In less than two years, BaitCloud has gone from concept to the retail shelves across many major outdoor retailers in North America, a feat that is quite rare. Similar to an episode of Shark Tank or Dragon's Den, owner, Cheryl Hopkins, a mother of three, took her idea from the garage to Bass Pro Shops, Cabela's and Dick's Sporting Goods in record time, and with no venture investment.
The story began in March 2015 when Cheryl had a conversation with Carl Rudnik, a recreational angler, who was frustrated by getting skunked (slang for not catching any fish) on too many fishing outings. Their conversation inspired an idea. What if she took the concept of a bath bomb and converted it into a "bait" bomb for fishing? She shared the idea with Carl and he was intrigued. With further spurring from her entrepreneurial husband, the wheels were set in motion.
Motivated, Cheryl researched the idea and together with Carl, produced the first prototypes. Carl and his dad tested them on the ice in late March and were surprised at how effective they were at attracting fish. And so, BaitCloud was born!
Over the next year, in a small garage-like factory in Oakville, Canada the formula was fine-tuned by engineer/scientist, David Balke. With conservation, the environment and fishing regulations in mind, raw materials were carefully sourced and production began with a small army of high school students (including all three of the Hopkins children). Cheryl discovered that BaitCloud uses biomimicry, or science and innovation to mimic nature to create the unique multi-sensory attractants.
Hopkins, who refers to herself as an accidental entrepreneur, having no experience in the marketing of consumer goods, outsourced the corporate branding to online designers, LogoWorks.com. She was inspired by an image she found on the internet and experienced in nature during many diving adventures. Further marketing material would be created by Fiverr, an online $5 marketplace keeping the startup costs to a minimum. With the branding, packaging, and website designed, BaitCloud was ready to launch.
Just before the 2016 Spring Fishing and Boat Show in Toronto, fishing celebrity Italo Labignan approached the team with an offer. He had tested the product, was excited about its potential and wanted to use his popular TV show “Canadian Sportsfishing” to help promote BaitCloud. Another respected fishing industry veteran, Gord Pyzer, the Fishing Editor at Outdoor Canada Magazine declared the product “… may be the year’s best new hardwater bait.” Momentum continued to build, and the company was able to secure industry leaders like Canada Pro as their sales agency, Big Rock as a distributor and Raymond Rumpf, Inc. as their partner in the US. At the ICAST fishing industry trade show in July 2016, the product captured the attention of many key buyers with an amazing three-minute video “Moments” filmed by Ryan Bonin, of BaitCloud in action with epic underwater and lifestyle images.
Then came the big break! In August, the company posted a 30-second video, “Bass Love BaitCloud” demonstrating the product in action. Within 72 hours, the video had gone viral reaching over 20 million people and has since been viewed over 10 million times! This generated a surge of consumer buying from around the globe and allowed the company to secure orders from Cabela’s, Dick's Sporting Goods, and Bass Pro Shops. Unlike most consumer products that often have to compete for scarce shelf space, BaitCloud was offered premier retail end-cap positioning including video point-of-sale messaging. The product is now zipping off the shelves all around the world.
While every year countless products are invented, only very few entrepreneurs can pull off what Cheryl and BaitCloud have done: invent, introduce a novel product, capture the attention of a massive market, and then secure major retailer and distribution support for their product, most recently the retail giant Walmart. Maybe it’s true what they say; behind every good fisher-MAN is a good fisher-WOMAN!
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