Well-developed partnerships take time to develop, but can lead to significant dividends. The trick: The work must come from both sides. In researching this issue’s article, I found two examples of really great facilities working hard to develop lasting archery partnerships in their communities. This duo includes A-1 Archery in Hudson, Wisconsin, and the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center in Yankton, South Dakota.
The Right People With the Right Attitudes
While I don’t know the staff at NFAA personally, I could hear the energy and excitement in the voices of Jos Josahan Jaime, Brittany Salonen and Jill Ward as the trio answered questions about their many partnerships. I’ve known Dana Keller at A-1 Archery for several years, and after my last visit to her shop, I had to call someone just to talk about my experience there. Dana’s enthusiasm was infectious.
The people in charge of your partnerships must have spirit, a positive attitude and above all … hustle. Building and growing programs requires a constant state of movement, testing and growth. The classes developed must be energetic and fun. The instructors must be engaging and able to gauge the needs of each participant. Upon the conclusion of a program, instructors must be able to reflect and review the program with those involved. Those leading the charge must be on the constant lookout for new ideas either online or by listening to partners and customers.
A 2013 Forbes article summarized “Learning How to Hustle” in three steps: create a compelling vision, don’t be afraid to fail and keep trying. I’m providing information on two specific successful businesses, and those businesses have some things in common. Each developed their own strategy based on their own vision, trials, errors and adaptions. Your hustle has to be headed in a certain direction — not just wandering about. Hustle is knowing the targets you want to hit and reaching those targets efficiently and effectively.
If you don’t have someone on staff with this kind of energy, hustle and stamina with a vision for what you want to create, find someone who does and then hire them to run and develop your shop’s partnerships. With the right person in place, you will have the possibility to become the center of archery recreation in your community, and bring archery up to the same level as other recreational activities in the area.
Parks and Recreation – Most cities have a parks and recreation department. County parks and recreation departments exist as well, and could either replace the city program in very small communities or be an addition in large metro areas. Recreation departments handle and promote recreation programs of all types in the community: ball sports, swimming lessons, water sports and the like. Most put out a recreation brochure to every household in the community in addition to having a strong social media presence. Most families follow local parks and recreation departments closely.
Community Education – Similar to parks and recreation, community education programs are usually associated with the local schools and tend to be more about personal growth. These programs often include arts and crafts, retirement education, driver’s education, continuing education and camps for kids during the summer. Community education groups are excellent archery partners.
Local College – Colleges like to include a diverse list of clubs for prospective students. The more clubs and activities a college can offer, the more likely that college is to appeal to wide array of graduating high school students. Does your local college have an archery program? Are you taking advantage of it, or do you simply need to partner with the college and create one?
State Department of Natural Resources – Most states have outdoor education programs of their own as well as state park and wildlife areas. Many coordinate the state’s National Archery in the Schools Program (www.naspschools.org) as well as the state’s Explore Bowhunting (www.archerytrade.org/grow-archery/explore-bowhunting)and Explore Archery Programs (www.teamusa.org/USA-Archery/Programs/Explore-Archery). These departments want to be the go-to knowledge base for all things related to the state’s natural resources and outdoor recreation programs.
Local Tourism or Chamber of Commerce – These agencies’ job is to bring tourism into the area and/or make sure local businesses are thriving. They provide services, but also work hard to promote the city as a place to host events and do business. They win when outsiders enjoy events and activities, tell others and make the community a place for recurring events. Think sports tournaments, business shows (craft fair, RV & boat show, etc.) and conventions. During downtimes for those events, they want visitors to spend money at local venues.
Local Shooting Clubs – Whether you have your own archery range or not, having a local shooting club in the area means more shooting opportunity for the archers in your community. Clubs often host shooting events and leagues. If you don’t have a range of your own, a local shooting club is a required partner. If you do have a range, you will still want to work with your local shooting club to develop outdoor leagues and 3-D archery tournaments.
To create a win-win with the above-mentioned partners, you must look for what they want and try to supply the need in a way that will also benefit you. For instance, parks and recreation departments put out brochures with programs to the community, and if you offer an archery program, you will be listed alongside other mainstream activities. You get the advertising, more participants than you would likely muster-up on your own, and the use of their registration system. They get a more robust recreation guide and a portion of the registration fees. Most agencies will simply cut you a check at the end of the session. If you don’t have a range, you might also negotiate for use of one of their facilities.
The NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center has four full pages in the 48-page summer activities guide put out by the Yankton Parks and Recreation Department. It includes five half-day camps, an archery fun day at the center, five Explore Archery classes, a multi-week Explore Compound Archery program and a litany of other archery-related activities. The city of Yankton gets $2-3 per registrant, and then cuts a check to the facility for the rest of the fees gathered from participants.
NFAA’s Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing programs offer other exciting partnerships. The facility partnered with South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks. The state agency gets the outreach they need and an opportunity to promote other programs they offer, and the NFAA programs get advice from state biologists and the like.
Because A-1 Archery is located in a more urban area, the shop has access to multiple partnerships. They work with the Washington County Parks and Recreation, which is one of the counties inside the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Lake Elmo Park is run by Washington County and has an archery range. Keller offers two sessions of Introduction to Archery and four sessions of Women and Girls Archery. She takes some targets and equipment out to the park so that locals can both participate and discover the range they have in their own backyards. Participants learn about A-1 Archery’s advanced programs and leagues if they want to go further. A-1 Archery also partners with four communities in Wisconsin: Hudson, River Falls, New Richmond and Somerset. In these cases, the programs are advertised in the recreation brochure and online, and the participants come to the store. A-1 Archery also works with the Division of Summer Camps at nearby YMCAs. Keller describes this as a “big score” because the YMCAs offer three sessions during camp each day, so three different groups of kids are bused in and programs are conducted over 3 consecutive hours creating a constant flow. All of A-1 Archery’s partnerships operate with a percentage split for income.
Note: When working with community partners, recognize that brochures are built months in advance. Many departments make their decisions for fall and winter programming by mid-June. Often next summer’s brochure programs are decided in February or March. Ask about deadlines and meet them. Most importantly, look at what other programs are charging and set your prices in line with those.
Your business is part of a bigger network of businesses and recreation inside your community. Use this network to grow your own business while providing a positive impact for your partner. Be on the constant lookout for opportunities for building partnerships. Be open and creative about ways to be beneficial for your partner, and they’ll likely return the favor. However, don’t expect to build the kind of relationships that NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center or A-1 Archery have overnight. NFAA has been in Yankton and growing these partnerships since 2009. Keller has been a full-time employee in charge of A-1 Archery’s programs for 5 years, and reaches an average of nearly 2,000 archers each year with programs and outreach. Lasting and profitable partnerships require consistent and regular adjustment and care by staff who have the energy and enthusiasm to sustain them. Mainstream archery in your community by working with mainstream partners.
Bowfishing photo courtesy of Easton Yankton Archery Center; archery shop photo by John Hafner