We spoke with First Lite's community manager about the company's latest special offer.
If you've paid any attention the last few months, you're fully aware what the global COVID-19 pandemic has done to a wide range of businesses, especially small, privately-owned ones.
Most hunting and fishing outfitters fall into that category, and have witnessed unprecedented difficulties due to stay at home orders. In fact, many of these businesses, known as the lifeblood of the entire outdoor industry, are struggling to stay alive.
That's what drove First Lite's community manager Kevin Harlander to dream up a way to help support those guides and outfitters while also rewarding customers who've supported them as well.
Brainstorming turned into a new initiative, never done at First Lite before, that's giving folks who can prove they've booked a guided hunting or fishing trip 15% off a FirstLite.com purchase. If you've booked a trip since March 1, 2020, you can get in on the discount, too.
There's a basic form to fill out, plus a requirement to provide proof of deposit or purchase, but as long as you're following the guidelines you're eligible for the 15% off.
The offer seemed natural, especially for a company like First Lite considering their intertwined relationship with the outfitting sector of the industry.
"First Lite has a pretty strong connection to guides and outfitters across North America," Harlander told us. "We've always supported them with the best discount structure in the industry and had their back with client referrals. In short, they are our friends and business partners. We also have quite a few folks in our office that are former guides; from fishing guides locally to elk guides across the West. We understand the importance of guides and outfitters both in our industry and within our ethos of getting more people into hunting."
We asked what sparked the idea for the discount for folks who've booked trips, which was uncommon to say the least. Harlander's response made perfect sense.
"We were aware the shutdowns were having a pretty substantial impact on guided fishing trips locally here in Ketchum, Idaho, especially as we approached the trout fishing opener," Harlander recalled. "I then had some pretty tough conversations with my good friends, First Lite guides and outfitters, and former coworkers in the guide industry who were in the dark as to whether or not they'd actually get a season to guide."
He mentioned the closed border between the U.S. and Canada, as well as the cancelled nonresident turkey season in Nebraska, as eye-opening incidents. "Both these situations signaled that substantial revenue guides and outfitters rely upon would effectively dry up for 2020 and possibly beyond," Harlander added. "We knew we had the team in place and the creative ability to help these folks out a bit as they mitigate an uncertain time."
Were there specific businesses and situations that painted the picture for Harlander and the First Lite crew? There were, and the community manager shared a couple examples.
"Beau Baty and his family own and operate Wilderness Ridge Trail Llamas right here in Idaho. They do it all from outfitting hunters with pack llamas to full on multi-day guided hunts. Last time I spoke to Beau he was grappling with the fact that he had to lay off most of his guide staff in an otherwise booming time," Harlander said. "He's had to cancel multiple llama education events, the majority of his summer pack trips, and has been working hard to keep his business afloat."
Far south of Idaho, another guide was met with the devastating blow of an entire hunting season being lost.
"Another one of our folks, Jordan Budd, runs Running Water Hunting in Nebraska and was forced to cancel all of her spring turkey hunts due to travel restrictions and the pandemic," Harlander added. "That's a big hit financially, especially with lease payments due to landowners even when you can't run clients through that ground."
As uncertainties continue on, it's admittedly tough to commit resources to something that isn't set in stone. Harlander anticipated that line of thought, and hopes the positives can outweigh the negatives.
"A lot of folks are probably thinking, well, why I would book this experience when things are still shut down across most of the country?" Harlander commented. "I'd argue that while you can't or probably don't want to hop on a plane to fish the Yellowstone River, you can sure as heck plan to go. Hopefully sooner rather than later. The point is to help support these guides and outfitters with commitments in the future and get them through a tough time."
It was easy to predict, but the reaction has been great. "I can't tell you how many emails and messages I've gotten from customer and guides and outfitters that are simply stoked on this," Harlander said.
Doing whatever you can to help the linchpins of the hunting and fishing worlds is essential during these times, and First Lite has found a way to help encourage it. So, what trip are you set to plan?