For Eric Hollis, Owner of Eric Hollis Slings, it was a personal need for an in-demand product and a love of shooting that drove him to launch his own business. Hollis, who previously worked as a chef at five star restaurants in San Francisco, is also a competitive long distance shooter. After purchasing a rifle sling, from one of the best in the business, Hollis was informed he'd have to wait two years to get his sling. He immediately saw this "inconvenience" as a golden opportunity.
"When I ordered my sling, the owner was telling me about his age and how he didn't have much time left," Hollis said. "He ended up talking me into two. Anyway, fast forward and by the time I got my slings, I started thinking about his health and how his retirement would leave a lot of people without slings. This was also happening around the time when I was ready to get out of the restaurant business. I was tired of being a chef and wanted to do something related to shooting. I emailed him and asked if he would teach me his trade. After some back and forth and me convincing him that a lot of people would be without a great product, he said yes."
Hollis spent two weeks in Hawaii in November 2015 learning to make rifle slings from one of the best in the business. Upon returning to San Francisco, he knew he'd have to make a tough decision.
"When I came home, I realized that if this was really going to happen, we needed to leave California," he said. "It was way too expensive. We needed a place that was affordable and would allow us to have a workshop where we lived. After twenty plus years in California, we said goodbye and moved to Palm Coast."
Hollis officially launched his business in November 2017. The slings he makes are specifically built for long distance rifle shooters. Hollis was excited and optimistic, but he knew that operating in such a niche market would present some unique challenges.
"We knew our business would grow primarily from word-of-mouth referrals," he said. "The product was great, it was just a matter of getting it into people's hands. It was a little rough in the beginning, but the business steadily grew."
Hollis pointed out that most of his competitors are older generation leather makers that don't sell through a website and don't utilize social media to promote their products. He utilizes both, but also attends many shooting events throughout the country.
"The first year we went to nationals at Camp Perry in Ohio," he said. "It's the largest shooting tournament in the country. We ended up selling out of our slings and also picked up some teams along the way. Since then, we've sold slings to the Army Marksmanship team and sponsored junior rifle teams and high school rifle teams across the country."
In addition to slings, Hollis also manufactures other quality leather products including, belts and dog accessories. The high quality of the leather and skilled craftsmanship sets his products apart, but so does the service.
"I always answer emails from our customers," Hollis said. "Our products are also 100% guaranteed for life and they're made in the USA. Fortunately, we've never had a return and we've never had any complaints about our products."
Hollis, who loves seeing happy customers receive their product, has a future goal to supply the Armed Forces with Marksmanship units the finest rifle slings. He also wants to help more coaches and their junior shooting teams throughout the country.
Hollis' advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is short but to the point. "Take your dream and make it a reality!"
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