Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hi, my name is Cody! I am a 24-years-old entrepreneur who recently graduated from college (hooray). I started a business in the hunting industry called Silent Pursuit. My flagship product is a pair of hunting moccasins designed to help mitigate noise and maintain comfort for hunters as they quietly sneak up on the animal they are pursuing. But I will get more into that later.
My dream is to have Silent Pursuit take off and become a common household name in the hunting industry.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I was born and raised in a small town in northern Nevada. Naturally, as a result of being raised in a small rural town, I spent the majority of my time exploring the nearby mountains and streams. I quickly gained a strong love and interest for wildlife and the great outdoors.
Business and entrepreneurship are not easy, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Start small. Order a small shipment to start with, that way if things go south, you don’t lose it all.
My dad was the one who introduced me to hunting. Being the only boy with six sisters, I quickly became my dad’s lifelong hunting partner. My earliest childhood memories revolve around chasing big bucks in the rugged mountains, calling in screaming bulls, and begging my father to take me to the archery range when he got home from work. As I grew, so did my love for hunting.
Flash forward a couple of decades. In August of 2019, I was back in my old stomping grounds in northern Nevada chasing big velvet bucks. On the last morning of the season, I spotted the buck I was after-- a big, tall four-point. As the buck bedded down, I dropped my pack, took off my boots, and slipped on a pair of wool socks. To make a long story short, by the time I got into shooting range, my feet were bruised and aching. I took one ill-advised step and to my dismay, the buck busted. After six long hours of stalking, all I had to show for my efforts were a dirty pair of wool socks, two sore feet, and a burning memory of the four-point bounding out of sight.
As time went on, I continued to replay my stalk over and over again in my head. My ill-advised step, which ultimately blew my stalk, was a result of my tired and aching feet. I knew that there had to be a more effective and comfortable way for stalking other than my $9 pair of old wool socks. I began to research different types of stalking shoes; everything from stalkers you slipped over your boot to leather moccasins. After long hours of research, I was not satisfied with any of the current products on the market; they were either too expensive or lacked the features I wanted.
Realizing that there was not a product on the market that had everything I was looking for in a pair of stalkers and knowing that I could not be the only one facing this dilemma, I decided to take the road less traveled and make the stalkers myself. I spent the next 9 months designing, prototyping, and manufacturing hunting stalkers. Thus, Silent Pursuit was born.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Like I mentioned earlier, hunting moccasins is not a novel idea. Ancient Indians used leather hunting moccasins centuries ago. There are other hunting/stalking products on the market, however, most of them cost between $140-160 dollars. I wanted to develop a pair of hunting moccasins that the average college student/new hunter could afford. (Trust me, when you are living off Top Ramen, the last thing you could afford is an expensive pair of hunting moccasins.
I began creating my product by looking at a large variety of stalking moccasins that were on the market. I began to pick aspects from different products that I liked. My goal was to create a top-of-the-line pair of moccasins for an affordable price. After 2-3 weeks of solid research, I began to construct designs and sketches of my hunting moccasins on PowerPoint and Adobe Photoshop.
Looking back, I wish I would not have spent so much money upfront on my start-up costs. I wish I would’ve started smaller and ordered a smaller initial shipment.
Once I came up with the general blueprint of the moccasin, I needed a camo pattern. Camo patterns are trademarked and thus costs royalties if you are to use someone else's camouflage design. To avoid paying royalties, I decided to create my own camouflage pattern. I have always admired the beauty of a snake's natural camouflage, so I decided to construct my camo with a snakeskin design. I created my skaskin camo using PhotoShop. I probably watched 10 hours of YouTube videos to figure out how to make a camouflage design.
I lucked out with my manufacturer. I have a buddy who created a very successful performance dress shirts company, he had several good manufacturers referred. One of the manufacturers I connected with was a supplier for some of the biggest hunting stores in the industry. I gave them three different prototype designs and I had them construct them and send them to me. It took 1-2 months for them to construct the designs and ship them to me. I was in constant contact with them as they were making the prototypes. After testing each of the designs, I picked my favorite design. I made a few adjustments and had them make me one final prototype before we began production.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I created my website through Shopify. It took me a solid month or two to get the website how I liked it. I bootstrapped my whole business, and funded it through the savings I had accumulated over the years. I spent close to 14,000 dollars in startup costs and production.
I did an Instagram campaign to launch my business, with posts and teasers announcing my company, flagship product, and the launch date. One week before my official launch date, I did a giveaway to help create traffic and excitement for the launch.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Believe it or not, Facebook groups have been the most successful traffic source for me. There are many hunting Facebook groups with thousands of members. I used Google Adwords and Facebook ads with marginal success. Hunting products are tricky because a majority of the sales occur during the months leading up to the hunting season. In the off-season months, I had a lot of traffic to my store, but few conversions. Most hunters wanted to wait until they knew what hunting permits they drew for the upcoming season before they purchase a premium pair of hunting moccasins. Word of mouth has also been a successful source of sales and traffic.
To keep growing and expanding I plan to really emphasize social media ads with promotions. I have found that promotional Facebook ads have the greatest success and conversation rate.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Silent Pursuit had a great launch and first couple of months. However, because hunting has a specific season (Aug-Nov), sales have slowed down during the last month or so. However, I anticipate sales and traffic to increase again the closer we get to hunting season.
I want to expand my product lines to increase traffic and sales year-round. Hats and apparel are product lines I plan to expand my business into. I also want to improve my online sales through more efficient marketing on Facebook and Google.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
My advice is simple, just go for it! Before I started this business I had been toying around with different business ideas for years. I finally made the conscientious decision to just go for it. I have not regretted that decision once. The hardest part for me was taking that first step and making the initial investment. Business and entrepreneurship are not easy, but it doesn’t have to be expensive. Start small. Order a small shipment to start with, that way if things go south, you don’t lose it all. Worst-case scenario, you realize the market was not as lucrative as you initially thought and you sell your product at your COGS price and you break even.
I also think it is important to be realistic with yourself. We all think our business is going to take off, however, often this is not the case. We need to continue to vigorously work and hustle to make sales and grow our business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Shopify for my website and shipping. I like Shopify. It has been easy to use and operate. I like how it provides shipping discounts and it is easy to ship your own products from home.
- Rollo Laser label printer for my shipping labels and I really like it.
- Adobe Lightroom for my posts and editing.
- Google AdWords and Facebook Addfor my marketing and traffic drivers.
- I had success with Facebook Groups. I wouldn’t recommend using Reddit.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I used Part-Time Advertiser, an online ads and marketing course to learn how to create and construct effective ads.
I honestly used Youtube tutorials for many different aspects. If I ever did not know how to do something, I would just watch a YouTube video about it. I don’t have a YouTuber I follow or subscribe to. I just look for the most viewed tutorial on what I am learning about.
Read. Read. Read. Any nook you can find about sales or entrepreneurship.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Looking back, I wish I would not have spent so much money upfront on my start-up costs. I bought a large shipment of hunting moccasins to get a lower cost of goods sold. I wish I would’ve started smaller and ordered a smaller initial shipment. I found myself trying to sell through my moccasins as fast as I could, even if that meant giving a big discount and cutting margins. I was worried about breaking even and paying back my initial startup costs and investments.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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