Every so often I’m reminded that outside perception is a double-edged sword. When perceived as a small, solely-owned entreprise that is run by one person with a mission, the community respects and rewards the entrepreneurial spirit, the underdog if you will, and roots for his success. When the small, solely-owned enterprise run by one person is rewarded and starts succeeding and growing some people may start perceiving it as a large corporation, “the man” if you will, that is out there for an ulterior motive.
Recently I read a couple of things out there, on the world wide web, that reminded me Tenkara USA may now be perceived by some as a large “Tenkara Inc.” that is out there to dominate the world. The perception of growth in a new market like tenkara can also bring about new competitors, vying to take a slice of the market being created. As new companies try to imitate our products, in some cases trying to market the “tool” while ignoring the “method” of tenkara, I’m reminded that leadership in a product category and growth presents its unique challenges, perception is probably the smallest but most vocal and to me the most personally disturbing.
A few days ago I started going through some of the pages of our website to update content. I noticed I had not updated the “About Tenkara USA” page in quite a long time. It contained a couple of paragraphs about Tenkara USA, what its mission is and the fact that we donate 1% of our revenues to environmental non-profits. I had written that page soon after starting Tenkara USA, more concerned about stating what Tenkara USA is I didn’t concentrate on sharing the story of who Tenkara USA is.
Daniel W. Galhardo, Founder
To begin with, I think most of your will know I’m the founder and sole owner of Tenkara USA, a company I created in 2009 and that, unlike what some people may think, is not in any way affiliated with a large “Tenkara” entity (some people think there must be a “Tenkara Japan” company out there and we’re a subsidiary, which is not the case).
Tenkara USA is my baby, from conception to everything else. I designed or hand-selected each one of our products. I make decisions on how to run the company; I develop most content and take most pictures used on the site and other marketing materials; I participate personally in our forum; I teach tenkara when I can; I am in almost all the videos we have featured so far. And with feedback from our users I am responsible for continually improving every single one of our products – constantly. Other aspects of Tenkara USA are managed by other folks, who I’ll introduce below, but the final responsibility of everything done in the name of Tenkara USA stops with me.
I have been developing and running Tenkara USA full-time from its very first day in April 2009 (actually, I left my previous job a month before the launch of Tenkara USA in April, so have been at it full time even before we went live). From that moment, I have been dedicated 100% to Tenkara USA and the method of tenkara. When I say Tenkara USA is the only company in the western hemisphere dedicated to tenkara, I consider this to be true. Our focus is entirely on tenkara, we do not dilute it with other product lines and do not compromising its integrity. I am as passionate about sharing the method and story of tenkara as I am about developing good products for our customers.
Unlike anyone else in the world, I have sought to learn the method directly from teachers in Japan, visiting the country several times or hosting my teachers here when possible. Most recently I spent 2 full months learning everything possible about tenkara in its country of origin, most stories about what I have learned in Japan can be found right here in our blog. I have been super fortunate to have been able to develop great relationships with teachers like Dr. Hisao Ishigaki, Mr. Katsutoshi Amano, Mr. Masami Sakakibara, and others who have shared with me their techniques, philosophies and feedback on our products. I do not know how such luck struck me, but I can not thank my teachers enough for sharing with me their tenkara.
In sum, I’m pretty much Tenkara USA, but I admit I d not do everything myself. As the interest for tenkara has been growing, I have been fortunate to have found some passionate people to build a team at Tenkara USA with the mission of providing the best tenkara products, the best support, and the best content on tenkara to our customers.
I have a few people that work with me in the areas of product development, shipping, design, and web management, and other fnctions. But, on the customer facing portion I need to introduce two passionate tenkara anglers who are a key part of Tenkara USA:
Thomas “TJ” Ferreira – Customer Service
TJ has been a customer of ours from pretty early on, and so he makes for the perfect customer service manager. Relatively new to fly fishing, TJ became an active member of our tenkara blog with great questions about tenkara, a lot of passion for his new-found interest and also good understanding of tenkara. TJ lives a couple of hours from San Francisco, up in the Sierras and not far from some good fishing. One day I asked him if he’d like to join me for some fishing but he told me he couldn’t because he needs to be available all the time for answering calls in his own business supporting Mac computer point of sales. But, he was not answering calls all the time. He sounded like the ideal addition to Tenkara USA’s future customer service.
About 3 weeks before a scheduled trip to spend 2 months in Japan, I was very apprehensive about what to do regarding customer service. Up till that point I had done all customer service myself (with the exclusion of a short failed experiment using a call center). I couldn’t expect to continue doing that in Japan, I needed help and urgently. So, I called TJ up, and without hesitation he was on board 100%. He quickly grasped a lot of aspects of Tenkara USA, and after 2 weeks of intensive training he was running our customer service. I told him, “just run like it is your own company, and just do what you think is right for our customers, and ensure they have a good experience with tenkara. That’s it.” I spend 2 incredible months in Japan, without worrying about that aspect of Tenkara USA because of him.
Jason Klass – Interactive Marketing
The newest addition to the Tenkara USA team is Jason Klass, a name with which some of you following the world of backpacking and tenkara may be familiar. Most recently Jason has been running the prolific blog on tenkara, Tenkara Talk. Jason has also been following the development of tenkara from pretty early on. Jason is someone who understands what makes tenkara a whole method and he’s as passionate about sharing that as I am. He’s proven to be a great disciple and ambassador for tenkara.
Jason will be doing for Tenkara USA what he did before: creating great content, engaging the tenkara community and helping us spread tenkara. He and I share the same basic philosophies and complement each other in many ways. That synergy, and his energy, will certainly bring some pretty exciting stuff to the tenkara community. What about his role you ask. We decided the title of interactive marketing director would be the best for him. Jason is very good and interested in engaging and interacting with the community, and providing them content they want and he will be taking on that responsibility.
Also, stay tuned for an exciting new blog format right here at Tenkara USA.
So, I hope this gives you a clearer picture of who Tenkara USA is and that you realize that when I refer to Tenkara USA as “we” it is not “we the corporation”, but rather we the tenkara anglers.