When Craig Dodd stepped away from the corporate world after a 30-year career, opening a small outdoors shop in Hillsboro seemed to be a suitable change of pace.
Trouble was, he didn’t quite know how to go about it.
“I spent 30 years in the corporate world, but I never had to start a business on my own,” he said. “I thought I knew it all.”
Seeking assistance, he started with Mayor Delores Dalke, then economic development director Clint Seibel, who helped him connect with Kansas Small Business Development Center, an advising and training service for small businesses.
“They were very helpful,” Dodd said. “Even at my age you can learn something when you go to people that were successful.”
Dodd opened Chisholm Trail Outfitters in 2011, moved to his present location in 2013, and his business has proven so successful that KSBDC recently named it one of eight “Emerging Businesses of the Year.”
The award caught Dodd by surprise.
“It just came out of the blue,” he said. “I didn’t apply for it, I didn’t pay for it, it just came out of the blue.”
Dodd said that KSBDC looks at various businesses they’ve worked with to see how far they’ve come and how they’ve utilized the support provided, but he’s never been told specifically what earned him the award.
“I just assume it was my pretty face,” he said.
The business has grown more than Dodd imagined, both in inventory and customers.
“It’s been great around here,” he said. The people around here have been very supportive. I’ve been here long enough to gain a reputation in Wichita, McPherson, Salina, over in Chase County. I’ve got a guy who comes in here from Oklahoma.”
Thirty years of experience didn’t entirely go to waste, as Dodd credits one skill for pulling in customers.
“Coming out of the corporate world, it’s communication,” he said. “I try to stay in contact, thank them for their businesss, and if they have a problem I try to solve it personally. You can’t go into a big box store and get that kind of service.”
Dodd sells far more than guns and ammunition. He’s branched out into saddles and tack, fishing and camping gear, archery equipment, clothing, surplus military gear, and even portable sheds.
“Somebody can come here and spend a day just finding everything in my nooks and crannies,” he said.
KSBDC chose 17 businesses for awards from among more than 2,000 they worked with in 2015. Dodd will travel Tuesday to Topeka, where they will be recognized in both houses of the Legislature before receiving their awards from Gov. Sam Brownback.
Dodd said his experience with Chisholm Trail Outfitters taught him much about opening a business that he would recommend to others.
“In the Readers’ Digest version, solicit all the experience and information you can get before you start,” he said. “Just don’t think you’re going to be able to go in and start and make it a success. You have to get in with people in the line of business you want to establish. They’ve already made the mistakes. Utilize their experience and let them tell you.”