Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Beth Handle, October 14, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:18 - Background Information

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: So, to start Beth, let's just do some background, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Beth Handle, founder and owner of Milwaukee Kayak Co., gives background information on her life and childhood, growing up in Milwaukee with her parents and siblings having a lot of time at home, describing it as easygoing and fun. She enjoyed High School and college, briefly going through her journey from Winona State to MATC, eventually graduating at Cardinal Stritch University.

Keywords: Background Information; Childhood; College; Fun; High School; Parents; Siblings

Subjects: Brown Deer High School; Cardinal Stritch University; Family; Life; Milwaukee Area Technical College; Milwaukee, WI; School; Winona State University

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:03:11 - Post-college Life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: And so now, after you got out of college, what did you do?

Segment Synopsis: Handle talks about her experiences after receiving her business degree in college, working for a printing company in Whitefish Bay, where she learned a lot about marketing and advertising. She ended up working for Milwaukee Co. Parks, allowing her to meet other environmentalists, eventually being introduced to the rivers though kayaking, leading to her eventually starting her own kayak rental business.

Keywords: Avertising; Business; College; Job; Marketing; Printing

Subjects: Environmentalism; Milwaukee County Parks; Non-profit; Visit Milwaukee; Whitefish Bay, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Whitefish Bay, WI
00:05:19 - Kayaking Out On The Water

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [Beth]: I just took people up and down the river, and I thought "wow, this was..." It was really cool, I got to see, like, how excited people were to get out there- and I was excited too. [John]: What do you like about being out on the water?

Segment Synopsis: Handle talks about how much she enjoys being out on the water, especially bringing people up and down the river. She says it makes it feel like "vacation." She explains why she chose kayak renting, claiming that people are more "on the water" in kayaks, rather than "above it" in boats, also emphasizing it being a "clean" way to get around on the rivers.

Keywords: Boat; Fun; Kayak; River

Subjects: Career; Milwaukee Kayak Co.; Milwaukee, WI; Water

00:07:14 - Changes Throughout The Years

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, how has the river and its surroundings changed in the years since you've owned the kayak company?

Segment Synopsis: Handle talks about how the rivers have changed in the past 9 years she has owned Milwaukee Kayak Co., explaining that boat traffic has significantly increased. Partly due to this, her business has exploded, leading to a huge increase in her business, where she started out with 12 kayaks and now has 90-100. She also discusses the biggest challenge to her company, which she claims to be working around her employee's summer schedules.

Keywords: Boat; Kayak; River

Subjects: Milwaukee, WI; Water

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:09:12 - Sustainability/Milwaukee Riverkeeper

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um, you, uh are affiliated or you take part in Milwaukee Riverkeeper things, um so why is sustainability and what they're doing important?

Segment Synopsis: Handle talks about her and her company's involvements with Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a local advocacy group focused on the upkeep and conservation of Milwaukee's rivers and watershed. Through explanation she highlights why sustainability is important. She credits them and their work for allowing hers to thrive, as their efforts have improved the water quality to the point that she can kayak on it. She cites the history of the city on the water, as well as the various opportunities that clean rivers give for tourism, jobs, and residents enjoying living near them as major reasons to upkeep and protect the rivers.

Keywords: RIver; Sustainability; Tourism; Watchdog

Subjects: Advocacy; Environmentalism; Job; Milwaukee Kayak Co.; Milwaukee River; Milwaukee Riverkeeper; Milwaukee, WI; Water

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:12:54 - Three Rivers

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: You have, you do tours on all three of the major rivers of Milwaukee. [Beth]: Yeah. [John]: Lets just kinda go through them and kinda like- so what's your favorite part of being on the Milwaukee River, being on the river?

Segment Synopsis: When asked her favorite part of being on Milwaukee's rivers, Handle answers with the people she sees in and around them, walking on the RiverWalk, sightseeing, and enjoying the fact that it is always changing. The Menominee River offers a different, more naturalistic perspective than the Milwaukee, and has many nice sights to stop at. The Kinnickinnic River offers paddling through the Harbor and ports of Milwaukee, offering "bigger," more choppy, water, and is changing for the better.

Keywords: Kayak; Life; People; River; Sightseeing

Subjects: Kinnickinnic River; Menominee River; Milwaukee Kayak Co.; Milwaukee River; Milwaukee RiverWalk; Milwaukee, WI; Nature; Water

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:15:15 - Female Entrepreneur

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, you're a member of WWBIC, the women's business council, um, I guess um y'know why is it important to focus on things, as a female entrepreneur, why is it important group for Milwaukee too?

Segment Synopsis: When asked why her involvement in WWBIC (Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation) was important, and why it is important to highlight female entrepreneurs, Handle explains her involvement, as she wrote her business plan as apart of their initiative, and claims that WWBIC helped her understand and find a work/life balance, and help advocate her business.

Keywords: Business; Entreprenerur; Woman; Work

Subjects: Career; Gender; Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation

00:16:19 - Potential Future Challenges

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: Um I think um a couple of wrap up questions is what do you see as the biggest challenges ahead to maybe your business, and also the rivers?

Segment Synopsis: Handle goes through what she sees as potential future challenges for her business, which she cites development of the land around her current location, which may prompt her to move her boatyard, as it is one of the last vestiges of cheaper storage on the river, enjoying the "simplicity." As for the waterways, she cites similar problems, as she wants to keep public access points, as well as the continuation of waterway conservation.

Keywords: Boat; Challenge; Development; Kayak; River; Work

Subjects: Career; Conservation; Environmentalism; Harbor District; Milwaukee Kayak Co.; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:18:57 - Object Representation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: [John]: And then, one of my favorite questions, so we are a historical society we have y'know big collections that we put on exhibit and all of this stuff, and if at some point we ever wanted to represent Beth Handle in y'know the Milwaukee County Historical Society, what is the object or artifact you would choose from your life to represent you?

Segment Synopsis: Handle chooses a "little sea turtle" figurine as an object to represent her in an exhibit, pointing out their cuteness, and their "good luck" abilities.

Keywords: Luck; Object; River; Sea Turtle

Subjects: Artifact; History; Milwaukee County Historical Society