Chisholm Trail Outfitters, Inc. recognized as Kansas SBDC 2016 Emerging Business of the Year by Kansas SBDC at ESU
After more than 20 years of military service and more than 30 years in the corporate world, Craig Dodd was ready for a change.
In the corporate world, Craig was immersed in recreation. And he loved it. Retirement created an opportunity to take his love of outdoor activities and blend it with his corporate experience through the creation of Chisholm Trail Outfitters, Inc. retail sales and service.
In the world of big business Craig had a team with which he could work. But as many know, in small business, a big team isn’t often a luxury you can afford. As someone that was accustomed to having the resources – people, finance, and marketing – at his disposal, it would be challenge to pursue this business with the resources of a much smaller enterprise.
For Craig, he found one such resource in Dean Claycamp, consultant at the Kansas SBDC at Emporia State University. “Dean was with me from the concept of the idea of this business venture through every aspect of development,” shared Craig. They worked on “items such as profit and loss projections, capital necessary for inventory, fixed expenses, and everything else we needed to sustain a business that wanted to grow aggressively.”
Craig’s experience had taught him that a key to success was to test what you were doing to see if it was working before you scaled up. Craig started by using the demographics of local recreational facilities in the Hillsboro, Kansas, area. What products could they need? How many would they purchase? He knew he needed to learn about his market first. “The greatest challenge [in growing this business] was to restrain myself to opening a sporting goods store business on a limited basis,” shared Craig.
Craig needed real-world and detailed data to make solid decisions on how to grow.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Understand your demographic area and the needs of your prospective customer base.[/pullquote]
By opening the store at first on a limited basis Craig generated actual local spending information. Craig kept excellent records of products that were moving so items that weren’t connecting with the needs of his customers could be quickly eliminated. Seasonal trends were carefully itemized and tracked to avoid aging inventory. Goals were separated into local and global markets.
Calling on Dean, Craig and Dean reviewed the trends of different areas of the business on a consistent basis. Craig shared that it was helpful to have Dean’s support to track of all of the items on Chisholm Trail’s business plan and to confer frequently on suggested changes on direction – both good and bad.
Using his knowledge and know-how from the big business world has helped Craig make a smooth transition into the world of small business. Craig credits the approach he took with creating a “slow and dedicated positive increase in business expansion, sales, and profitability.”
Advice from Craig
“Be prepared to solicit and listen to advice offered by other successful businesses of similar products. Understand your demographic area and the needs of your prospective customer base. It’s much easier to follow success.”
“Market trends are constantly changing, so be willing to look for and keep up with changes that will have an effect on your business. Don’t let yourself get trapped in a rut. Make changes based on the best intelligence and guidance available such as the Kansas SBDC.”
Interested in market research for your business? Learn more at the Kansas SBDC at ESU.