Turning your hobby into a business is the dream of many entrepreneurs, but it’s not always the most lucrative option. For Ross Gordon, fishing had long been a favorite pastime, but it was never anything close to a job.
But that was before Mystery Tackle Box came along.
The company, a monthly subscription service that delivers fishing gear to anglers around the country, allows users to submit what kind of fish they’re looking to catch — and get a monthly box of new lures, jigs and spinnerbaits curated for their needs in return.
Gordon grew up fishing in Minnesota, where he was surrounded by fishing holes. But when he moved to Chicago in high school, his hobby fell by the wayside. After going to college in New York, he returned to the Windy City and decided to take up fishing again, only to be lost in a sea of options.
“I found myself very overwhelmed,” Gordon said. “I wanted to get into bass fishing specifically and I found myself going to tackle shops like Bass Pro Shops and being completely overwhelmed with all the products there are to chose from.”
He would still buy the stuff, but would then use it wrong or not at all because it was too confusing. His frustrations spawned the idea for a service that would offer custom fishing packages.
Still, the timing wasn’t quite right.
In 2011, Gordon founded CraftJack, a company that helps contractors grow their businesses and find new clients. As that company grew, his idea for a fishing business stayed on the back burner.
While CEO at CraftJack, he developed a Facebook page with 60,000 followers, which recommended good lures for bass fishing. He even pitched the idea to Lightbank while the VC firm was considering an investment in CraftJack.
So when buyers for Gordon's business started knocking, his little idea for a fishing business helped push him toward the sale.
“One of the reasons I decided to sell CraftJack was because I had the idea for Mystery Tackle Box," Gordon said. "I was so passionate about fishing and the opportunity to do something I was passionate about."
After selling CraftJack to Home Advisor, he started putting together the first version of the website. By sharing his site with the community that had grown around his Facebook page, the first Mystery Tackle Box shipment went out to 441 people. Now, 55,000 anglers subscribe to the service and the company said it is generating millions in revenue.
But Gordon hasn’t abandoned his tech chops and considers Mystery Tackle Box a tech company at heart. Not only does it allow once regionally-exclusive lures to get national distribution, but the platform also helps share fishing-focused news, tips and other content to a tech-literate audience. The company is also ramping up data usage.
“If you think about the core problem for the angler that we face when we shop is not knowing what some areas and what lures to use,” Gordon said. “There are so many variables, and the only way to break down those variables ... is by using data.”
The company raised $1.3 million last year, helping it more than double its subscriber count and expand from six employees to about 20. The company is looking to continue growing that headcount, offering employees perks like five summer fishing days and access to all the new gear that comes through the office.
Image via Mystery Tackle Box