Editor's note: HomeGrown is a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
Editor's note: This is one in a weekly series of profiles on locally owned and operated businesses in Southern Oregon.
What do you do and how long have you been doing it? We guide fishing trips of all kinds, fly and bait fishing, guided raft trips and rent raft equipment. We have a retail fly and tackle shop and a gift shop and deli. We opened at the beginning of 1993.
How long have you lived in the Rogue Valley? I grew up in Shady Cove and graduated from Eagle Point High School then went to Oregon State. After that I went away for 15 years and came back in 1993. Before coming back, I lived in San Ramon, Calif., and worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
What inspired you to go into this line of work? I had a dream since I was a kid to have a tackle shop. My dad started me out when I was 6 or 7, but I never thought I would do it for a living. It took quite a decision to leave the USDA and come back to Oregon. It came together in 1993. I have a son (Kurtis) and cousin (Bruce) who guide for me. At first, I figured I'd open a tackle shop and have to get a real job to make a living, but it has worked out. My wife (Fran) and daughter (Angie) run the deli.
What decision or action would you change if you could do it again? The fact we're even here after 18 years is an indication we have done most things the way we should. Like a lot of small businesses, we started undercapitalized. If I could do it over again, I would want more capital. It's been a lot harder work than what I anticipated to make a living, even though it's something we love to do. I don't know if I could have started with more capital; we weren't going to be inheriting any money. I cashed in my retirement from USDA, I spent that money on the business and we've put everything back into the business. We own everything — the inventory and real estate — otherwise we probably wouldn't be here. We literally put everything we make back into it.
What's the toughest business decision you've made? We've tried to break the mold, working with family and kids as my employees. It's something you hear a million times you should never do. It's been a real challenge trying to run it like a business, holding together and staying together as a family. We work with most of the river guides, and it's always a challenge to have the kind of trip that someone wants to do. One of the biggest things we have had to worry about are restrictions on the river. As far as families just being able to go out and have fun on the river, we've seen some things that have inhibited the rafting part. There are some pretty stringent regulations.
Who are your competitors? On the upper Rogue it's Raft-Rite and Rogue Rafting.
What are your goals? I'm 55, and 18 years seems like a long time to me. I'm looking at maybe five to 10 years more and then I'm hoping the kids can get in position to keep running it and keep the legacy going. We've got everything pretty well established to where hopefully they can keep it going. As far as where we go, from time to time we get over on the Umpqua and fish down on the lower Rogue once in a while, and now and then we will take people to private lakes. With a gift shop, tackle shop and deli, we've got a lot going on. In the future we want to increase inventory and better serve people.
What training or education did you need? My educational background and 15 years with the Department of Agriculture dealing with meat plant management and owners.
What's your advice for budding entrepreneurs? People have to stop and take a look and pencil out the expenses and everything involved with a project in the beginning. It seems like a lot of small businesses don't do that. You need to establish yourself so you are comfortable on a month-to-month basis; to avoid that stress with being undercapitalized is very important. Someone needs experience or education before they are ready to take on a project or whatever they are planning to go into. It's not easy to do things by the book like you would learn in business school. You've got to take a hard look at how you will get along with your family because you don't want that to be something that would keep you from succeeding.
To suggest ideas for this column, about businesses that are at least five years old, contact reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.