Reel Sharp Apparel – Meet Tim Burns of Hook Sinker
Imagine if you and your buddies could figure out a way to work together while still making plenty of time to do the fun thing that you love to do the most. It’s sort of like when you’re sitting around together and say, ‘we should start that business’ but you actually go out and do it. Well if your thing happens to be fishing, the boys at Hook Sinker are pretty much living your dream.
We interviewed Tim Burns, one of Hook Sinker’s founders, and spoke about how he and his friends started the fishing apparel company, what it takes to make it a success and what the future might hold for the brand.
Tell us about Hook Sinker. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Hook Sinker is a fishing lifestyle clothing company that is designed to look good, while expressing your passion for being on the water. We’ve created stylish and functional clothing that is versatile enough to go from the boat to wherever else the day takes you, looking sharp in any environment. Our logo is designed to be simple and attractive, unique yet recognizable. The logo is easily identifiable, and clearly distinguishes the lifestyle we love. We strive to promote a feeling of community and camaraderie between customers, highlighting a common passion through what you wear. Our target audience initially was those that enjoy being on the water. What we have found since our launch is that there is a much larger customer base that simply appreciates a clothing company like Hook Sinker that represents something. We are part of a culture, where expressing one’s self is as easy as jumping on social media. We at Hook Sinker aim to provide a much more comfortable and stylish avenue that conveys the lifestyle you enjoy day in and day out!
How did you decide to start the business?
Fishing clothing in general has primarily consisted of companies that are a) promoting their rod/reel/tackle/boat/motor/etc, or b) performance gear to withstand the elements. Neither of these options presented a stylized apparel that could be worn both on and off the water. We started to brain storm about Hook Sinker, deciding on the style, quality of materials and the business model in general. One of the very first ideas we had was “Fishing Apparel Reimagined”. We have adopted this slogan, and feel it summarizes our company well. Fishing clothing that differs from the norm perception of what fishing apparel should be. Hook Sinker consists of four founders with varying education and experience. This marks the first clothing company for all of us, and we are continuing to learn as we go making every small success very special.
They say that to be successful, you have to be passionate; why do you love what you’re doing?
We love building a company that directly impacts and affects the community and lifestyle we love so much. Since we are so passionate about the fishing lifestyle, it makes it natural to be passionate about Hook Sinker. What continues to drive us more than anything is the confirmation from the fishing community that they love our product. We love the feedback we have received, and are overwhelmed with how supportive the community has been thus far. This kind of validation has motivated us to pursue bigger and better things for the company, and in turn the fishing community. There has been no sweeter feeling then seeing a stranger on the water, or on the street, wearing our gear!
Has it been all smooth sailing or has there been adversity on the way here?
Like any other task in life, adversity and bumps in the road are expected. We have managed to take a step back, analyze the situation (what went wrong), learn from it, and move on. Worrying about what happened and dwelling on it will only slow your progress, but equipping yourself with the knowledge acquired and moving on will help keep the forward momentum of the company. Having four people with equal input can sometimes be a challenge, or even a hinder to productivity, due to the delay in the decision making process. We have overcome this obstacle by having very clear and distinct “specialty” areas, typically highlighting the individuals strength. If a decision requires a vote, the votes become weighted in favor of the individual that owns that “specialty”. It has worked so far, and will continue to adapt and change as the company requires it.
We all know that crazy happens – what’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
The craziest thing that has happened to Hook Sinker would have to be the night that we launched our Kickstarter campaign to get things off the ground. We had a launch party at a local pub where we had a much bigger turnout than expected and within the first 24 hours we had already met our goal for the entire campaign. The response from people at the party and people who had supported us online was overwhelming and definitely made all the work that we had put into the launch worth it.
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
Hook Sinker is our time off! We all have full-time careers and therefore spend most of our time off building and growing the brand. I certainly wouldn’t call it work, at least not in the conventional sense. We are best friends hanging out at tournaments, fishing on the water, and living the lifestyle we are trying to promote! We began our first-ever Hook Sinker concept meeting while eating wings, having a couple of pops and just talking about the vision. We have continued to carry out most of our meetings in a similar style! Budgeting, designs, filling orders… It’s spending time with friends, doing what you love. I’m pretty sure that our wives still think Hook Sinker is just a cover company for us getting together and having a good time!
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
Social media is one of the most integral ways that we market, gain exposure, and interact with people who support Hook Sinker. Our Instagram and Facebook pages are continually gaining followers and they are a gateway to our website. Since we started on social media, we have learned a lot about utilizing the pages to promote involvement in the brand. The hashtag #reelsharp can be used to take a lifestyle photo wearing Hook Sinker. We then share those photos to our followers, reinforcing the lifestyle we are promoting. We began our social media pages when Hook Sinker was in its infancy, allowing people to follow along as we grew. We are able to gain followers before we had a product in hand, and used feedback from our followers to shape the brand, which has helped our success so far.
When did you realize that you were going to embrace ecommerce?
One of the hardest things for a small business, that plans on selling to a broad market, is to reach that market. Ecommerce gives us that advantage, among others. In the short time we have been running our online store, we have made sales all over the world. It would have taken us years to gain that kind of exposure selling out of our cars or at local trade shows, hoping to make a retail deal. Accessibility is paramount for a small business making sales – if your items aren’t accessible or tangible you can’t make the sale.
How did you find Shopify and why did you decide to try them out?
One of the co-founders works at Shopify. His extensive knowledge of the company, coupled with their easy-to-use platform and low fees, made it one of the easiest decisions we have had to make!
What does this enable you to do as a small business owner?
Shopify allows us to focus on the day-to-day aspects of the business, like creating new designs, interacting on social media and fulfilling orders. The application helps us understand trends and tendencies that buyers have, giving us a better understanding of what is working, and what isn’t. In short, Shopify promotes growth and revenue for the business by eliminating barriers and stressors, and equipping small businesses with comprehensive and easy to use tools.
How are you involved in your community?
Personally, we all participate or volunteer in community events outside of our family and full-time employment. Officially as a business, we have been involved by sponsoring some local charity fishing tournaments. It’s a good way to get out and meet some great people and share what we are all about. We want to show people that we are invested in the lifestyle, by giving back where we can. As the business continues to grow, we hope to increase the amount of events we can be a contributing part of. Who knows, maybe even host our own Fishing Tournament someday!
What does supporting local mean to you?
Sporting local tournaments and charities directly impacts the family and friends we grew up with! Local organizations do a lot of work in the community to make it a better place to live, and supporting that effort is one of our goals. Ideally, we would love to branch out and support other small communities if circumstances permit in the future.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Hook Sinker continues to grow at a pace quicker than what we originally anticipated. At such an early stage, it’s difficult to predict our future, but we certainly have goals and aspirations. Right now our focus is on growing the brand by releasing new designs and creating awareness. Always remembering to realign our efforts to maintain the integrity and reputation of the brand. We are excited to release some limited run hats in the very near future.
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
Do things the way you feel you should and don’t be afraid to be different! Set yourself apart from everyone else, because there will be other companies out there who are similar to you, but if you strive to set yourself apart from the rest, good things will happen.