Sunday, November 27, 2016

Small is the new Big

Them:  "You should franchise Oyster or try and build your brand large enough to sell it."

Me:  "No."

20 years ago, we decided that making bamboo fly rods for a living was a good idea.  Why?  Why would we ever dream that our passage into adulthood commerce should be anything less or more than a simple choice regarding the direction of our lives?  Everyone else was doing it...not building bamboo fly rods necessarily but our "contemporaries per say" were getting out of school and jockeying for position obtaining jobs that seemed to make a serious impact on the remainder of their lives as least it felt that way in your 20s. 

So, let's be brutally honest HERE.  Bill and I grew up in the 80s.  The honeymoon for "big, fast and cheap" was simply incubating with ambitions well beyond our imaginations.  By the time we finished college, disposable products that made an impression no matter how temporary dug in and enveloped our culture.

Bigger. Faster. Cheaper.

In some ways, the same mantra applied when most of us chose our careers.  It only made sense.   Following your dreams and ultimately doing what you love was just a bunch of bullshit told to you by well-intended strangers seemingly reserved for the three people we watched succeed at some obscure art in a documentary once and people with too much time on their hands the independently wealthy.  So, really...we were actually being guided all along not to explore our dreams but instead to ask ourselves..."What do we do to make as much money as possible as easily as possible so we can ideally pursue our true interests on weekends, paid vacations and just before we die if we are lucky enough to live that long?"
No memo here...

Except...we did not get that memo. And, honestly, we still do not know why we chose the smallest most ill-conceived hand crafted limited obsolete profession possibly on earth. And then MOVED to the smallest most ill-conceived ridiculous most obsolete little town on earth.

Bamboo fly rod making chose us. 

Blue Ridge, Georgia chose us.

Or should I say the overwhelming desire to pursue our lifestyle chose us. 

Small. Slow. Real.

We can all agree that times have changed over the past two decades.  Small businesses command more respect as does the craftsman and the virtuousness of the handmade item...not to mention bamboo fly rods in the fly fishing industry. 

In the beginning, fly fishing trade shows were the most effective way to reach potential clients.  The internet was still in its infancy and fly fishing was basking in "A River Runs Through It" Renaissance.  However, bamboo fly rods were not having any sort of "rebirth"...yet.   (see faster and cheaper fishing was not immune either).

The "GO BIG" misconception mentality about our business was prevalent from day one.  We would sit at these trade shows in the 90s, 2000s and beyond and get giggled at receive (again) fatherly advice from the sympathetic (after they stopped giggling at our ambitions):

OLD school trade show photo!

Them:  " can only make money at this if you have the blanks made in China and use your name."
Me: "No."

Them:  "You should work for Orvis, Sage, Winston..."
Me: "No."

Them:  "You should move to Colorado."
Me: "That would be nice"

Them: "You cannot possibly do this on your own.  You should get a professional sporting or collectables representative."
Me: "No."

Them: " is how you sell custom bamboo fly rods...make people wait...a really long time, limit their customization options because customers will kill you on those details.  You tell them what they want."
*editor's note* This sentiment was told to us repeatedly...really.
Me: "No."

Them: "Aren't you afraid if you share your knowledge of the craft with will essentially be teaching your competition."
Us: "No."

And while this sounds like we say no a lot...we truly DO listen to our clients and have become a successful small business because we listen. 

You:  "Bamboo fly rod making...that looks cool.  Will you teach me how to make one?"
Us: "Yes"

You:  "Will you build a rod and tailor the taper specifically to the type of fishing I prefer?
Us: "Yes."

You:  "I need a very special rod built for a very special retirement/birthday/anniversary/holiday...but we need it soon.  Will you please try and squeeze us into your schedule?"
Us:  "Yes."

You:  "Is it possible to tell a story on my favorite bamboo fly rod?  Will you learn to hand engrave to forever preserve the legacy of such a heirloom."
Us: "Yes."

You:  "Will each and every one of your bamboo fly rods live up to your near "beyond reproach" standards aesthetically and performance related?"
Us:  "Yes."

You:  "Will you always push modern limits while preserving and respecting the tradition and heritage of the hand crafted bamboo fly rod?"
Us: "Yes."

You:  "Is it possible that you are exactly as you seem on your antiquated web site?  Are you indeed a small little shop on Main Street making awesome things while raising children underfoot in an absurd little mountain town in Georgia?"
Us: "Yes.  We are simply not savvy enough for smoke and mirrors."

Small. Slow. Real.

And while we do not aspire to have our logo cantilevered over any given highway peering out from any given strip mall...we do realize there is merit applied to starting a business alone for profit and growth.  We have just chosen lifestyle over a bottom line of any sort.  

Bamboo Fly Rods...

Unarguably the worst business idea ever.

However, the best lifestyle choice ever.

Small is the new Big.