Introducing the Staying Afloat Series, where we take an inside look into the lives of many different fly fishing guides, shops, brands, and lodges across the world in hopes of finding out how the COVID-19 crisis is affecting them, what they are doing to help, and how we can do our part to help them.
For this feature, we interviewed Edgar Diaz, founder, and owner of SightlineProvisions based in Austin Texas.
Flylords: Edgar, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started in this industry
Edgar: Well, I’ve been a full-time visual artist since 2000. Before Sight Line Provisions, I’d travel around the country and sell my artwork at art festivals from a booth. This was a fun way to make a living, but when it came to constant travel and cost of doing so, it certainly felt like a grind and I found myself seeking something more solidified. I eventually began to practice building a brand, and eventually decided to forgo the artist-centered business model in pursuit of building something bigger than myself.
Flylords: Can you tell us a little about Sight Line Provisions and how it got started?
Edgar: So, Sight Line was started in late 2015, and was a hybrid of a different brand that I had been working on which was 5 years old at the time. At the time, I was making antique leather cuffs, but I wanted to kind of water those down and create them in the frame that you see our current product in. 2016 was my first full year of operating Sight Line, and also when I started to move the brand into a more outdoor accessory inspired light. From there, it wasn’t long before my love of fly fishing soon took over the process, and a natural transition began to change the focus from general outdoors to a fly-fishing focused brand. I eventually started contacting fly shops to see if they wanted to carry a leather cuff. Unfortunately, most people don’t respond to the terminology cuffs, so the name eventually changed to bracelets, which is what you see in our stores today.
Flylords: What has been the largest impact COVID-19 has had on your business?
Edgar: Well, for the first week we saw a massive void in online and retail sales. Orders were canceled, some orders had gone out that hadn’t been paid for, it was all a mess. It’s challenging because you have to be sensitive to people’s situations, as you know everyone is going through the same thing. The first week was very difficult, and I really had to sit down and think about how I am going to continue to maintain a living. I was worried that sightline provisions may soon become my after-hours job.
This is where my first pivot happened. As a small brand, I realized that being small and nimble was actually so advantageous as I could change around my entire sales model within around a day. I began to brainstorm ways in which I could not only find new ways to sell my own products, but also find ways to help keep my network of retailers and distributors strong and running.
Flylords: How did you respond to this change in your day to day sales tactics?
Edgar: Well first, I started with developing SLP online retailer trunk shows, where we matched each retailer with a unique artist’s edition piece on the website, and we would share 50% of the sale with them when the piece was purchased. Normally, this wouldn’t be sustainable to my model, but it opened up a lot of time to me due to the halt in sales to our wholesale partners.
I wanted to do something to help my whole-sale partners that could also benefit me. On the first day of sales, it was radio static. So, I decided to create a special pricing code for each particular show. The next day we sold 2 pieces, and the day after that we sold a few more, and so on. It was after about a week of this was able to use this to begin to support myself and SLP, as well as give retailers their cut in order to keep them afloat. Soon, more and more retailers saw that I wasn’t just trying to sell them something, but actually help them sell their products. From this, I could eventually start giving entire days to retailers so that they could sell sightline products through their channels and make money off of it.
Flylords: Recently, you’ve been doing a lot of work with the Mayfly Project, can you tell us more about that?
Edgar: So, the mayfly project Is a non-profit organization that helps get foster care kids on the water through fly fishing. They have chapters all over the country where guides volunteer to take these kids on incredible trips and give them a chance to have some pretty life-changing experiences.
SLP’s involvement all started with me just thinking about ways to help out struggling guides. Naturally, I thought of the mayfly project. So, I called the director who I had worked with previously to chat about what I could do to help. I had a few hats in the shop from a former campaign I had done with them, so I put some trout stamps on them and put them up on the site. My goal was to get 4 guides completely payed through the sale of the hats, which I figured could get 8 kids on the water. So, I called up Kris Rockwell of the S. Kent Rockwell Foundation, and he immediately made a massive pledge that already surpassed what we aimed to raise. I then talked to Dexter Levandoski from Patagonia’s Fly Fishing department, who sent me some Patagonia truckers to add to the weekend inventory.
I now had 50 hats that needed to be badged up and sold, and shockingly, within a few days we were already sold out of the mayfly hats and deep into our inventory of Patagonia hats. after not even a week of the hats being up on the site, we had sold around 80 hats, and are able to pay off about 18 guide’s and send them money in order to get 36 kids set to go on trips. With the help of all the contributions SLP was not only able to help these guides, but also get my staff paid and my shop still operation.
Flylords: What is something that community members and retailers in the fly fishing industry should be thinking about right now?
Edgar: Something that’s important to remember is the importance of Brick and Morter retailers in the fly-fishing industry, and how essential it is that they stay in business. Nowadays, you can sell just about anything online. However, when it comes to the experience of just walking into a fly shop and witnessing the soul and feeling of talking to anglers who have been in the game for god only knows how long, it’s crucial to remember that can’t be replicated virtually. In finding new and creative ways to support one another in this trying time, we’re all developing ways to maintain the spirit of fly shops and retailers because it allows people to buy with purpose. What affects a few of us, affects us all.
Flylords: Is there anything new coming from SLP that we should keep an eye out for?
Edgar: This Friday we’re going to be having what’s called a “Guides Day On”, where different featured guides will have bracelets that can be sold in order to gain a bit of revenue in this trying time. Each bracelet purchased from under each guide’s collection will send 50% of the sale to them.
Also, Keep an eye out for our daily retailer take-overs, such as Sportsmans Finest, which will be tomorrow and Anglersall which will be on Thursday. Also, remember to keep thinking of ways to support local guides in need, as well as your local fly shops.
Cheers to Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing for making this series possible. Throughout the “Staying Afloat Series,” we will be sending beer to people who are really in need of a “pick me up”. If you have a good story for someone who deserves some beer shoot us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to check out Sight Line Provisions if you’re looking to support fly-fishing retailers or just to find some sweet fly-fishing themed bracelets and hats! Thank you again Edgar for taking the time to share your story with us. To catch us live with Edgar, tune into the Flylords Instagram tonight at 7:00pm (EST)!
All images courtesy of Sight Line Provisions