In this episode of “Behind the Brand,” we sat down with John Koza, CEO of the popular fly fishing brand Riversmith. Since you can not drive anywhere in the west without seeing their debut product, River Quiver, we thought it was time to look behind the scenes at the Boulder, Colorado-based brand. We were able to meet the whole team, see them mounted on the rock and do some side fishing. it’s with that level of personal connection, we are excited to get you “Behind the brand”.
FL: Who is Riversmith?
John: Riversmith, is a team of people here who are passionate about fly fishing and want to improve the fishing experience for everyone out there by making high quality products to better enjoy the sport. We stand behind everything we do because we are using it ourselves, day after day. As for everything else about who we are, we are passionate about what we do here in the office, but we are just as passionate about having fun on the river. We gravitate towards ensuring that what we are doing here as a company is making a positive difference in the way people fly fish and enjoy the sport.
FL: Tell us a little about yourself and your trip to Riversmith!
John: I’m CEO here at Riversmith. I have been with the company since it started in 2018 and I have been the longest full time employee here. I have moved to different roles from sales to customer service to business development, but now I am handling more office administrator duties as my role has evolved. Lots of hats have been worn all my time here, to say the least!
Things have definitely changed though since I officially took on the role of CEO. It’s more responsibility, I have no one watching over my shoulder every day. This is the biggest change I would say, but day by day, I’m still doing most of the same things. My goal is to continue to build and be there for my team in every way I can to help us all thrive in our respective roles.
FL: What inspired the founders to start Riversmith?
John: There was a huge gap that one of our owners, John McGowan and Steve Holmes, saw in the market for roof racks with fly rods. They are avid fly fishermen and had a problem getting a fly rod holder that was ordered back. This then led to the search for what was out there for this type of product both in terms of quality but also availability. After it became known after extensive market research that there was no superior product in the field, they decided to continue with their engineering team to begin developing what is now known as River Quiver.
They spent it for about 8 to 10 months until they had the final model down. Rigorous testing was involved in this process and every detail was looked at to make sure nothing was left out. From here, it’s time to dump her and move on. This was the beginning of the Riversmith. They predicted River Quiver as the first product here, but definitely not the last.
FL: What did the early stages of Riversmith look like?
John: We were publicly introduced at the IFTD in Orlando in July 2018 and sold our first unit on September 1, 2018. I entered with Riversmith in June, and then we had the final prototypes. I was very much on the road that summer, trying to get pre-orders from fly shops and spreading the fuss about the company and our new product. But we officially launched at IFTD in 2018 and won the “Best Accessories Over $ 100” award, so it was super exciting to get that recognition right out the gate.
One thing we really wanted to try to capture, from the beginning, is that we are not a stack company, we are a fly fishing company, and trying to get those messages out from the beginning helped us gain recognition. branding and confidence in the fly fishing industry. Even though our first product here is a rack-based system, at its core, we still want to know that we are a fly fishing company first and foremost. With that, I think what differentiated us too, was the ingenuity behind the quality of our products. Every little detail that has entered the River Quiver is quite attractive to look at. Nothing was overlooked in the design. He was extensively tested to the point that he was tested on a military scale to capture his rigidity. We pride ourselves on taking product design / testing very seriously and will continue to be a focal point for all product launches that move forward as well.
We had three senior engineers who created this, and now we have another product developer who is now with us full time. The way these guys have seen every little individual part of every aspect of our products is quite appealing. I do not have an engineering-based brain, but when I see the actual details that went into Quiver River, for example, it made me say, “God, this is incredible.”
FL: What made you want to sell the product at Fly Shops?
John: We always want to be known as a premium fly fishing brand and buying from stores to transport our products helped confirm this narrative with professionals who trust our products from the beginning. Our big goal in the beginning was to try to build as many relationships in the industry as possible and expand into as many stores as possible. What is interesting about this is also that the shops were very open to River Quiver right away. This helped us tremendously in getting our name out there quickly from a brand standpoint. I think customers in general, who fly fish, also like to buy specific brands for fly fishing, so we really wanted to keep it in line with what we are doing here.
FL: River Quiver is mounted on Boulder, is there a plan to go completely into “Made In America”?
John: Yes, it has been something we are facing here. We would like to continue to strive for the creation of everything in America, but there is no exact plan / timeline of how this might look like. Although we have been extremely smart not to fall victim to overseas supply chain issues, it is something that is on our radar as a company. We always have inventory in stock and ready for shipment.
However, having an American-made product would alleviate these concerns drastically. We still collect everything here at Boulder, CO and every product is QC’d before we go out the door, which helps us and our customers have more peace of mind, but if we could get in place here in the US, we would it was a great victory for all.
FL: What will happen next for Riversmith?
John: We will deliver much more exciting content with more of a brand feel behind our items. Our product development team has also worked through a myriad of different ideas. of River Quiver was our first major product as a company, but it is not the last so far. We want to continue to expand our travel line, then expand new product lines to really become a key element in the fly fishing industry. Our ongoing plan is to listen to what the market says, grow within these demands and continue to produce products with the same quality we have now.
Thank you John and the entire Riversmith crew for taking the time to socialize with us and let us choose their brains. To see all the amazing products that Riversmith is bringing out CLICK HERE. Also, check them out on Instagram to continue with the adventures and series of artists they are distributing.
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