Joe Pippins from Kansas pitched his product, the Fishing Caddy, on Steve Harvey’s Funderdome. On the show, entrepreneurs pitch in a head-to-head competition for the chance to win up to $100,000 in funding. The pitch that gets the most audience votes wins the money. Before the winner is announced, both competitors get the chance to “cash out” for a lower sum of money.
Brandon Andrews of Values Partnerships sat down with Pippins after the show.
(Steve Harvey and Fishing Caddy CEO Joe Pippins. Image: ABC/Lisa Rose)
Brandon Andrews: Tell us The Fishing Caddy story. Also, what’s the best catch you’ve ever made?
Joe Pippins: I took up fishing much like a lot of famous fishermen, including Tiger Woods, Oprah, and even President Obama. There are over 46 million fishermen in the United States, and 26% of them fish as a way to reduce stress and spend time in nature. However, I quickly noticed that the process to begin fishing was such a hassle and had a lot of unnecessary repetitive steps.
My rods were too far away. When I used metal rod holders I would run down only to find my bait and fish gone. I had to carry my tackle box to store my tackle, a bucket to sit on, a stringer to hold my catch, and flashlights for visibility at night. It felt like I had a mountain of gear with each item only serving one purpose. You have only two hands so I would often have to make several trips. The worst part is we fishermen fish to bond and make memories with family and friends. That’s hard to do when you’re stressed out fighting your gear on every trip.
I would get excited about going fishing but then sometimes wouldn’t due to me being short on time. I realized that half my time allotted for fishing [was spent] just messing with my gear. Then the light bulb went off. What if I combined all the necessary items I need to fish into one product: A place to sit; a place to hold your tackle; a place to hold your rods securely; ways to notice your bites 200% quicker; [and] a place to keep your fish when you take them home to prepare them for a meal.
Then, I wondered how to keep it from tipping over. That’s when the light bulb went off again. Why not just use the unlimited resource of water weight? So the first step in using The Fishing Caddy is to dip it in water adding up to 40 lbs. of water weight to keep it from tipping over if you left it unattended.
I knew I was onto something revolutionary because everyone kept asking me if they could buy one. So I started selling my “prototypes” to customers made out of Home Depot parts all across America to prove my concept. I was making sales of the homemade prototypes and with great feedback. Each Fishing Caddy was handmade including the seat that I hand stitched to perfection. It took about one hour to make one Fishing Caddy at this point. So after my day job in finance I would be up until 3:00 a.m. spray painting parts. Oftentimes, I went to work the next day with black paint everywhere, including my hands.
It was important [for] me to find flaws now instead of when I went to mass production, so I put a 60-Day Money Back Guarantee on each Fishing Caddy and followed up with each customer after their order to get feedback. Needless to say there were a few design flaws I needed to change. So with the customer feedback I kept making improvements over the last three years to design and build the model you see today, The Fishing Caddy 2.0.
My wife has been my best catch! We have been married since high school and were teen parents. She has been patient and has been as supportive of my vision as a serial entrepreneur for The Fishing Caddy brand and bringing it to market. So she is my prized catch.
Andrews: What makes The Fishing Caddy different?
Pippins: The Fishing Caddy was designed and built with the feedback from real fishermen and the wives of fishermen over the last three years. So, I didn’t just build something that I thought was effective. I listened to my customers, which is why it has been so well received.
There is no other product on the market that combines all your gear into one product that can be used year around. We are the first to market with this approach and [created the] world’s first all-in-one; year-round fishing system. You can use it in a variety of outdoors situations and environments including bank fishing which accounts for 50% of all fishing in the USA. The Fishing Caddy can be used in the boat, piers, kayaks and even ice fishing.
The Fishing Caddy is very well built and made in the USA which is something I’m proud of. In the fishing industry, a large portion of the products are made in China and [are of] low quality.
Lastly, The Fishing Caddy has been a focal point of reconnecting people with memories of their childhood. Most of my customers have memories of fishing and oftentimes those individuals have passed on. So when they go fishing with The Fishing Caddy, they instantly remember those people and memories that [they] hold dear to their heart. Fishing is now a lot easier, modern, and streamlined. People are going fishing more to continue the legacy of the sport.
(Matt Weist, Jerry Allmendinger, Steve Harvey, and Fishing Caddy CEO Joe Pippins. Image: ABC/Lisa Rose)
Andrews: “Get your daddy a Fishing Caddy! That is one of the most memorable lines from Season 1 of Funderdome. How did you prepare for your pitch?
Pippins: My pitch—yes it was so much fun! I remember going over my lines over and over sometimes even doing it to music just to make sure I could still execute and not get distracted. I drank blueberry juice, which is a great mental aide and even wrote down my vision of winning the show at least 30 times prior to taping the show. The hardest part about my pitch was simplifying what The Fishing Caddy was since it’s an all-new concept. I wanted the audience to understand the most important features and remember them so I practiced at least three times a day.
Andrews: Congrats! You won capital on the show. Were you tempted to cash out?
Pippins: No, I knew I had prepared rigorously for that moment and didn’t come that far to take the easy way out. I came to win Funderdome and I visualized The Fishing Caddy being the fan favorite and it happened!
Andrews: Give us a post-show update. How do you plan to grow your business in 2017?
Pippins: Since 70% of my customers are women I plan on making an infomercial and desire to make an appearance on HSN where my customers are already buying. The Fishing Caddy makes an excellent unique gift idea with many 5-star reviews from both the gift giver and the end user.
We also are already planning to approach major companies such as Boy Scouts of America and other corporations such as UPS, Ford, Chevrolet, or organizations to build and design a Fishing Caddy for their companies. I see a military-branded Fishing Caddy coming down the pipe as well since the majority of our end users have bravely served our country. So these corporations will have a product to offer to their employees that’s unique, made in the USA, and shows thoughtfulness. It’s been proven: Employees that participate in hobbies such as fishing are overall happier and have higher production and better work/ life balance.
Andrews: What do entrepreneurs like you need to be successful? How can shows like Funderdome help?
Pippins: I believe the first thing entrepreneurs need to be successful is to get their idea out. What I originally thought would be The Fishing Caddy and what it is today is quite a bit different. Had I kept this idea to myself and not did everything I could to get proof of concept and sales, I would not have even been selected to appear on Funderdome.
Secondly, you must know the difference between critics and consumers. Critics offer nothing of value, they just want to tear you down. These type of people are negative and don’t bring any value to your vision. Consumers offer advice on how to make your product better. They will be the first to say, “Try this and I would buy it if you offered this.” Take their advice and listen to them. There [are] often huge rewards in having thick skin.
Funderdome will help you get awareness out and attract resources to fill the gap in the areas you may need help with bringing a great idea to market. To any fellow entrepreneurs/inventors; apply to Funderdome to help bring your dream to reality and get funded.