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WETFLY- 15 years in business, a trip down memory lane

WETFLY BLOG

 

 

WETFLY- 15 years in business, a trip down memory lane

Don Fitzwater

Can you believe it! Wetfly has been in business for 15 years! ~Founded in 1999 

Its really interesting to look back at our history since '99. Kit Carlson my best friend and I had an idea when Amazon and Ebay were taking all the headlines, "Hey lets build a website and sell flies online!" the thought was they were light weight, super small and we could make money selling & shipping them plus provide them at a much lower cost than those expensive fly shops! We thought we would get rich and start ringing the cash register and retire to fishing. [Then reality struck] and the speculative fly fisherman was very apprehensive with the credit card online and this new thing called "e-commerce" so we did not get rich overnight and had to reevaluate our plans. Our new goal quickly became "Lets make enough money to fund a few fly fishing trips per year" And so the story was set in motion...we met a key industry professional that needed help marketing his products (flies) and we in return were able to get distribution discounts and mark up the cost of flies. After about 6 months we started making enough money to cover Wetfly web hosting fees and began traveling moderately to fish fun places around the northwest with the "business money" that we were generating. 

Original Wetfly Website, Crawled on October 1999

Original Wetfly Website, Crawled on October 1999

By 2001 we hit a plateau and everything was becoming a yard sale on the internet [thanks to Ebay] and we decided to position Wetfly as B2B sales and supply larger retailers with our product at aggressive pricing that could be passed on to the consumer. Our first major business trip was to the world famous Fly Fishing Trade Show in Denver, CO. We ended up fishing most of the famous tributaries within an hour of Denver and worked hard at the show where we landed a few key accounts which we still do business with today. Once the business was established we set the company on cruise control and started delivering large volumes of flies annually to our clients for about 10 years. Believe it or not we were selling over 20,000 dozen flies annually while working our day jobs during this period.

Fast forward to 2009 and we had reached our modified dream and were able to travel to all sorts of destination fishing states like Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Nevada and even Alaska catching ridiculous sized fish and meeting some great friends along the way. However the financial bubble was bursting in the Seattle area about this time (2-3 years after everyone else felt the pain) and we had a lot of money on the table for producing all these 1000's of flies and its was a high risk, long lead-time process for the minimal margins we were making. We quickly reanalyzed the business after we were scammed by an overseas customer and the reality of the global economy hitting us directly. In 2010-2011 we started focusing on new products [fly boxes] with higher margins, lower cost to produce, shorter lead-times and improved payment terms which gave us a transition path away from the only thing we were doing [marking up flies] becoming much more profitable. After this transition the world was in recovery mode and we were positioned with a decent amount of cash(all of our retail partners survived the 2008-2009 crash) so we began getting more aggressive with growth in 2011-2012 and expanded our product line even further. We partnered with a few key customers and discussed the "potential" of what we wanted to do and got busy developing and designing new products. Wetfly began developing rods, reels, lines, etc. through vigorous field testing and achieved retail placement through aggressive market pricing to help our customers in the recovering economy. Wetfly consumers were beginning to see great products at affordable pricing. The market responded and we immediately experienced success which built the foundation for our biggest move yet, hiring a full-time contractor! 

Wetfly Website, 2012-2014

Wetfly Website, 2012-2014

In the spring of 2013 we hired our first full-time contractor Steve Tatarchuk who is an industry heavy weight with credibility working with large brands, including setting up Hardy Fly Fishing in the US. Steve has brought so much to Wetfly, his knowledge of the fly fishing consumer is like a mayfly to the trout's diet–necessary for survival.  He is deeply connected to the industry as a whole and his insights are spot on which makes him invaluable to Wetfly and the consumer alike. Consumers are getting a passionate industry leader who participates in outreach efforts and awareness for our beloved sport of fly fishing. Wetfly get the honor to work with him every day and experience his enthusiasm and passion for the business of fishing. Steve is amazingly humble and a great all around person for society.  If you ever get to meet him in person just ask him about tarpon fishing. You will see first hand the spirt of a super-fishy soul come alive! 

In January of 2014 I am proud to say my best friend and business partner Kit Carlson joined Wetfly as the first full time employee along side Steve. Kit without a doubt is the rock of Wetfly and his commitment is paramount to no other. He's been shipping our products since the beginning and loves the challenges we face. Kit is working hard daily now keeping our logistics on pace with the demand of our Wetfly products. He is a true ally to our customers and is always looking out for their best interest. He has become a master at procurement getting the best possible price for us and passing the savings on which is what Wetfly is all about, great products at affordable pricing. 

Me on the other hand, I have been a part-time CEO for the past 15 years (meaning that I don't take a consistent salary) with Wetfly but hope to one day when I reach the goal and begin living the dream of being on the river and making executive decisions while I am fighting a fish. When I think really deep about it, it's my drive and passion for the "dream" that keeps me going. I often ponder "What if I actually reach my goal?" To be honest, I can't wait to reach that goal, that's what dreams are all about. With that said I live, breath, and go to the bathroom dreaming about what Wetfly will be one day everyday. I am so excited to live in a place where you can pursue a dream and see it becoming reality and fish along the way.

-Don FItzwater