Bigfoot is alive and well at a new Green Bay business that has global aspirations.
Tony Giovanetti and his wife, Patti, have launched Northwoods Life, LLC, (northwoodslife.net) a lifestyle brand focused on people who have a passion for the lifestyle of the Northwoods.
A Green Bay SCORE client, Giovanetti became acquainted with SCORE when he was considering the purchase of a business. Although he decided not to pursue that opportunity, the spark of entrepreneurship was ignited, and family vacations to St. Germain led to a new idea. "I liked the Northwoods, and I like shirts and hats, but I thought some of the stuff in the shops was expensive and bland," he said. "We knew there was a market up there for sure and when we looked at the map, we saw how big it was."
It showed an expansive area stretching across the country from Maine to Washington and into Canada; even dipping into Green Bay. This convinced him that there were thousands of potential customers — outdoor enthusiasts who he says are looking to be one with nature, to unwind, reunite with family and friends, or just unplug.
Then, there’s the fun factor. Enter Bigfoot, the original Northwoods native.
"I had kind of a pseudo board meeting with my inner circle, and I displayed our products and said I wanted to do one more shirt before fall, and somehow we got onto the subject of Bigfoot," Giovanetti said. "It was fun and something that would grab our customers."
It has been a big seller, and a compliment to the product line that includes clothing, glassware, candles, face shields, accessories, games, bracelets and headwear.
Each item is carefully considered before it is added for sale as Giovanetti has self-funded the business and wants to control expenses and keep inventory within limits. He and his wife work full time, and along with help from their three children and advice from friends, do all the tasks associated with the business.
With a long career in sales, Giovanetti has experience in most aspects related to production, marketing, pricing and design. His children help with social media, and he hired a company to develop his website. There have been challenges, including finding reasonable shipping and producing U.S.-made items.
"We work diligently to ensure that our products and vendors are made and located in our country," Giovanetti said. "Unfortunately, there are a few materials we cannot control where they are made."
What he does promise is that only quality materials will be used, and that his pricing will be competitive. He works out of his basement — filling orders, developing marketing and business plans, getting advice from other business people, and learning as much as he can by watching SCORE webinars (score.org). His business plan is based on a SCORE template, and his business model has been defined.
"There are two segments of this business. The first is the ecommerce site, and the other is working with retail shops," Giovanetti said.
With the ecommerce site up and running, he is utilizing networking to identify potential retail shops in the Northwoods that might be interested in carrying his products. That task starts in earnest now with a goal of being in four or five stores for the holiday season. To promote the ecommerce site, he is working with a company that will help grow the site.
As that develops, he plans to set the business apart by blogging about products, providing tips and fun facts about the Northwoods, spotlighting towns and being very interactive. His goal is "slow and steady" with the hope of adding employees in the coming years.
"It might take a few years before I can say the business financially sustains my family, but we’re going to do this right," Giovanetti said. "If we can capture the market of those who fish, or hunt, or do outdoors activities, we’ll be happy. I’ve coached at (Green Bay) Notre Dame for more than 20 years and that has been a building block for understanding how to always plug forward and not give up."
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.