Two recent Ridgway Area High School graduates are getting a real-world education before heading to college this fall.
Lou Stilwell and Ben Jaques are operating Lou's Canoes in Hallton this summer.
Both Stilwell and Jaques graduated from the high school as members of the Class of 2011. Both are attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the fall for business management and entrepreneurship and will be roommates.
"This is amazing experience," Stilwell said. "We're running our own business. This is what we're going to school for, this is what we want to do with our lives. This is really a great way to get in the groove of things and get ready for college."
Jaques is excited for the opportunity.
"The biggest thing for us is we want to try," Jaques said. "You can't succeed or fail without trying. Once we start getting some more business once we advertise, we'll learn what business is all about. It's going to be a good experience."
The idea had been hinted at for about five or six months and Stilwell spoke of help from his father, Paul.
"My dad sort of sponsored the whole idea and he put in all the money for it and we're giving him a percentage of what we make back until we pay him back fully," Stilwell said. "We just figured it'd be a good opportunity. Since we have a location, this is actually my father's camp and this is his barn. We're going to be paying him rent out of it and everything. We figured since we have a good location right on the river. We already had a couple kayaks and a couple canoes. We figured we'd buy some more, see the opportunity and go with it."
The canoe launch is located in Hallton about 11 miles outside of Ridgway past Sandy Beach and the Irwin Run Canoe Launch, where there is a sharp right over a bridge. A triangle of roads and Spring Creek Canoe Launch lead to a newly replaced bridge. The bridge leads to a T and the business is located exactly one mile to the right and near the Shanley Hill Bridge.