Darrell Bartel, a former Green Bay resident who now lives in Waupaca, had an idea. It all started years ago when he shot his first turkey. Since decoys are a necessity for most hunters, he purchased a tail-mounted decoy kit, which he considered confusing and ineffective.
“It was a bit fiddly and difficult to assemble,” explains Bartel. “Later, when I was hunting with a buddy, I saw him using an attached turkey fan as a decoy. It was a decoy tactic that had been used for decades.”
Intrigued by this type of decoy, Bartel got busy in his shop. He began perfecting the process of creating a dual-purpose turkey decoy. It can be wall mounted for display and can be turned into a hunting decoy by adding galvanized steel stakes. He named it “Jake’s Tail Holder” and started his hobby business in 2002.
As the years went by, decoys were sold at hunting and sporting shows and in a few retail outlets. Intrigued by the product, he wondered what it would be like to run Waupaca as a full-time business after retiring from years of work at his foundry.
This led to a competitive analysis and search for similar products. After failing to find anything similar, he began to believe that decoys could bring to the market something better than anything else available.
“I hired a patent consultant to do more extensive research. He introduced me to several different patent attorneys. I applied.”
He received a patent in 2018. His Elevator In his pitch, Bartel says it has many advantages. The turkey fan can be hung on the wall and used as a decoy when hunting by inserting a steel stake. The decoys are flat, easy to stack and carry, and spin in the slightest breeze.
“Are you tired of lugging big, bulky decoys in and out of the field?” he asks. “It’s easy to assemble and you’ll have your turkey tail fixed to the wall in no time. It’s only 1/4 inch thick, so you can easily move it from the wall to the field.”
But having a good product is nothing without a strategy to bring it to market. Despite his leadership experience in the Marine Corps and as a foundry foreman, Bartel knew he needed to learn more about entrepreneurship. That led him to his Fox Valley Technical College Entrepreneurship Program in Appleton, where he took the E-seed course.
There, with the help of an excellent mentor, he was taught subjects ranging from marketing to financial planning.
“I learned that there is a lot of help and resources out there,” Bartel said. I’ve tried to do everything myself, but I’ve learned that there are multiple ways to do things and you can’t do everything yourself.
But he wasn’t alone in the process. When he finds himself in a difficult situation, he relies on his wife, three sons, family and friends. He says he also gets help on his website and social media because he spends his 50-60 hours a week on the business.
Meanwhile, as the business grew, he added more products, learned to operate a CNC machine so he could cut himself, redesigned the product to be more durable, and applied for another patent.
Branding as Flatline Your Bird
His product line has expanded to include turkeys, geese, owls and other silhouettes. He does custom sign engraving and sells t-shirts and hoodies. Another big change since its inception was his name. He acquired his LLC as Kjendalen Enterprises in recognition of his family, but knew he needed something easier to brand.
“In 2018, as our business grew, we came up with the ‘Flatline Your Bird Series Decoy’ because all of our decoys are flat, and when you harvest the birds, they become flatline.”
The business is privately funded with a current investment of approximately $60,000, including patented processes and machinery. He has his 1 patent, 1 patent pending, and his 3 registered trademarks. Due to costs, we have limited inventory and would like to be able to continue our business without taking out a loan.
“The hardest thing to overcome in the last few years is the very high cost of materials. We bought CNC machines to keep costs down. says Mr. “We also launched Flatline Custom Engraving, which designs, creates and manufactures custom engraved signs.”
Flatline Your Bird has been promoted on social media and at outdoor shows throughout the area. To increase his exposure, he is working on a marketing plan. He had never been in business, so it was a learning experience.
“What I know now is to focus, dream, get what you want and create it,” he said. “I learned a lot from the Marine Corps — It’s amazing how much is planted in you.Don’t expect someone else to do what you don’t.And work hard.I wake up every morning at 4:30 or 5:00 and go to my store, this is my retirement.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is a co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and served as District Director for SCORE, Wisconsin.