The First Hurdle

This is from a talk I gave at the homeschool co-op my kids attend. Hope y’all enjoy!

You could call me an Entrepreneur. Here’s the definition: An entrepreneur is someone who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.

I’m going to talk with you about the fishing lure business I started almost 10 years ago.

I’m going to tell you how I came up with the idea, how I got started, and some of the lessons I’ve learned along with way.

Then I’ll be glad to answer any questions you have.

1. I believe most businesses are started by a person with a God given interest. Here’s how I discovered mine.

I grew up in the Houston area, and my Dad taught me how to fish at a young age. I really enjoyed it, and was fascinated by the water and all of God’s creatures that live in it.

I fished with worms until I was about 6, and then my Dad taught me how to fish with lures. I like the challenge of fooling fish with a lure.

Most of the time we fished for bass and perch, but almost every summer we’d drive up to Colorado and fish for trout in the lakes up there. Then back home, sometimes we’d go to Galveston and fish in the surf for speckled trout and in the bay for redfish.

I enjoyed all of it. That’s how God made me.

I went to college in San Antonio. I didn’t know what kind of job I wanted to have when I grew up. I didn’t want to be a Doctor or a Lawyer or an Engineer. So I studied business.

As I was getting close to graduating, several companies would visit the school and look for the best students. They wanted to hire smart kids that made good grades and would be good employees.

I wasn’t on that list. 🙂

But I did graduate, and so did my best friend from growing up. He went to A&M, and to celebrate our graduation he and I went on a trip to Colorado. We drove around, fished in several places, camped out, and had a good time.

Even though I had graduated from college, I still didn’t know what type of job I wanted to have. So I decided to look for a job up in Colorado. We’d get to a town and I’d look in the newspaper for job openings. I had a couple interviews at restaurants, but none of them sounded too interesting.

Then I opened the paper in Aspen, Colorado. There was a job opening at a Fly Fishing Store called Oxbow Outfitting Company. The store was really cool. There was all kinds of fly fishing gear. I didn’t know very much about this type of fishing, but I really wanted to learn.

2. I believe this God given interest must be cultivated. To cultivate an interest is to grow it, to learn more by study and experience. Here’s how I started to cultivate my interest in fishing.

I spoke with a man named Jonathan about the job and met a guy named Mike that worked there. As we drove home, I thought, none of the other jobs I had found were very interesting, but if I got a job at Oxbow I’d definitely move up there!

Jonathan said he’d call me, but I wasn’t willing to wait. I called him every week about the job, and he finally offered it to me!

This was great! I’ve never lived outside of Texas, but I loved the mountains and was ready for a little adventure. So I packed up and moved there in May of 1996. For the next 15 months I learned everything I could about fly fishing and the fly fishing business.

Do you know why it’s called fly fishing? Because trout in the rivers and lakes up there eat flies. They eat insects. When you fly fish you are using a fly that imitates what the fish are eating.

Flies are tied. I don’t mean that you catch a fly out of the air and tie it to a hook. 🙂

I mean that you take a hook and tie materials to it that will make it look like something the fish would eat. Then you cast it with a special fishing rod and try to fool the fish into eating it.

Flies are really pretty and it takes a lot of skill to tie them. And there are lots of different types, because God made lots of different insects.

Imagine all of the different types of bugs you’d find in your backyard. There are just as many if not more that live in the rivers and lakes up there.

So part of my job was to learn about all of the different types of insects that trout eat. I’d need to understand this so I could tell our customers what to use when they went fishing.

I really enjoyed learning about all of this. God gave me an interest in it, and thankfully the information stuck in my brain. I remembered it.

For the next 15 months I learned to fly fish and tie my own flies. I wasn’t the best fly fisherman, but I really enjoyed catching fish on flies I tied myself.

Catching a fish is a lot of fun. But catching a fish on a fly you tie yourself makes it even more special, like putting hot fudge on ice cream. I mean ice cream is delicious, but when you put hot fudge on it, oh boy! 🙂

3. I believe some people know from an early age that they want to start their own business. But there are others who need a push. Something that gets them going in that direction. Spoiler Alert: I needed a push! Here’s how God gave me that push.

I moved back home in September of 1997, and continued to fly fish and tie flies. I had several jobs along the way. I never found something I was too interested in, but I kept working, kept paying the bills.

In August of 2003 I married Amy, and I was working in construction. As long as people were building things, I was working and feeding my family.

But, in 2008 and 2009 people weren’t building things. My job was dying a slow death right in front of me. Problem was, nobody else I worked with was busy either.

By this time, Amy and I had three kids and she stayed at home with them. We wanted her to stay at home, and that meant that I needed a job. So there was my push!

Now we’ve gone through three points, three beliefs I have about building a business. Remember what they are?

Businesses start with a God given interest. In my case, it was fishing.

That interest has to be cultivated. In my case that meant learning to fish with lures, then moving to Colorado and learning to fly fish and tie flies.

Then I got the push.

Now what?

Now we’re going to talk about what it’s like to start and build a business. Specifically, I’m going to tell you how I did it.

Point #1 – I started with a specific idea.

Here how I came up with mine. One day I was in a fishing store between here and Galveston. I saw a small fishing lure that looked interesting. I looked at the package and learned it was designed to catch bonefish. A friend of mine named Andy was working there that day and I asked him two questions:

Do people use that lure to catch redfish? Yes, he told me.

How do you think it would look like tied with rabbit? I think it would look great, he said.

That set me on a journey to create a bigger, stronger version of a bonefish jig that would catch redfish.

Point #2 – I didn’t have much money when I started.

It doesn’t take a lot of money to start a business. It’s okay if you don’t have much. I certainly didn’t. When I got started, my job had been slowing down for a while.

I wasn’t making as much money, and we were barely paying our bills. But I knew I wanted to start the fishing lure business.

About that time, God provided me with another job, working with my Dad selling boots. It was flexible, and it left time for me to building my fishing lure business.

So again, it doesn’t take a lot of money to start a business. I’d argue that it’s probably best that you don’t spend a lot of money up front, especially if you have a new idea and you don’t know what you’re doing.

In my case, I knew I wanted to make fishing lures, but I only had a couple of ideas and I didn’t know what people would think of them.

My business was going to be a learning process, and I was going to make mistakes. Since I didn’t start with a lot of money, my mistakes wouldn’t cost as much.

Like I said, you don’t need a lot of money to start a business. But there’s one thing you will need…

Point #3 – To Start and Build a Business You’ll Need Grit. Grit is passion and perseverance for long term goals. Passion is the fire you’ve got to have. You don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re going to figure it out. Put on your mean face!

Perseverance is continued effort to achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time, probably longer than you think. You can’t quit. You have to keep going.

There will be difficulties. Life is hard. There will be failure. Not everything you try will work. Not everyone you hire will work out.

Finally, there will be opposition. Some of it will come from you. Why? Because we’re all sinners and we battle our flesh. Some of it will come from others, and some of it will come from the devil.

But you can’t quit.

Sometimes you have to put on your mean face and say, GIVE ME SOME MORE!

Quick story related to this, right as I was getting started. I knew I needed help with production.

I knew about East Cut Flies and TJ Neal. I called him. He told me about a man named John Pinto who ran a factory in Nicaragua. So I called him to find out if he could help me.

Pinto said, “no problem!” But it was not quite that easy. I sent him a bunch of materials, and he was goind to take them to Nicaragua and make Buggs for me. But as soon as he got down there his girls started painting my jig heads with the oil based paint I had sent. Problem was, they had put a base coat of water based paint on first.

This just made a big ugly mess of my jig heads. So John called me, and the message was this. “We’re having problems with your paint. Your jig heads look like crap, and if you want to get this done you better hop on the next flight to Nicaragua and figure it out!”

And you want to know what I did? I hopped on the next flight to Nicaragua and we figured it out!

Point #4 – Take responsibility. Nobody will love your business like you do.

Pinto wasn’t committed to figuring out the paint issue. Nor should have been. He gave up quickly because it wasn’t his deal. When you start a business, it’s your deal. I don’t recommend partners. It’s rare that two people will have equal commitment to a business. There needs to be one leader, and that’s you. By the way, it’s a lot of work and it’s stressful. But I’m of the mindset that if mistakes are going to be made that will affect me and my family, I want to make them wherever possible.

Point #5 – Keep your costs down and reinvest. And reinvest. And reinvest.

I sell fishing lures. I have certain quality standards that I maintain, that my customers expect. I won’t compromise on them, but I constantly look for ways to lower my costs while maintaining the same quality. An example of this.

There are parts that I buy for my fishing lures. If I want to buy a small number, they’ll be really expensive. But when I buy in bulk I’ll get my costs down. It might be $1 each if I buy 100, but $.20 each if I buy 1,000. The answer? Figure out a way to buy a thousand.

Keeping my costs down helps me to reinvest more money. To reinvest means to put more money into the business. The more I put back in, the more fishing lures I can make. The more I make, the more I can sell, and the more I can make next time.

Keeping my costs down includes me as well. I try not to take money out of my business to pay myself. Why? Because I want it to grow more quickly.

Point #6 – Pray for Wisdom.

Proverbs 2:1-8

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;

yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

Point #7 – Listen and Learn, Listen and Learn

Pay attention to your customers. You’re serving them. You’re helping them. They’re the hero of your story, your business. Listen to them, and they’ll tell you things. Put what they say into practice, see if it works, learn as you go.

Listen and Learn, Listen and Learn.

Point #8 – Be Diligent and Eliminate Distractions

This is true of everything in our lives. Not just building a business. We only have a limited amount of time every day.

The more we work at it, the more diligent we are, the more we’ll get done. Here’s how God helped me eliminate a distraction.

In my fishing lure business there are lots of tasks that don’t require very much brain power. Counting things, packaging things, just simple tasks. My mind tends to wander when I do this type of stuff. And for a long time I would play a computer game as I did these simple tasks.

Anyone ever hear of a game called Settlers of Catan? Well, there is a website where you can play against other people. People from all over the world.

There are lots of different boards, and as soon as a game ends you can immediately start a new one. I really like the game, I played a lot, and I got really good at it. I’d beat all of y’all at Settlers. 🙂

Problem was, when I was playing this game those simple tasks were taking a lot longer than they should. I was wasting time. Sometimes I’d play a little, sometimes I’d play a lot, but I was still wasting time.

Then one day I had to buy a new laptop. And for some reason I couldn’t play settlers on the laptop. I tried to login a few times, and it just wouldn’t work. Looking back, I’m thankful that it didn’t work. I believe God helped me eliminate this distraction.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other distractions out there. You just have to recognize them, pray for diligence, and then avoid them.

Point #9 – Colossians 3:12-17 As you start and build your business, be imitators of Christ.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Catch you later!

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