Chris Van Vliet is not just an entrepreneur but also a 4-time Emmy Winner and a popular YouTube show host. In this segment of the magazine, we try to understand from Vliet himself, the story of WOO and what gap does he aim to fill with his organization. Additionally, Vliet also talks about his love for fishing and how that became a driving factor for laying the foundations of WOO. Also, we get an insight into Vliet’s plan for the future of WOO and where does he see his organization ten years from now.
Chris Van Vliet – http://instagram.com/ChrisVanVliet – is a 4-time Emmy Winner and popular YouTube show host who is also the founder of WOO! Tungsten, a fishing gear company, that was listed on the Inc 500 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in North America; Chris is from Toronto and his company is one of the largest in the Canadian outdoor space.
What was the inspiration behind the founding of WOO!? What are you hoping to accomplish through your company and products?
I founded WOO! Tungsten with one of my best friends Aaron Anders who also happens to be my tournament fishing partner. Up until recently, people were fishing with lead weights which are not only much larger than an alternative like tungsten, but it’s also bad for the environment because of the negative effects it can have as it decomposes. We saw a huge, gaping hole in the fishing industry that wasn’t being filled and figured if no one else was making affordable tungsten fishing weights, that we would do it ourselves for our fellow anglers! We bought what we thought would be a 4-month supply of inventory and ended up selling out of it in the first 2 weeks. That’s when we knew we were onto something!
What strategies did you use that contributed towards the success of getting your products produced and now sold across Canada?
Word of mouth has definitely been our biggest marketing tool. Fishing is one of those things that when you like something, you’re not shy about telling your friends about it.
Most of our products are targeted towards bass fishing and the fact that both Aaron and I fish in tournaments helps to get the word out even more at a grassroots level.
When did your love of fishing and the outdoors begin?
It started when I was four years old. We had family friends who had a cottage in the Kawartha Lakes and that’s when I caught my first fish, a Rock Bass. Pardon the pun, but I was hooked! My passion for fishing and the outdoors continued to grow as I got older and I would find any excuse I could to fish for any kind of fish and in any body of water. My high school in Pickering, Ontario was only a few minutes from Duffins Creek so I stored a rod in my locker would go fishing for Salmon during lunch break. 4. Can you tell us about some of the challenges you faced as an entrepreneur and what methods you used to overcome these challenges?
Like a lot of other businesses, Covid definitely had a big effect on WOO! Tungsten. At the start of the lockdowns, fishing and other outdoor activities were banned in some parts of the country, which make it very difficult because our customer base wasn’t purchasing products. We created a shirt that said, “Fishing is Essential” which was a huge hit and gave people something to smile about at a time where there was a lot of uncertainty. The message behind the shirt was also very powerful, that fishing and other pastimes are essential to our mental health and well-being.
What can you tell us about WOO!’s marketing strategy? How are you promoting the brand?
We founded WOO! Tungsten is 2016 and leaned heavily into social media. The great thing about fishing is it’s one of those sports where people love to show off their catches and the gear that they use. We have been able to rely on a lot of user-generated content that our customers tag us in on Instagram and Facebook and then we can share them on our own accounts. On top of that, we are very active on social media, constantly liking and commenting on photos. I mean, if someone is going to take the time out of their day to take a photo of our product and tag us in it, the very least we can do is leave a comment to thank them. Using that method, we have since grown our Instagram account to 173,000 followers.
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What does the future of WOO! look like? What new products are coming out? Where do you see it heading 10 years from now?
The great thing about having a fishing company is that every time I go fishing, it’s research and development! We are constantly working on new products and perfecting our current lineup all while having the added bonus of catching fish and having fun while doing it! In 10 years, I would love to make WOO! Tungsten is the one-stop-shop for any and all tungsten needs that you might have. We already have a very wide assortment from flipping weights to drop shot weight to swimbait hooks and Ned Heads and everything in between but we would love to continue to add to that as the sport of bass fishing continues to evolve.