Crisis Proves Out Omnia Fishing’s Digital Strategy
Omnia Fishing recently expanded the retail area of its Golden Valley warehouse, which is currently closed to the public.

Crisis Proves Out Omnia Fishing’s Digital Strategy

The Minneapolis e-commerce startup is projecting $1 million in revenue for 2020, up from $200,000 last year.

Many a fishing enthusiast will say that solitude is one of the perks of being out on the water. With so few ways to safely get out of the house right now, the independence inherent to the sport makes it all the more appealing. As a result, Omnia Fishing, a Twin Cities e-commerce startup that helps anglers buy fishing gear based on the specific bodies of water they fish, is experiencing a surge in traffic and recently added four employees to assist with demand. The company is projecting $1 million in revenue for 2020, up $800,000 from 2019, which was its first full year of operation.

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Omnia Fishing founders Dan Wick, Matt Johnson, and Chris Morgal

“We started out as a scrappy outfit with proven technology targeting a huge hole in the market,” says Omnia Fishing co-founder and CEO Matt Johnson, a serial entrepreneur who also co-founded Able Brewing and Contour Innovations. He started Omnia with avid anglers and entrepreneurs Dan Wick, founding chief technology officer of Red Stamp, and Chris Morgal, who worked with Johnson on mapping technology for Lowrance. With their proven track record, the trio raised $1 million from local investors before launching. “We feel like we’ve got a big one here and it’s something the market has been looking for.”

Unlike some retailers that are experiencing a temporary surge due to changes in consumer behavior brought on by Covid-19, Johnson and his team are confident that the disruption has only accelerated the conversion rate for Omnia Fishing, and once shoppers discover the website, they’ll be hooked. “Our full suite of products and technology that include connections between product content development, product reviews, fishing report and actual product sales allows us to reconnect the people that make the products with end consumers,” Johnson says. “That’s missing today with major brands being hamstrung by their relationships with big box retailers—a place where the shopping experience has declined quickly. Omnia’s model is the future of tackle retail and we’re excited about getting her early.”

We talked to Johnson about how his team responded to the sudden change.

TCB: How has your work been disrupted by coronavirus? 

Johnson | The biggest negative has been the loss of our storefront and meeting space.  Due to more interest in in-person shopping than we initially expected, we recently expanded our Golden Valley space from 2,000 square feet of warehouse with 200 square feet of retail to 7,000 square feet, with 2,000 square feet of retail.  We did a handful of events for fishing organizations in February and it was a big success and the start of a community hub for anglers to congregate. We’ve had to cancel all future events, including a grand opening to show off the space.

This is an important time of year when everyone is gearing up and it’s a great opportunity for us to show new products and features on the Omnia site.  We’ve also been adding a lot of brands and products that people in this market want to stop in and see. We’re lucky that most of our sales come from online but we like that we can offer local anglers to shop our entire warehouse selection in-person and we’ve had to lock the door.  That connection to the local customer feels lost.

Q. Have you shifted to delivery only? 

A | Actually, we are open to the public for same-day curbside pickup. We come out to the car to drop off or leave in the vestibule in the front. Delivery orders placed before 2 p.m. ship the same day.  Most metro area orders arrive the next day and nationwide is 2-5 days. We’re offering free shipping on all orders, no minimums.

Q. What is online traffic like now? 

A | We saw huge increases in traffic to our lake pages nationwide. People are researching their fishing trips and stocking up based on the research and data we have available on our lake pages.  Because the lake pages give such detailed information, people can make smarter purchase decisions and feel good about what they are choosing to spend money on.  We have the tools and data available to combine research with retail. It’s a perfect fit for these times when people are watching their spending.  It gives customers the confidence they are getting the right mix of gear for the lake they are headed to and not wasting money on tackle that doesn’t apply.

Q. But will people even be out fishing this spring and summer? 

A | Fishing is a physically safe activity that people can still enjoy with their family or on their own.  Gov. Walz is encouraging walleye opener to go on as planned.  With 10,000 lakes in Minnesota you can always find space whether it’s from shore or in your boat.

Q. How is your supply chain holding up with so many manufacturers shut down or handicapped by Coronavirus? 

A | We’re starting to see a couple days added to each step in the supply chain as manufacturers and distributors shut down their warehouses for periods of time or reduce staff.  We turn product often, so we’ve had to pay close attention to it and plan for those delays.

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Q. What about your own work environment? 

A. We can fulfill orders with one worker by themselves in the warehouse.  If needed, we stagger them.  Plenty of physical distance.

Q. Are your investors convinced that the spike in traffic will be sustained? 

A | We were actually in the middle of closing a sizable round when this all hit.  We immediately delivered a plan in response to the pandemic that extends our runway, even at the risk of restricting growth.  Much of that runway extension came from dramatically reducing marketing budgets.  That was well received and on top of our plan, we’ve actually seen growth in revenue with a spike in organic traffic and sales.  The current fear internally and within our investor group is the unknown impact on future funding cycles.  Our process is to execute, plan and prove that you can still grow a startup in challenging times, and we think that will highlight the strength of our team.  Fishing, especially tackle, has also proven to be a relatively recession proof industry so we’re looking from a lot of angles.