SmithFly owner, Ethan Smith, was fed up with the fly fishing products retail camping and outdoors stores had to offer. He wanted a slimmed-down fly fishing vest, a larger waist pack, and a more extensive selection. He came up with the idea of detachable pockets and modular gear so that he could customize his setup for each fishing expedition. Ethan’s strong background in industrial and product design helped him immensely, and before long, his products were going viral online.
Ethan began designing his vests and modular bags at home, and made his prototypes himself, learning to use his wife’s sewing machine to make a few crude product samples. Soon after, he was able to acquire sewing contractors who used the popular Molle webbing system from the military to upgrade his vision into something more durable. Ethan was excited to watch his vision come together.
Ethan also designed a floating tent for SmithFly, called the Shoal Tent, that is so unique and fun that it almost instantly went viral after he posted images of it online. He used an inflatable raft base with an anchor system, with a waterproof tent covering. SmithFly’s lineup was complete, with apparel, totes, bags, their Shoal Tent, and lightweight boats designed for fishing in shallow waters.
Although Ethan showed some excellent marketing skills, getting many SmithFly products to go viral on social media, the company’s working capital was limited, and they struggled to keep up with the high demand for their products.
SmithFly on The Profit
The Profit Season 6 Episode 10
Marcus Lemonis wanted to explore SmithFly and its products. His interest in outdoor sports and curiosity about the Shoal Tent brought him to investigate Ethan and his business in Troy, Ohio.
Marcus met Jules, the office manager, and quickly realized how she was not able to do her job effectively because of Ethan’s poor managerial skills. Ethan spent his time micromanaging her every move and struggled to tell her what she needed to do. Since Ethan’s time was wasting his time doing the jobs Jules should be doing; he didn’t have the time to focus on the more critical aspects of the business. Marcus told Ethan to let Jules do the tasks she was hired to do so he could focus on product development. Marcus told Ethan that he should be spending his time improving his current products or developing new ones.
Overall, Marcus liked SmithFly’s products and the unique technical ingenuity that isn’t typically found in outdoor equipment. However, as usual, he did have some suggestions for improvement. The boat trailers needed better construction; the boat chairs were too flimsy. And the Shoal Tent only came with a pedal pump that took too long to inflate the base.
Marcus did a financial review of the company and found that they had had two straight years of losses. He predicted the third year would break even at best. Not only that, but Ethan had been staying financially afloat thanks to several open lines of credit. Though he had 100% ownership in the company, he wasn’t even able to pay himself.
Because he believed in the products and saw SmithFly’s potential, Marcus wanted to help Ethan’s business out of the hole it was in. He offered a deal of $1 million in exchange for 50% of the company. Ethan accepted the offer, and they went to Gander Outdoors to talk to retailers and get feedback.
Gander Outdoors was interested in the products they saw and suggested that Ethan design a boat with a collapsible frame for easier transport. However, they were concerned with the company name “SmithFly” and its branding. They believed it made the business sound like it was solely a fly fishing company when the products could easily be used by all types of outdoor sportsmen and enthusiasts.
Gander Outdoors echoed Marcus’s concerns about the foot pump offered with the Shoal Tent. They believed it needed a pump that would make the setup process faster and easier. They also advised Ethan to create and provide add on accessories such as anchors, paddles, and life vests, and to possibly market the tent as a recreational “party” tent and offer built-in cup holders, Bluetooth speakers, and a cooler.
Ethan didn’t take constructive criticism well. He responded with snide comments and focused solely on any compliment his products received. Embarrassed, Marcus asked the talk to Ethan in private. He essentially told him he needed to listen to opinions and be open to suggestions if he wanted his business to grow and succeed.
Back in Ohio, Ethan showed Marcus a building he wanted to buy for inventory, but there were some problems. The site needed costly renovations and had hazardous waste in the soil. Even though Ethan wanted to work with the space, Marcus believed that the business wasn’t ready to look into this type of expansion. He thought the money should be spent on updating the current space and building inventory. The best financial decision would be to spend the funds on what would give the company the best return on investment, not empty it into an area that would cost them more money.
At the end of the episode, Ethan buckled down and decided to focus on SmithFly’s current products and workspace. He also took to heart the branding advice Gander Outdoors had given him and rebranded, changing the name “SmithFly” to “Smith.” Marcus was impressed with the changes Ethan chose to make as well as the new role Jules had in the company. Jules led a meeting with CalaMarine and Realtree in hopes they would collaborate with Smith and increase their sales.
Life for SmithFly after The Profit
There is speculation as to how serious Ethan is about the suggestions he was given on The Profit. The show’s end seemed to imply that he was on his way to making the improvements, including the name and brand change. However, it appears that he still runs the business under the SmithFly name and website. His website mentions the pride they have on making small batch quantities of United States made products. He claims the smaller batches gives them the ability to manage and assure quality products.
There are no SmithFly products sold on the Gander Outdoors, Camping World, or Realtree websites.
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