I have had a passion for fly fishing for as long as I can remember. I was never allowed an air rifle but somehow I managed to convince my mother that it was a good idea to let me buy a 150lb crossbow. I was too small to cock it standing so I had to lie down on my back and use my legs. I used to use the crossbow to shoot rabbits on a farm down the road.
After I got the hurry along from secondary school I had a few unfulfilling jobs before I decided to take up the offer of a salesman position at a local fishing and hunting store in Wellington, New Zealand. I wanted to work in an industry that I was passionate about. During my time in retail, I was looking for new opportunities; I wanted to create a business around my passion of fly fishing.
I was 21, pretty green and very ambitious. Thinking this would be a piece of cake I went out and borrowed some money and ordered a container of neoprene waders. I went on a nationwide sales trip, selling my 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 the quality appeared good for the price. I was living at home with my parents at the time and filled their garage with stock from floor to ceiling, you could hardly move! Reorders were coming in strong, and the waders were selling. 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 it was clear that there was a problem. 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 lot of research into them before I purchased the first order. The reason we had so many problems is that Kiwis are hard on their gear; they hike, they climb banks and venture through blackberry and the like. I learnt a valuable lesson here. This was the reason why a significant amount of the imported gear that frustrated me while I was working in retail was failing.
I needed to take serious action to protect my reputation and brand. I decided to reinforce the crotches and water test every single pair! This turned out to be a momentous task.
Fortunately, my parents lived down a long drive. 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 good for the next week. I had hoped to be finished within a week but I soon realised it was a much larger task than we initially thought. We were testing, reinforcing and re-boxing approximately 30 waders per day. Not a bad number except I had 700 pairs to get through!
Then the bad weather hit, Wellington wind and rain. 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 100 pairs of waders on I realised I needed another location to do the job as I had already filled my parent's garage. Fortunately, a mate 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.