Posted: Feb 6, 2013 7:43 AM by Chet Layman
Updated: Feb 6, 2013 9:33 AM
BOZEMAN - Running a small business in Montana can be challenging. If your business markets just a single type of product, that challenge is even greater.
Blue Ribbon Nets, based in a residential housing neighborhood near Four Corners, west of Bozeman, has found a way to make it work.
At first glance, the Blue Ribbon Nets factory looks more like a house, because that's what it is. The factory part is located in the garage. Blue Ribbon Nets was started 13 years ago, but about six years ago two men from the construction world decided they'd take over.
Mark Klette says it was a scary transition.
"Thirty years in the remodel business is a long time, so this was a pretty drastic change to come in and do something like this as opposed to that. But it's still you're working on the craftsmanship end of things, so it's been a lot of fun," Klette said.
Today Blue Ribbon Nets are gathering fish on three continents.
"I have shipped to New Zealand and Australia, just a few nets. So online you get a few orders from international clients, but right now we don't get that many. Our main source right now is Montana, Idaho and Wyoming," business manager Mike Westfall said.
Westfall says the fishing regions of Sweden are also using Blue Ribbon Nets. Some of today's products have challenged these former builders in ways that surprised even them. Westfall points to the net material itself.
"Rubber nets are really popular right now and we couldn't find one to fit the four common models we have so I ended up designing a mold, having that mold made And our rubber nets are the only ones that I'm aware of. They're called Aqua Fade. We named them and they're made right here in the valley, injected in the valley. It's the only one that I know of that's made in the United States as far as the rubber goes," Westfall said.
Klette says the pride they take in their work shows up along the river.
"It's pretty cool you find yourself, you know we drive up and down the canyon a lot and so you're driving along and you see a fisherman out there. i wonder kind of nets is that? You know, you think about it," he said.
Blue Ribbon Nets offers 13 models from multiple types of wood, all crafted by hand with materials also made in Montana.