In this installment of “Behind the Brand”, we sat down with Sim Whately, founder of the popular hunting and fishing brand: Duck Camp Co. With the arrival of their new Spring Apparel Line, we wanted to catch up with Sim, and get a behind-the-scenes look into the trials and tribulations of starting a small business, and how this whole thing came to be. Having produced some of the most comfortable and practical outdoor apparel on the market, we’ve taken Duck Camps gear on our adventures far and near. It’s with that level of personal connection that we’re excited to take you, “Behind the Brand”.
FL: WHO is Duck Camp Co?
Sim: I’m reading a book right now about the brand Patagonia. They describe their core customer as a “dirtbag” which I think is pretty awesome, and something that resonates a little for us. I think it’s important to remember that we aim to make products to a level of quality that our core customer sometimes might struggle to afford, but which they need, since they put our gear to the test the most. Our customer is the guy that wants to learn, wants to be better, isn’t going to let a day of being skunked ruin their mood, but usually doesn’t get skunked. A DIY guy that might go to the Bahamas and book a day with a guide, but will also spend the next 3 days getting after it with some friends. The guy that didn’t forget to pack some wire leader or a flask, but might have forgotten the sunscreen!
FL: Where’d the name come from (Besides the obvious answer)?
Sim: There are a number of emotions that are evoked from time spent at the Camp. It is a combination of anticipation, camaraderie, excitement, awe. It is filling for the soul, to get out of the city, to spend time with friends and family on the water, in the woods, pursuing those activities that bring us back to nature. We tried to capture some of that in the Brand. It is as much about the fish caught, limits bagged, tags punched, as it is about the time spent enjoying the whole experience. It all happens at the Camp!
FL: What inspired you to start Duck Camp Co.
Sim: I was inspired by a few things off the back of the expansion of technical clothing in the hunt space. The type of technical outdoor apparel more common in climbing/alpine sports was being applied to hunting and it made a ton of sense, but I felt like there wasn’t a brand speaking to our core customer. Most of the brands we saw were expedition-style hunt brands, and while we love to fish and hunt, it is the entire event that we want to be a part of, and to celebrate! Everything from practicing your cast at the park (to confused onlookers), to the food, the boats, the dogs, the flies, the shared drinks around the fire. Not just the grip and grins!
FL: What is your personal background? How did this affect the way the business was structured?
Sim: I grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. My grandfather was a big outdoorsman; co-founder of the New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club in Venice, LA, Chairman of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, conservationist awarded the Conservation Award by Ducks Unlimited twice, and generally a teller of tall tales. My father followed in some of his (more sensible) footsteps, but did a good job of introducing the outdoors to me. There was a strong sense of entrepreneurship and a love for the outdoors that has persisted in the family.
Following my time at LSU, I move to Dubai for almost 10 years, co-founding a business with a friend that we grew through that region. When I returned home in early 2014, I wanted nothing more than to spend some quality time in the marshes and woods that I missed while living overseas. I think that time getting back in those environments, as well as seeing some of the new things in the market, helped to germinate the idea of Duck Camp.
FL: What were you trying to accomplish with the brand? How does Duck Camp differ from other brands its competitors?
Sim: While I think some of this question may be answered above, we are trying to provide a line of apparel/gear that performs in the elements (hot, humid, cold, wet), is comfortable, both in those elements but not necessarily in need of them, and that is centered around a brand that celebrates time spent chasing fish and critters in sometimes dangerous but always beautiful environments.
FL: What were some other brands/ people you drew inspiration from when developing duck camps brand ethos?
Sim: One can’t play in the outdoor space without looking up to YETI. They have taken story presentation and Brand ethos to another level. I personally love how iconic Patagonia has been for 50+ years and they make some amazing products with true authenticity within their sports. I’ve had the pleasure to work with and get to know Nick Kelley and Andy Anderson, who are such fantastic artists, and I’m constantly reminded about how small this industry is but it has been relatively welcoming so far.
FL: What did Duck Camp look like in the beginning? Were there some uncertainties?
Sim: Duck Camp has followed the traditional startup path. 1. Have an idea 2. Try to convince others that your idea is worth working on. 3. Try not to make too many mistakes while you prove your idea and before you run out of money.
Uncertainties arise daily, if not, hourly, sometimes in the middle of the night. It is the excitement of working on a new idea and the added challenge of playing in an industry that does not put up with inauthentic people that makes it even more rewarding.
FL: what was one of the largest obstacles Duck Camp has had to overcome to get the brand to where it is today?
Sim: Building quality products and finding trusted partners to do it with will always be a challenge. It takes a lot of research, testing, trust, and patience, for a business that is trying to move quickly and to some extent break the mold. Finding those partners, building credibility, and delivering on that promise is definitely our biggest obstacle, and we still have a long way to go.
FL: What would you say has been one of your greatest successes since the start of the brand?
Sim: I am just constantly amazed at the level of talent we are able to attract to the company. We have a really strong group of folks that are working extremely hard to build quality products. We are proud of the team we have created, the products we are building and the stories we are trying to tell.
FL: Specifically in the fly-fishing space, how has duck camp tailored their product to match the needs of the modern-day angler?
Sim: What I love about fly fishing is that it quite often has the elements of travel and beautiful scenery involved. Duck Camp was born out of the excitement of packing a bag for a long weekend off the grid at a camp or lodge and spending time with friends and family, and it shares that with fly fishing. We love to bring out the elements of exciting travel, hard fishing, celebrations, and tribulations. You’ll see that in the versatility of what we offer for Spring. Pieces that can be worn on the airplane, at the bar, and most importantly, on the bow of a boat.
FL: Personally, are you more of a hunter or fisherman?
Sim: Such a tough question. I have 4 kids now and my “hall passes” are getting harder and harder to acquire. I honestly equally love waterfowl, whitetail, and saltwater fly fishing, but these days I can usually negotiate a beach vacation with a couple of half-days fishing easier than I can convince my wife to go to Arkansas in January!
FL: What’s next for Duck Camp Co?
Sim: Duck Camp just wants to be along for the ride. Hopefully in your suitcase, but potentially in person, wherever you’re going that is badass. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call and invite us on that all-expenses-paid trip to COSMO or Alaska that you have an extra spot for!
Thank you to Sim, and the Duck Camp crew for giving us the time to sit down and pick their brains. To check out Duck Camp’s new Spring Apparel Line CLICK HERE. Also, check them out on Instagram to keep up with new releases and adventures!