I’m asked on a fairly regular basis – “how did you get into selling knives?” In reality it was a little by design and a little by happenstance but truly driven by a love for quality outdoor gear and knives. How it all came about is rather interesting and one I’d like to share.
I was 12 years into a corporate job and I realized that I no longer had any passion for what I did. I was a banker and it was a boring, oftentimes unjust profession that was just not one I enjoyed at all. The pay was good and I enjoyed the people that worked with me and for me. I still maintain close relationships with many of these former coworkers. The vacation time, at 5 weeks per year, is something I will never ever come close to seeing now that I am a business owner. But, at the end of the day, something was always missing. I realized I just lacked the passion for this profession and it didn’t drive me and it wasn’t who I was.
First, let’s talk about the “little bit by design”. I decided I wanted to own my own business and do something that I truly loved for a living. It had become incredibly obvious to me that I had to have a passion for my vocation to excel at it. It was a necessity to decide what I had a passion for and then pour 100% of myself into that business. So being a bit of a pragmatist, I set up lists of likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, and areas where I had experience and where I lacked the background to have success. After a lot of thought I knew where my passion lied: the outdoors. My background and strength from my family’s business meant a retail business was the best type of business model. Since I was a small boy I yearned to go fishing, hunting, camping and just explore the outdoors from our back forty on our farm to far flung destinations like Africa.
Next, I will delve into the happenstance portion. After deciding on the business I wanted to be in I contacted a business broker and asked him to find me an outdoor related business that wasn’t overly expensive (I had a small amount of savings but not a huge war chest to buy a large business) in the retail segment that could be relocated to my home area in the upper Midwest. As many of you may have read in my inaugural post, family is of paramount importance to and as such any business I bought had to be relocatable so I could maintain family ties. After a few months of less than promising prospects the broker called one day and asked, “What do you think about buying a knife business?” What do I think? I think that sounds AMAZING! The business was Oregon Knife Shop and the price was right, so I put every penny I had plus money from family into it and I was in business!
In the first few years I worked as a one man show, typically working 80 plus hours a week. Family & friends worked with me for little or no pay to help out. I slept at work several nights a month. I worked and worked and worked some more. With all these hours I was making about a third of what I did during my banking days. But at the end of the day I realized I LOVED it! I was never happier. I was broke and overworked but I loved going to work and I was extremely happy.
Finally, we get to the passion of my decision. Back when I was 16 years old I watched an episode of Discovering, an outdoor program put on by the local tv station. That episode revolved around the history of Marbles Knives and their recent addition of Mike Stewart as their chief knife designer and company president. This program sparked my interest in Marbles Knives, their history and what made them special. I asked my parents for one gift that year – a Marbles Fieldcraft with a buffalo horn handle. It was the only gift I really wanted. I got that knife and I still have it today. Although it has been out west several times and on countless whitetail deer hunts on our family farm it is still in excellent condition and I still have the original box in pristine condition complete with a hand written receipt signed by one Mike Stewart. In addition to being company president and chief designer Mike also had a passion for dealing with customers and regularly made sales on the floor including the knife sold to my parents. Little did I know at that time how intertwined Mike and I would become in our business interests with DLT Trading and Bark River Knives but it truly has been a wild ride that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And by the way – I still have that knife and NO it is not for sale!