Nelson fisherman's safety invention finds success in global market
Hard work and a bit of Kiwi ingenuity have paid off for a fisherman whose deceptively simple invention is making big waves here and abroad.
Darren Hodgson, of Nelson, was blown away by the massive demand for his products LureLock and SinkerLock at ICAST, the world's largest sportfishing trade show, held in Orlando, Florida earlier this month.
The locks are marine-grade plastic clips which secure the sinker or lure onto the rod and keep them from bouncing around a moving boat.
The SinkerLock has been well received in New Zealand and Australia from its initial launch at a "tiny" trade show in Motueka three years ago and Hodgson decided to float the LureLock on the U.S market.
He said he walked into ICAST hoping for a few business leads.
"What I didn't realise was, because it's the biggest fishing expo on the planet, people are coming from all over to buy.
"The first people who came up to me were a nicely-dressed Japanese couple in suits. I gave them a quick demonstration and the guy said 'I'd like to order what's in the cabinets and 400 loose ones.' I said 'that's $1000.'"
By the end of the three-day convention he had the market hooked, with 400 orders, a sponsorship offer from the American NFL and exclusive deals to stock over 7000 stores across the U.S, Mexico and United Arab Emirates.
"This guy wants to write me a blank cheque and I'm having to push him off to talk to another one.
"It was beyond my wildest expectations. I'm still shaking," he said.
Hodgson seemed to have filled a gap in recreational fishing markets everywhere but only developed the "simple but brilliant" idea after a fishing accident.
"A sinker had swung around and hit me in the back of the head and of course I leaned forward and the hook got me in the back of the shoulder.
"I stole some of my partner's hair clips and started playing around with some playdough."
Even through the unwavering support of his friends and early success with a government grant and online crowdfunding effort, Hodgson said there were times he wanted to give up on the business.
"I had to sell my Harley Davidson [motorcycle] to do it. I was crying and my partner said 'what's wrong?' and I said 'yesterday I had a Harley and today I have plastic clips.'"
He said it was a giant relief to see his $47,000 investment to attend ICAST pay off after encountering multiple travel disasters.
"My Australian agent got delayed, my flight hit two cyclones, our rental car was given away and out baggage was lost.
"I invested my life savings and it just about turned to custard."
Now his factory in China is working 24/7, producing SinkerLocks and LureLocks in eight colours and glow-in-the-dark variety.
Not willing to let his success rest, Hodgson's applied for a $180,000 loan to make sure hundreds of urgent orders are fulfilled.
"It's really humbling," he said.
"It's been a hell of a ride and it's only just beginning."