The Trials and Tribulations of Chucker Fly Apparel
As of Saturday August 8th, 2020, and after months of planning, design, and set up we have finally launched our store, Chucker Fly Apparel. Over the last 3-4 years, I have really been trying to find a way to make a living through my love of fly fishing and Entrepreneurship. Over the last few years I have looked into starting a fly shop in my hometown (still a dream), starting a rod manufacturing business, online fly fishing blog, as well as a Fly Fishing Apparel Company. I have always been an “idea guy” but have always lacked execution. But with a little extra free time during COVID, and a little research into how I could set up and operationally start an apparel company, I finally was able to start putting my ideas to paper last February, nearly 6 months ago.
I already had the Muddler Chucker, Sea Run, and a few other designs that I had been thinking about over the last few years, but back in February not only did I have little to no artistic ability, but graphic design software was like a foreign language to me. So, I went out and bought a sketch pad and a few notebooks to start getting my ideas down on paper, and they just flowed out. Within a couple days I had over 10 decent designs that could work on apparel and had come up with an idea for a company name and brand. Although “Muddler Chucker” was the idea that started it all down this path, I knew I didn’t want to pigeon hole my brand to just one type of fly or even to just fly fishing, and that is why I came up with the name “Chucker” and then “Chucker Fly Apparel.”
So, I had a sketch book half full of designs and some branding concepts, but they were hand drawn by someone with horrible art skills. I had to figure out how to take my crappy rough sketches off paper and on to a graphic design platform. I wrestled with the ideas of using online services such as Fiverrr, 99designs, and other cheap graphic design options as well as local design outfits. In communicating with all the options above I found that they either had no clue what I was looking for as they did not relate to fly fishing or even have any real graphic design illustration talent, so naturally I got a little discouraged.
There were a number of fly fishing artists I followed on social media but there was one in particular that really stood out to me as the right person who would get my idea as well as understand the market within the fly fishing community that I wanted to target. The artist was Ryan Keene of RAKart, and I had no clue if he even did custom logos or design work, and if so, could I even afford him. So, I sent him a PM through Facebook, and after a quick explanation of what I was looking for and what he would charge (was very reasonable) we had a deal. Only issue was he was super busy with other commission work and would take about a month to get to my designs, but it wasn’t a problem for me as I still had a lot to figure out a website and pick a Print on Demand supplier.
******** Check out Ryan Keene's Work at www.rakart.net ****************
After I had arranged to have Ryan design my main “Chucker Fly” logo and a matching Muddler design, I also signed up to a subscription graphic design company to hand my more basic designs such as SEA RUN, Holy Steelhead, Spey HUB, Metal Muddler etc. They worked out well but were sometimes challenging as I was only allowed so many requests and revisions per day. Some designs really hit it out of the park, while others didn’t fit the bill, but within a month I had over 5 designs perfected as well as a few other marketing related things done. All I needed to do was wait for Ryan to start working on main Branding.
Finally, Ryan messaged and let me know he was ready to roll. After discussing my original design idea, he asked me if I was open to a different look, and I hesitantly said yes, and I had really started like my original design. A few days later Ryan finally sent me a rough design of his idea for the Chucker Fly logo, and I was floored, it was awesome. I knew why I was originally drawn to Ryan’s artistic talent, and I instantly had one bad ass Logo and Brand. About a week after the logo he completed the full muddler minnow design, and I was able to hand them off to my graphic design subscription company to turn them into a few different styles such as the Camo, US, and Canadian Muddlers, along with a few others.
Now that I had the designs my next challenge was working with a Print on Demand (POD) company to get the designs on various apparel and then loaded on my website. By this time, I had reviewed a number of different POD companies and knew which one I wanted to use, but they unfortunately got hit hard by COVID 19 on 2 fronts. First, their main US Fulfillment Facility was under a Mandatory Close order for 3 weeks, and then was hit with a surplus of new orders as the ecommerce apparel industry exploded as consumers were more comfortable shopping from home. Fulfillment times for apparel was over a month with shipping times doubling, and there was no way I was going to start a new business where I had to inform my customers that it could take 2 months to receive their orders.
So, I went in a holding pattern, and waited over 2 months for my POD company to reduce their fulfillment times to normal, and for shipping times to get better (still not great, but better). Around the middle of July things were getting better with our POD partner, and we made our first sample order which we received the first week of August. After carefully checking the designs and apparel quality we decided it was finally time to open our virtual doors. We officially opened our website Saturday August 8th, 2020 and received our first order within 3 hours.
Even with all the highs and lows, I really enjoyed the process of launching Chucker Fly Apparel, and it is awesome watch the orders come in an our apparel going out to some bad ass Men and Women Anglers.
Both Amanda and I would like to say a big thank you to Ryan Keene for our main design work and branding, and our close friends Ed Robinson, Keene Anderson, Tom Hunter, Phil Leblanc, Connor Andrew, Shelen Boyes, and Ben Sijpheer for having to listen to my highs and lows of starting this new venture and providing excellent advice and design criticism etc.