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VOL. 127 | NO. 73 | Friday, April 13, 2012

Haversack CEO Kept Going Until He Found What Works

By Andy Meek

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a six-part series on entrepreneurs in the current round of Seed Hatchery’s “cohort” boot camp.


(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Josh Bell, an avid hunter and fisherman, is so pumped about Haversack, his new outdoors-themed startup that’s taking shape, that he at times finds himself unable to break away from making plans, tweaking this and researching that.

“I want to pull this off so bad, I can’t sleep at night,” he gushed about the venture, the latest in a long line of entrepreneurial efforts Bell has plunged into over the last several years.

He describes Haversack as akin to the popular shopping website Gilt Groupe, which offers a plethora of clothing, food, home accessories and more for site members.

Bell believes there is a “huge market untapped” for small vendors peddling various hunting and fishing merchandise that face a major barrier to entry to get into large retailers like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. And he intends to use that to his advantage.

“I can see voids in the marketplace a lot of people can’t see, first because I am a hunter and love the outdoors,” he said. “If you have something interesting and cool, we’ll sell it.

“I’ve always wanted to have a big business involved with the outdoors.”

He approached Eric Mathews, co-founder of the Seed Hatchery boot camp for entrepreneurs, with some of his early ideas.

“I remember thinking I’d rather try and fail at something that had a chance to be huge than something I just wasn’t excited about,” Bell said. “Eric said, ‘Apply to Seed Hatchery, and we’ll get you going.’”

Seed Hatchery is currently shepherding its second cohort of startups through the program, which is housed in the EmergeMemphis building Downtown. It provides entrepreneurs like Bell with some key building blocks – seed funding, mentorship and training – to get their fledging ventures off the ground.

Haversack is one of six startups in the current Seed Hatchery cohort. The others run the gamut from an educational video game concept to a social network utility service to a new e-payment concept.

“I want to pull this off so bad, I can’t sleep at night. ... I’ve always wanted to have a big business involved with the outdoors.”

–Josh Bell
CEO, Haversack

This article is the fourth in a series of profiles The Daily News is running to offer a snapshot of the entrepreneurs behind those ventures.

Long before getting to the point of wanting to be part of Seed Hatchery, Bell’s entrepreneurial ideas were far different from where he’s at now, although still outdoors-focused.

He built a social network – IntoOutdoors – as a place where hunters and fishers can congregate. He later transitioned IntoOutdoors into a print magazine. At one point, he was spearheading the magazine putting out more than 10,000 copies a month throughout the Memphis area.

Along the way, he put some outdoors-focused videos on YouTube. He also did some videos for Outdoor Life magazine.

While trying to get his social network off the ground, he went through one Web team after another. Bell said he even worked four jobs at one point.

“Originally, I was going to college, but doing that I didn’t feel was really the right life path for me,” he said. “The goal was to get a job, and a few people put a bug in my ear – ‘Why don’t you do something along the lines of hunting?’”

His mother was a stay-at-home mom who did work like design lamps, and Bell took inspiration from her. The motivation, he already had, and the salesmanship, too.

“There are competitors (to Haversack),” Bell said, “but from the standpoint of where I’m at, they look needy compared to what we do.”

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