Imagine going from a career as a landscape architect to a print designer and owning your own ecommerce store. Founder and owner of Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club, Doug Benson, quickly made that transition when a client asked him to design a simple t-shirt. Read on to find out how Doug is successfully running his business from various trial-and-error efforts and targeting an eclectic group of customers.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you sell at Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club.
Hi, my name is Doug Benson – the owner of Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club – Fish Hunt and Biker Shop. I am a print designer and before that I had a career as a landscape architect. While working as a landscape architect I had a client ask me if I could design a t-shirt for him. He was going on a fishing trip with a group of friends and he said, “All we do is stand in the river, catch tons of fish and say, Fucking-A.” he told me. My idea was to modify the word and make it look like an old Scandinavian fishing camp like you might find in northern Minnesota or Wisconsin. My client loved them and we printed a couple dozen. Whenever I wore my shirt someone would ask me, “Hey where can I get one of those?”
My first real customer was a guy who would buy 50 or 100 at a time and sell them at bars. When he ran out he’d come back and buy another batch. We’d usually meet in a parking lot at night, he’d hand me a big wad of cash and I would give him a box of t-shirts.
When did you start selling online? Why?
While working as a graphic designer I had a number or clients ask me if I could help them with their website. I had never designed a website and told them so. Then I had an idea, “I’ll design my own website, practice on myself, and sell my Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club t-shirts online.”
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in building and running Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club?
Even though I’m a designer, the geek side of websites and electronic communications has never been easy for me. I have to rely on others to help me with this stuff, which means spending money, and sometimes it doesn’t work as planned. One of the biggest challenges for me is getting customers to my website. When I can target the right customers, I get results.
How do you attract new customers?
Facebook has been great, effective and reasonably priced. I’m new to Bizzy but I’m optimistic I’ll get results. I am constantly trying to improve my organic web traffic, usually by hiring SEO experts (who don’t always turn out to be experts). I have a bumper sticker that I include in every order. I have had a lot of fun with those. My favorite though is on-site events – hunting, fishing, biker and beer tasting events are my favorite. I love meeting and talking with people, and I’m constantly getting suggestions for new shirt ideas.
Can you share a tip or something interesting you learned in the process of building and running Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club?
This crazy business makes me laugh every day. More than anything, that’s why I stuck with it. As you can imagine, my customers are quite an interesting group. Anyone who has ever worn one of my shirts or hats knows what it’s like to have someone stare at them for a period of time, nudge their buddy to take a look, and then see a huge grin spread across both their faces when that “AHA” moment occurs. And that, of course, has been another of the challenges with selling these – sometimes it’s not obvious what the logo says.
I don’t know if there has been a magic bullet effect yet, but the cumulative effect of all the things I’ve tried has made it fun, exciting, educational and sometimes profitable.
Check out Fawkinnae Sportsman’s Club if you’re in need for a clever t-shirt that makes people stop and think on the spot.