Omnia Fishing has seen rapid growth since their founding in 2018. In 2019, founder and CEO Matt Johnson realized there were significant opportunities and milestones ahead to achieve the kind of success he was looking for. In 2019, he began a mentoring relationship with two MESA mentors, Dan Kinsella, former CFO of SportsEngine and Scott Brown, CEO of Transfur.
Building a better mousetrap.
Matt Johnson, CEO of Omnia Fishing was no stranger to startups or fishing. Through his previous business and relationships in the fishing industry, he understood that brands in this space were looking to create a better relationship with the consumer. That relationship at the time was owned by big box retailers like Bass Pro and Cabela’s and it happened in the store, non-digitally, because selecting fishing gear is an overwhelming process and consumers needed help.
So, Matt’s idea was to do both: help the brands have a relationship with the consumer and help anglers select the right products – all online. That was the start of Omnia Fishing.
To do this, Omnia Fishing compiled data about specific lakes – depth, water clarity, species present throughout the year – and built a smart recommendation engine that matches that information to product attributes. Their recommendation engine is constantly improving through ongoing fishing reports submitted by anglers in the field. Those same reports and partnerships with major organizations, like Bass Master, build a community that keeps anglers coming back for more advice and tips, promotions, and recommendations.
By organizing scads of data and information and creating a lake-specific shopping experience, Omnia Fishing created a personalized and contextualized shopping experience for the angler. Today, their focus is bass fishing which has a national reach and represents about 65% of the $5 billion fishing gear market. Very soon, they will add crappies.
Finding the right support in MESA.
By 2019, Omnia Fishing had good traction and Matt realized that the road ahead would present challenges for him that exceed his previous experience. Matt sought mentoring to help him with key milestones: raising capital, adding employees, and coaching him as he moved from an operational role to one of a CEO.
“I was looking for a group to help me get to the next level,” explained Matt. “That relationship with Scott and Dan helped me work through two significant rounds of funding and the addition of several key leaders for the organization. They challenged me to think about what was most important to accomplish, and they coached me on where I could contribute most to the organization.”
For Matt, the most valuable aspect of working with Dan and Scott as mentors was that MESA had no ownership stake in his business.
“Talking to Dan and Scott, it felt like they were in my corner. What they wanted was my success. I was going out and battling every month, and they would keep me focused on the big goals. They had a great way of asking the right questions, and then guiding me and making suggestions. It was always me solving the issues but being able to have that relationship and going through the thought process with people that were only looking out for my growth as a CEO – that’s rare and hard to find.”
Taking it to the next level.
Omnia Fishing has changed a lot since the start of the mentoring relationship in 2019 when they were doing about $180,000 in sales. The company expanded at a rapid rate and was growing at 80% per year, and now is on a $10 million growth trajectory.
During the 2-year mentoring relationship, Matt raised two significant rounds, the most recent being $4 million. He used funding to rapidly grow his team and make investments in technology. He expanded his leadership team adding leaders for product, marketing, and data science. He also made a significant investment in their technical team to accommodate faster growth.
The market certainly wasn’t static during those two years. Omnia Fishing went from a period where things were normal to having a hyper-restricted supply chain, and then over supply of products. Through it all, Dan and Scott helped Matt stay focused on the larger goals, keeping the business aligned and achieving the growth trajectory.
“I think MESA’s really good at helping pull leaders of early growth software companies out of the vortex, and into the cool air of strategic thinking,” explained Dan. “That’s really important for entrepreneurs who are trying to define who they are as a leader and at the same time, build something substantial.”
As a mentor, Scott helped Matt understand that Omnia Fishing was a category leader, offering suggestions on how to elevate the product and vision. Dan offered critical advice on alignment, personnel and what leadership meetings should look like.
“As a business, we’re now angling toward $10 million in sales.” Matt said. “Mentoring was extremely valuable to me and to the company at a critical time of growth. I attribute a lot of the professional success I’ve had to Dan and Scott.”