By Chris Meehan | Jul 31, 2020
Fly-fishing bags and outdoor products
White launched the company after moving back to Colorado and spending time fly-fishing and working in fly shops. "I felt like not only did I not really like the designs and the features of bags that were already out there, but I felt like if there is a bag I like, it's made in China." he says.
It was a gap White, who went to college for art and business, thought he could fill. He bought a $10 sewing machine at a thrift store and went to work on a bag that met his needs.
It was an uphill battle since he had few sewing skills. "I think I maybe took one sewing lesson when I was a kid, probably about 20 years ago," he notes.
After educating himself, White looked to bring a fresh perspective in a market filled with "over-complicated" designs. "From a fishing standpoint, I felt like all these features kind of can potentially add up to impeding your day on the river," he says.
"That's sort of the design philosophy for me," says White. "The best designs are the ones that are simple and that suit the needs of the customer. My idea was what can I take away from a bag to make it suit my fishing needs and also spend less time messing with my gear while I'm fishing."
White ended up designing a simpler, smaller bag that still has enough space for all flies, boxes, and other fishing gear. He says it made his fishing days more enjoyable and led him to start making bags to sell.
Since his initial sewing machine purchase, he's bought more. "I have two Singer walking foots," White says. One was manufactured in the 1950s amd the other was cast in Connecticut in the early 1900s. "That was pretty cool," he says. "I'm from Connecticut originally and the machine was cast in Connecticut."
Deli Fresh Design isn't just reusing old sewing machines, it's also reusing fabrics and climbing ropes in its products. Climbers donate the ropes for handles and loops on the bags, while the fabrics used come from old fishing waders and boat sails.
"For the waders, we partnered with Simms," White says. "They approached us with the opportunity to send used waders and that's worked out very well for us." Prior to the partnership, he says he was scrounging for old waders at fly shops and friends with a used pair.
White often gets requests from people to reuse their waders in a bag. "They've had a lot of memorable days in the water and they want to actively turn it into something that they can still use," he explains.
Sourcing sailcloth is tougher. "Typically it's the kind of thing I have to find on eBay or other channels," says White.
With simplicity as a design function, Deli Fresh Design is already seeing cross over potential into other industries. White's sister, for instance, is a rock climber, so he developed a chalk bag based on her input and needs.
"That's sort of how I approach everything and kind of how the chalk bags evolved then," White adds. "There is a lot of crossover appeal. There are a lot of fly fishermen who also climb or vice versa."
Despite COVID-19, Deli Fresh Design has seen sales increase. " It's not like we're consumed with hundreds of orders all the time, but there's definitely been a steadier increase in business," says White. "And I think more people, as things have opened up, have been active outside, and . . . those orders reflect that."
As a primarily direct-to-consumer maker, White says marketing has helped. "We do a lot of advertising on Instagram," White says, adding that the company also markets through podcasts. "I think because we're a small company and we kind of are out of the mainstream, I don't think we're necessarily hugely affected."
"The one thing that COVID has changed is that we've made probably close to 300 masks," White says. He's shipped them to friends and others, including a friend who works with numerous community-based organizations."
Deli Fresh Design is essentially a one-man operation at this point, but White would like to grow the business. In the longer term, he's interested in connecting with refugee communities to take on some sewing and manufacturing or hiring a few employees.
Challenges: "We could do a better job of looking at analytics," White says.
Growth capital would be nice, but White says it would probably come with too many strings attached. "I don't want to take out a large outside investment because suddenly I work for a company that I don't have control over," he says.
Opportunities: "I think as an industry, there's a lot of opportunity to change the fly-fishing world," White says. "What I don't like about the industry is you go to a fly shop and you go to the next one, it's the same 10 brands. Hopefully, the industry will embrace what I do and more of the handmade or local stuff."
Needs: A reliable sailcloth supply, says White, and collaborators. "In general, with so many things, it's all about networking."