Craig Cook found his business niche with Fall Line Outfitters! Life in the military and specialized education prepared Craig for this unique entrepreneurship in many ways.
Fall Line Outfitters, located in downtown Stevens Point, retails traditional outdoor apparel as well as fly fishing gear and custom military apparel that isn’t otherwise available locally. But the business offers far more than just retail sales and sports equipment rental. A certified instructor leads fly casting courses and Craig, himself, offers fly tying instruction. Fall Line Outfitters hosts guided fly fishing trips in Wisconsin as well.
Craig began running his business part-time while he was active in the military. To prepare himself to open the retail store full-time in June 2019, he enrolled in the Entrepreneurial Training Program (ETP) offered by the UW-Stevens Point Small Business Development Center (SBDC). “I would recommend the ETP class to anybody interested in starting a business. The instructor provided real life experiences we could relate to and learn from. Sitting around a table with other aspiring entrepreneurs, all at different stages of development, helped each of us put together a tool box of resources to make our own,” Craig said. “The ETP class asked us to define our competition and I realized through research there was an immediate need for fly fishing gear in the area and not much local competition in the industry.”
Mark Speirs, a consultant at the SBDC, assisted Craig with financials and business strategy to complete the business plan for ETP. Mark also coached him on marketing and connected him with complimentary resources in the area for cross promotion. Craig spoke highly of Mark’s assistance, saying, “He really dialed into the business plan. He helped me solidify the document and I look forward to making it fluid, continuing to change it as we grow.”
Mark stated, “As a military veteran, Craig understood how to take an overall mission and break it into specific goals and objectives, which is a valuable skill as an entrepreneur.” He knew Craig would make a great addition to the SBDC Veterans Roundtable.
The Veterans Roundtable was started a few years ago, in Stevens Point, to help create opportunities for veterans in small business. The group provides details on available resources at the federal, state and local level. Craig said, “It was exciting! It was nice to be included as an entrepreneur in this working group to diversify resources for veteran-owned small businesses.”
Craig had faced first-hand some of the difficulties new business owners can experience. He said, “Working full-time days with the military and part-time nights and weekends at the store while also attending the ETP class created a big time crunch for me.” He also had trouble securing funding in the beginning; most banks denied him small business loans because Fall Outfitters had not yet been in business for at least three years.
However, he found that advertising, diversification of the business and support of fellow entrepreneurs were three big steps toward success. Fall Outfitters aired a television commercial in December 2019. Craig commented, “This marketing tactic is really paying off and getting the word out!” He now also sells coffee and medical kits, both originating from other veteran-owned businesses.
Accomplishments with UW-Stevens Point SBDC
- Financial planning
- Complimentary resources
- Business plan
- Business strategies
Beginning in Fall 2020, the guided fishing trips will happen not only in Wisconsin, but also in Wyoming and Montana. In addition, he is looking to add more retail outfitting gear for activities such as camping, hiking and backpacking instead of focusing solely on fly fishing equipment. Craig hopes to add a part-time employee in 2020 as well to help staff the busy store. He looks forward to all the expansions and endeavors Fall Line Outfitters will embrace in the future!