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Pearce Phillips '23 Lures Customers with Buster Boyd Baits

Q&A with Pearce Phillips '23 by Dr. James Edge, Upper School History and English teacher and Social Entrepreneurship Coordinator

Q: Where did this idea come from?

A: Originally, the first place I thought of it was in Dr. Edge’s Social Entrepreneurship class in my sophomore year, I think, first semester. So that's when I really started developing the idea, which was in response to a prompt for the class to come up with a possible business idea. I ended up pushing the prompt further than many of my peers. Previously, my connection to Buster Boyd Baits had been my passion for fishing and having grown up around water. The connection to water activities and art is big in my family. My mom’s always been an artist, like her father, so I’ve always been interested in those two pursuits.

Q: You said that your mom and grandfather were artists. Is that how you initially got into woodworking?

A: Both of them are painters, so I've always been able to paint really well. I picked up woodworking and 3D art on my own and was able to fuse those mediums together. Woodworking and carving was an activity I'd always thought was interesting, so I wanted to give it a shot myself. I did my research, bought the tools and machines I needed, and eventually got the hang of it.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about Buster Boyd Baits?

A: The name comes from Buster Boyd Bridge, the bridge that connects the Carolinas over Lake Wylie. I spend a lot of time on weekends and holidays there, and it’s where I started my business. What I do is mostly woodworking, fishing lures, and other fishing-related pieces. The company is just me, so I’ve had to learn it all on my own, which has been fun in a lot of ways.

Q: With the fishing lures, are they for use or for show?

A: Both. I'd say probably 70% of my work is display only. They’re commonly bought as gifts for family members or loved ones. A lot of people are also afraid to lose a special lure, but even so I’d say that about 30% of my sales are being used on the water for typical fishing.

Q: What has been the overall effect of your company on the surrounding community and PD?

A: The outreach and connections I’ve made have been really interesting for me as well as others. My friends and I alike have learned about what I do and a little bit of the industry, and that’s something a lot of them never knew anything about. They couldn’t believe fishing lures could even be made by hand, so it’s a lot of education from others’ perspectives. For me, it’s been so beneficial getting to meet other kids who have business ideas, having teachers come up to me to congratulate me, or even placing orders. I’ve done a bunch of that. Also, meeting PD families and extended people outside of those families, especially when they recommend other people who are also really into this pursuit, has been a really great avenue for making all of these connections. A lot of it has been Dr. Edge and his work as well as the PD administration that has put an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Q: What’s the biggest lure you’ve made?

A: Well, I do regular lures, usually about 4” and then the display ones. Usually, those are about 10”, so there can be more detail, but I’ve also done a lot of replica carvings of full-sized fish of all different sizes. I started carving replicas when I wanted to commemorate a special catch of mine, so I jumped headfirst into creating a replica of the first Gar I ever caught, a rare species in Lake Wylie. It got a lot of attention and since then I’ve expanded my business to replicas and other carvings. It’s incredibly rewarding when people are convinced it’s a real fish and not just poplar wood and acrylic paint.

Q: What is one of the hardest aspects you've had to handle through Buster Boyd Baits?

A: Originally, it was just figuring out how I wanted to handle my finances. I didn't know how to go to the post office and deliver a package, so there was so much learning on the front end before I really even got started. Learning how to efficiently ship packages, take orders, and conduct all of the behind-the-scenes efforts that aren’t always glamorous was a challenge initially. One of the hardest parts when I first got started was ensuring my work met my expectations. I hadn’t been doing it for that long when I started offering them for sale, so making sure my work was not only up to my expectations but to the expectations of the market was pretty tough, but now my biggest challenge is keeping on top of everything, especially wrestling and school.

Q: How do you balance everything?

A: A lot of it is just working when I can and ensuring nothing is out of balance. I have to make sure I’m not completely disregarding my business or disregarding my schoolwork, sleep, or anything like that. I’m also trying to figure out how to work really efficiently. If I’m going to sit down and work, then I’m going to work without distractions. I’m going to be super focused because maximizing my time is very important to me.

Q: Where do you see Buster Boyd Baits going in the future? 

A: One of my most realistic thoughts is that it’s a pursuit that I’ll be able to continue for as long as I want, truly. I think there will always be a market for handmade items in general. Plus, I have all the equipment I’m going to need, apart from replenishing paints or tools. It’s all my stuff, so there’s no reason I can’t bring it wherever I go. I think it’s really exciting just to know that I could still be doing this, even as a growing side business and for fun, in the next few decades.

Q: What has been your favorite part of starting your own business?

A: In the beginning, seeing my own work and pushing myself to see what I was capable of, especially my artistic abilities, was great. Now, I really enjoy getting to meet the people who submit orders or who have an idea for me to bring to life. I’ve never really had the ability to do that before. I’ve had jobs previously, but they were taking orders or working at a cash register. I never got to make those connections before, but now it’s a little more personal, and I’m really enjoying that part of running the business.

Q: What is an aspect you weren’t expecting when you started Buster Boyd Baits?

A: Originally, I did not expect for my business to get started so quickly. I had spoken with Dr. Edge about PD promoting my upcoming business. I hadn’t launched it at the time yet, and when PD promoted it through social media, it was about a month earlier than I was expecting to begin getting orders. I had to kick it into high gear, get all my bank account matters finalized, and begin fulfilling orders sooner than I thought. When people started to submit purchase orders, I was honest about being a little behind but guaranteed them to have their orders ready by a specific time. This early promotion ended up being a blessing in disguise, and I’m very happy it worked out this way. It pushed me to improve my business quicker and there was a tremendous level of interest right off the bat. I did quite a few orders just in the first couple of weeks after the PD social media push.

Q: What's one piece of advice you'd give other students trying to start their own business?

A: The work never really never stops. I may complete an order, but there is always more to be done. If there are times I don’t have orders, I can work on other ways of expanding and marketing. There’s never a time running a business that you truly have “nothing to do.” Also, try to have not just one but many, many mentors who can help you with all aspects of it. Even people who you might not initially think of as mentors will help a lot. Occasionally, I’ll ask my friends what they think about a color scheme, the way I do a pattern, or just small details like those, just to get a second opinion. I think having a lot of opinions from people who can guide you with important, honest feedback is really important.

Taking advantage of opportunities is also really important. Personally, I know this aspect is something I still need to work on, just like most people, but there are always opportunities to do more. Oftentimes, you might not want to do them because you might be afraid of failing or the stress from being involved, but they are important. The more opportunities you take advantage of, the better off you’re going to be. The opportunities that don’t work out are always good experiences and lessons anyway.

Q: How much does the biggest piece you've made cost?

A: After creating the gar replica for myself, I got a few orders for other species of fish. One of those was a spotted Gar for a man in Alabama. I had a lot of free will on how I wanted it to look, so I spent a lot of time working on a cool base for it and ensuring it looked the way I wanted it to. All in all, the piece ended up being $2100. I was able to deliver it to him personally as I was coincidentally going to Alabama to see family in the summer, which was a great experience to meet such a generous customer. 

Q: How long does it take to make a lure versus making a replica?

A: With the lures, I’ll usually do a batch of them anywhere from about 5-10 at a time, and I can get all of them done in a weekend and shipped out that week. That’s how I spend many of my weekends, though there is a little bit of homework and other commitments here and there. I can pretty much always get that done, but the replica carvings definitely take a lot longer. They usually take about 60-80 hours of work. I did one that took me two weeks during the summer, since I wasn’t as busy, but when I did a similar one during the school year, it took me about two months.

Q: If you were to make one of the lures, how long would the whole process take?

A: Well, the biggest time-consuming aspect is actually just waiting. Paints, sealants, clear coats, and epoxy all take a while to dry. Those take the bulk of the time, and a lot of those have to dry overnight or take up to 24 hours before they’re ready to handle. The waiting time allows me to work on other orders while I wait, so it's a constant cycle. That’s where most of the time goes, but I can pretty much complete the whole blank wooden piece in about an hour or two before I put primer and paint on it. That might take another hour or so.

Q: Where do you get the wood you use? Do you have to order special materials for your work?

A: Yes, I always use Poplar because it's easy to work with when using a knife, especially when getting into small details. It's also strong enough that it's not just going to fall apart when I start cutting into it. It'll still hold up under weather and when being used all the time. Plus, it's fairly inexpensive compared to other options and I can buy it at any local hardware store in the sizes I need.

Q: How long do these lures last?

A: Well, a lot of the lure life is based, unsurprisingly, on the use of the lure. Some people are more apt to hitting rocks and docks that will inevitably break any lure. Each of my lures is built to last as long as possible. I use a polyurethane coat on it before I even paint, and then a strong layer of epoxy over the paint to clear it and make it resistant to damage. All of the hardware is stainless steel, which is one of the strongest materials you can use for lure hardwear. If water gets in the wood, it’ll expand and crack which will ruin the lure. It’s really important that there are no empty spots where water can get through the epoxy. I carefully examine every single one before I ship it out. 

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t yet gotten to discuss?

A: For interested customers, I do much more than just lures and fish replicas. Once you understand how to work with wood, the opportunities are really endless. I can do animals, sculptures, plaques, and anything you might be able to imagine. If you are interested in my work or would like to inquire about a custom order, you can reach out to me in many different ways. You can find a contact/custom order form on my website. I’m also on Instagram and Facebook under the username @buster.boyd.baits.