WHERE WE CAME FROM
I first tried fly fishing at a Scout camp 16 years ago. Since then I have been a passionate fly fisher. I got the hurry along from secondary school and after a number of unfulfilling jobs I decided I to take up the offer of salesman position in a local fishing and hunting store in Wellington, New Zealand. I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about.
While working I was also studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration Degree with a Major in Marketing and Management at Victoria University in Wellington.
During my time in retail I noticed that many products came on the market and disappeared again in a short space of time. The design and quality arriving from big overseas companies was not up to standard and did not handle New Zealand’s challenging conditions.
PRETTY GREEN AND VERY AMBITIOUS
I was 21 pretty green and very ambitious. Thinking this would be a piece of cake I went out and borrowed $25,000 from a friend of my fathers and ordered a container of neoprene waders.
I went on a nationwide sales trip selling neoprene waders and while I had a few good bites I had many knocks. Fortunately the good bites were enough to get me going.
The container arrived, the waders looked good and quality appeared ok. I was living at home with my parents at the time and filled their garage from floor to ceiling with one container, you could hardly move!
Reorders were coming in strong and the waders were selling. I got my second container of waders on the way. Meanwhile I continued to develop and order more products; fishing vests, wading boots and a small range of accessories including fishing lures. I got my second container of waders on the way.
By this stage we were in mid winter and the waders were being used. I started to get some neoprene waders returned. Initially I wasn’t too concerned but as the numbers started to increase I began to worry, I needed to take serious action. I needed to protect my reputation and brand at any cost. I decided to reinforce the crotches and water test every single pair! This turned out to be a momentous task. I had no choice. I could not pull out I owed too much money.
Fortunately my parents lived down a long drive out of the public eye. We made up a water testing station, drying racks and gluing station. The waders had to stay outside overnight under tarpaulins to dry. When I started this the weather had been good for a week or so and looked ok for the next week. I had hoped to be finished within a week. Shortly after I started this I realised it was a much larger task than we originally thought. We were testing, reinforcing and re-boxing approximately 30 waders per day. Not a bad number except I had 700 pairs!!!
WIND AND RAIN
Then the bad weather hit, Wellington wind and rain. Wellington is known as “The Captial of Windy”. I was out in the middle of the night tightening up the tarpaulins and making sure that everything was ok. After the stands blew over with a 100 pairs of waders on (several times) I realised I needed a another location to do the job as I had already filled my parents garage. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue (with his father’s garage).
With the help of family and friends I eventually made it to the end of the momentous task. During this time I was still working on my university degree, where possible all assignments were based on Evolve Outdoors.
During this time we were still selling lots of waders, they were a low price product - neoprene waders selling for $159!!!
The company that made the waders did not have problems in other parts of the world and I knew this was true as we had done a fair amount of research into them before I purchased the first order.
The reason we had so many problems is that Kiwi’s are hard on gear; they hike, climb banks and venture through blackberry and the like. I learnt an important lesson here. Kiwi’s were happy to purchase $159 waders but expected them to last as long as the $299 waders!
This was the reason why a large amount of the imported gear, that frustrated me while I was working in retail, was failing.
SURVIVING NEW ZEALAND
If we could design and manufacture gear that would survive in New Zealand conditions it would survive anywhere in the world.
Ultimately we discontinued the low price waders and opted for a higher quality wader that could handle any conditions and therefore live up to the expectations of New Zealand Anglers.
ANOTHER MAJOR BLOW
Shortly after this I had another major blow. I had a shipment of wading boots arrive which were incorrectly made and the soles were falling off after a couple of days use. We tried everything to recover the shipment, re-gluing and re-stitching soles but nothing would work. I had to recall all the boots and write them off at a cost of $40,000!
There have been a few more harsh lessons over the years, however I have always stood behind the products and continue to put my name to our products today.
PURSUING BETTER THINGS
I eventually got the hurry up from my folks garage and moved out into a warehouse with a make shift office. The first year was pretty tough but I managed to hold it together doing all accounts, sales, marketing, warehousing and dispatch myself. At the start of the second year I reluctantly decided I was not able to continue university. I pulled out to “pursue better things”. I may go back one day to get that piece of paper!
A couple of staff were employed to assist with warehouse work and accounts. At this stage business really started to progress. Waders and vests were going well. We were the largest neoprene wader wholesaler in New Zealand in our first year.
In 2003 I started working closely with some of New Zealand’s leading guides and we started to produce some fantastic gear, the market responded and Riverworks really started to take off.
In 2006 I received the “Most improved suppliers of the year award” from Westpac Bank and the New Zealand Sports Industry Association. This was positive and showed that my customers had noticed some of the back breaking effort I had put in.
We were supplying high performing fly fishing products that could survive the harsh conditions and punishment gear gets in New Zealand. My dream had started to come true.
New Zealand is the perfect play ground to test and develop fly fishing gear. We travel excessive distances on foot over harsh and diverse terrain.
As Riverworks® took off Evolve Outdoors Group Ltd launched Hunters Element®, a range of high quality technical hunting products along with Evolve® hiking footwear. Branching out into these areas has allowed Evolve to build experience and knowledge by developing products that are used in a wider variety of very harsh environments.
Now Evolve has dedicated product designers and graphic designers. We are a young crew with all management and designers being under the age of 35. This gives us a fresh perspective with no preconceptions. We are all avid fly fishers, hunters and outdoors people. We live and breathe the outdoor life.
We have not forgotten the lessons of the early days and it’s these lessons that keep us on edge and make sure we only deliver the finest products.
The size and age of the company allows us to adapt and adjust to international trends with a strong focus of leading and developing the market. Using design to push the boundaries of conventional thinking to come up with innovative and performance orientated products.
DOWN THE ROAD
Seven years on we have released the all new 2010 Range of Riverworks fly fishing products, we have been working on this product range for three years and have had a huge response in New Zealand.
Our current range is certainly innovative and performance orientated. We have made this gear tough and durable to survive anywhere in the world. Utilising the latest in laser cutting and heat welding technology for perfect precision along with attention to detail we have built a superior range of products.
The 2017 Riverworks company has a younger edgier feel about it - we don't want to be another boring fly fishing company.
With the new range we are focusing on developing the international market. Selling the New Zealand name and our amazing fishery.
Let’s face it New Zealand has some of the finest fly fishing in the world, and Riverworks is guaranteed to be New Zealand’s finest fly fishing equipment.