Switching Bait: The Lure of Doing What You Love

Switching Bait: The Lure of Doing What You Love

Lifestyle | Posted by YouInc.com - April 15, 2013 at 8:40 pm

It's no shock that Grant Koppers, founder of Koppers Fishing & Tackle, is ambitious. But his symbol of ultimate success is surprisingly landlocked. "I want to own a Ferrari. I'm not afraid or embarrassed to admit it. So how do I get that?"

Choosing the career path that would lead to the rewards of Italian roadsters wasn't a direct route. At 19, an industrial accident almost cost Grant the use of his arm. Instead of conventional rehab, he turned to his favourite pastime: fishing. After months of painstakingly tying hooks and casting lines, he eventually regained full mobility. After working in social services for seven years, his love of fishing lured him into starting his own guide business in the Niagara region. However, he didn't plan to lead sport-fishing charters forever.

"I could really look at the industry as a whole, from the bottom rung of the ladder," says Grant, speaking to me on the phone from his Ontario headquarters. "Where do I want to make my mark? Where do I want to make a million dollars? I wanted a business that could be huge, with no limitations in terms of growth."

He considered many strategies, including creating a television show, starting a magazine, being a sales rep and starting a tackle shop. "There are all kinds of things you can do when you love the sport of fishing, but making life-like lures was the biggest gap. It needed to be filled. And the timing was just perfect."

Even though I have a sum total of zero fishing experience, I suggest it seems strange no one else was making anatomically accurate lures.

"Amen," exclaims Grant. "You know, Tiffany, I sat on it for four years. I thought, why is nobody doing this? Considering how fine tuned other consumer products are from a plastic injected molding standpoint, how is this not possible?"

As someone who fished two hundred days a year, he was already frustrated by the lack of realistic lures. When zebra mussels invaded Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, their voracious filtering made the water much clearer, but manufacturers didn't adapt. Now that fish could see lures from further away, they were less tempted by lackluster design.

"It's a significant shortcoming in the fishing tackle business. Because your success is based on your lure. You can have the biggest boat, you can have the fastest motor, you can have the best rods, reels and very expensive fishing line, but everything you do comes down to that artificial bait."

In 2007, armed with a million dollars in capital from angel investors, Grant launched Live Target, a collection of life-like lures for both fresh and salt water. Sixteen employees, including a five-person design team, are based in Canada, while the lures are manufactured in Asia.

As a private company, Koppers Fishing and Tackle does not publish financial statements, but Grant says its growth rate is 200% a year. Currently, more than 2000 stores worldwide carry Live Target lures. Because baitfish vary so much from region to region, Grant believes the potential is unlimited. "In terms of a global expansion, we'll never get it all done in our lifetime. So for us, it really is a very big picture."

Hopefully for Grant, big enough to include the largest lure of all — that Ferrari.

by YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns.

Tags: lifestyle, profile, grant koppers, adapting, career, design, expansion, fishing, growth, industry, market, strategy, profiles

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