not just one anniversary. It’s THREE. 25 years for MTI, 15 years with Gordon and Lili at the helm, and 5 years since they made MTI their own.