Angling for a niche market expansion
FisheWear introduced new design “Troutrageous Rainbow” during their Kickstarter campaign.
Image courtesy of FisheWear
It’s been about two years since Alaskan Linda Leary founded FisheWear with a vision to create comfortable, functional, fashion-forward clothing and accessories for Alaska’s abundance of fisherwomen.
FisheWear sells belts, dry bags, leggings, neck tubes, hoodies, and totes in various original designs. Leary says that she initiates concepts for FisheWear products and then collaborates with an artist and graphic artist for product design.
Leary says, “My goal is to try to change the way fishing is for women and that [fishing gear] doesn’t have to be olive brown, black, or tan; it doesn’t have to look like your dad’s clothes; and it can be fun and comfortable.”
On October 4, 2016, FisheWear launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote both FisheWear as a company and their new line of wool clothing. Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform through which individuals and companies can set rewards to raise funds for a wide array of projects.
“I like new technology and new concepts,” Leary says. “Kickstarter is a fun, young, energetic way to promote your business.”
Leary says that in FisheWear’s case, the Kickstarter campaign wasn’t just about raising money. “I definitely needed the capital because I was funding everything myself, but that was an added bonus for me,” she says. “It was more of a marketing opportunity and a way to expose our product to a larger audience and create some excitement around it.”
FisheWear’s Kickstarter campaign was centered on FisheWear’s new wool line, which includes a pullover wool top, skirted wool leggings, and a wool tube, which is worn around the neck. Additionally, the Kickstarter campaign introduced leggings, tubes, trucker hats, and dry bags in their new design “Troutrageous Rainbow.”
As with any Kickstarter campaign, FisheWear contributors could pledge various amounts of money to receive differing levels of rewards, according to their budget. FisheWear’s lowest contribution was $1, rewarded with a thank you email. On the other end, the $10,000 limited reward promised a fishing trip with FisheWear founder Leary and one each of the new FisheWear line of items, including a Kickstarter exclusive print-at-home FisheWear coloring book.
FisheWear’s Kickstarter campaign began in October and concluded in March, with 298 backers pledging $66,030 to the company, allowing FisheWear to surpass their original goal of $50,000. “We had some wonderful people supporting us,” Leary says.
According to Leary, she had wanted to introduce a wool line to FisheWear since the beginning of the company. “It was all about base-layer clothing that you wear under your waders so when you take your waders off after fishing all day… you don’t want to always have to change, and you don’t want to always be in your long-johns. You want to have street clothes that are comfortable and functional that you wear under your gear.”
She says the process of designing the wool line took about eighteen months, and right before it was ready they turned to Kickstarter to create some buzz about the new products. While Leary was excited about a Kickstarter campaign as a tool, she had heard “they’re a lot of work, extremely stressful, and it’s kind of all-hands-on-deck.”
Kickstarter provides a framework to work in and suggestions on how to be successful, but most of the work falls on the company running the Kickstarter campaign. That being said, a few weeks into the campaign, Kickstarter featured FisheWear as one of their favorite projects, which Leary says was huge, “and we were pretty excited about it.”
FisheWear’s Kickstarter campaign was ultimately successful, and Leary says one of the keys to that success was utilizing social media before and throughout the campaign. “And then communicating on a regular basis with people, letting them know what’s happening, and getting the excitement going,” she says.
One of FisheWear’s significant successes was being introduced to markets beyond Alaska. “Most of the reach that we had was in the United States,” she says, but they were eventually able to reach markets worldwide.
Leary found it interesting that FisheWear had to provide some education about Kickstarter as a fundraising platform. Some of her customers thought Kickstarter was more like GoFundMe, where people just donate money to a cause or project. “We had to be very clear with people that it’s an opportunity to pre-buy products like pre-ordering a book or music on Amazon, where a lot of people thought we were asking for money without getting anything.”
As of April 1, FisheWear fulfilled all of its Kickstarter commitments, and now their wool line and other new products are available for those who didn’t get in on the campaign.
FisheWear owner Linda Leary (Top) models the new Troutrageous leggings and neck tube; neck tubes are a layer of protection from the sun, provide warmth, and are great for wiping off sunglasses.
© Judy Patrick Photography
Leary says that as FisheWear has grown, the company has found that women who engage in many outdoor activities are looking for functional outdoor clothing suitable for all-day wear. “What we’ve found is it’s not just for fishing now, it’s kind of cross-sports. Even the fishing industry is trying to reach across all sports with the products they sell. Runners, triathletes, paddle-boarders, kayakers, hikers—they all love our products as well,” Leary says.
And the industry is interested in FisheWear. “Orvis just reached out to us, and we’re going to collaborate with them on a project,” says Leary. Having been in operation since 1856, Orvis is “America’s oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operating fly-fishing business,” according to the company’s website. Leary says FisheWear and Orvis are going to collaborate on a fly-bag for women: “It’s a fly fishing bag that just goes over your shoulder, and it’ll be with our designs on it and our logo, co-branding it with Orvis.” She says the new fly-bag should be available this November.
FisheWear products are available online and through retail locations in Alaska, she says, primarily at Mountain View Sports and BodyPhlo/Sportique in Anchorage. FisheWear also has a showroom in Anchorage at 511 West 41st Avenue. “We’re doing a hybrid model, but we’re primarily online as much as we can be,” she says.
The company is looking at how women of any sport can use their products, but Leary says for now it’s important to stick to their goal. “Our main focus is around fishing, and we don’t want to get too far away from that. I think that there’s just a tremendous amount of opportunity there. And we get a lot of guys asking us to make products for them, but we just want to get really good at making stuff for women right now and focus on that.”
FisheWear will continue to introduce new products, she says, as one avenue of growth. For example, wading belts are in the works. “If you look at wading belts they’re all solid black or brown. They’re boring,” notes Leary. FisheWear is designing belts that will go well with their other products, matching or coordinating with their leggings or dry bags. She says FisheWear is also developing a soft-shell skirt that can be worn over leggings for additional warmth.
FisheWear’s goal is clear, no matter the product or the sport, according to Leary: “Look good and have fun doing it.”
Tasha Anderson is the Associate Editor for Alaska Business.
This article first appeared in the May 2017 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly.