Hooked on fishing: Young entrepreneur tackles market with inventive product

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Brayden KelleyBrayden Kelley remembers he was pedaling to a fishing spot and the frustration he felt trying to tote a pole and tackle box all the while steering his bike. “I just couldn’t carry everything.”

Kelley figured there had to be a better way to pack along his fishing gear. It turns out the 14-year-old middle school student from Fruita was right. He invented a canvas pouch that attaches to a fishing pole and includes pockets for lures, weights and other supplies.

Kelley not only won a local competition for young entrepreneurs in pitching his product and qualified for a national event, but also hopes to ultimately peddle some more in tackling a potentially lucrative market for fishing gear. That’s not to mention markets for hunting and hiking gear. “I could also see other ways you could use it.”

For now, Kelley remains a bit surprised by his entrepreneurial success. But not his mother, Stacy. She says her son long has enjoyed coming up with various designs and schemes, although he sometimes would prefer delegating any actual work to his sister. “He’s a big idea guy,” Stacy says.

Kelley’s big idea for a more convenient way to carry fishing gear and his aptly named venture, Practical Tackle, won a competition for the latest students in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy in Grand Junction. The program takes middle and high school students through the process of launching a business or social movement. By the end of the course, the students operate functioning businesses.

A dozen students pitched their ideas to a panel of investors in a process similar to “Shark Tank,” the popular television show in which entrepreneurs try to convince business moguls to invest in their ventures.

Kelley was awarded $900 in seed money to develop his business and also was selected to represent the Grand Junction program in the semifinals of a national competition scheduled for May in Rochester, N.Y. The finals are planned for June in Washington, D.C.

Eric Goertz, vice president of operations at the Capco defense contractor in Grand Junction, was among the panel of investors at the local competition. Goertz said Kelley came up with a good concept and business plan. It helped that he had a prototype of his product to demonstrate. “Personally, I was very impressed.”

Kelley was among the youngest students in the academy, a group that included high school juniors and seniors. Kelley also was the last to pitch his business at the competition.
He says he overcame his jitters by speaking clearly and trying hard to keep members of the panel engaged.

The end result was gratifying, but also a bit surprising, Kelley says. “I wasn’t exactly expecting it. It was really cool.”

In addition, the end result was an educational one, he says, because he enrolled in the academy to experience what’s it like to start a business. “I kind of really loved the whole idea of starting a business.”

He says he learned how to get ideas from his head down on paper as well as clearly articulate those ideas to others. He says he also learned business etiquette.

Kelley says those lessons will serve him well in the next stage of the competition and afterwards, when he plans to focus on manufacturing and selling his products.

That product offers an easy to carry alternative to tackle boxes in a pouch made with waterproof canvas, Kelley says. Closed, the pouch measures only 6.5 by 5 inches. Opened, the pouch extends to 6.5 inches by 11 inches, Outside pockets offers quick access to pliers or other supplies. Inside pockets store lures, weights and other tackle.

Velcro straps attach the pouch to the handle on the end of a fishing pole. But a carabiner also can be used to hang the pouch from a belt loop.

The pouch can be used to store and carry tackle for any type of fishing and offer convenience to on-the-go anglers, Kelley says. “We need to make their fishing experience easier.”

Kelley says he expects to sell the pouch for $19.99, starting with online sales on his Web site. He hopes to promote the product through multiple social media channels, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Ultimately, Kelley says he hopes to get his products into such sporting goods retailers as Sportsman’s Warehouse and Cabela’s.

The market for fishing equipment is a large and potentially lucrative one, especially in Colorado, Kelley says. But he says he also sees the potential to diversify his business with products for other sports, including hunting and hiking.

So Kelley has a lot of peddling ahead of him in selling products inspired by the experience of pedaling to his fishing hole.

For more information about Practical Tackle and its products, log on to www.practicaltackle.net.