Scott Wilson was hooked on archery the first time he strung an arrow, snapped it back and let it fly.
He recalls being introduced to the sport about 20 years ago by a customer at his family’s former feed store business, E.C. Loomis and Son. It didn’t take long before he bought his three children bows.
“The next thing you know, we’re competing in state and national championship tournaments and winning,” said Wilson, who has won gold and silver medals in international competition. “It’s kind of surreal. I just got into this for fun like most people, although I’m pretty competitive at everything I do, and I like to see how far I can take things.”
Today, Wilson, an Arroyo Grande resident, and his sons Daniel and Joel — both Cal Poly graduates — are introducing others to the sport at Central Coast Archery, their archery shop and shooting range in San Luis Obispo. The business opened this fall in the Bear Valley Center off Los Osos Valley Road.
“It really is something everyone can do,” Wilson said. “We see it almost every day in our shop. You get groups of kids in here and just everybody. You give them their first few arrows and some instruction, and once it sinks in and they release an arrow, and it goes anywhere near the middle of the target, it’s like a light goes on. You see them walking back from the target and smiling.”
Wilson recently shared why he turned his hobby into a business and why he believes it’s more than a passing trend.
Q: How did you get involved in the sport?
A: A customer, an older gentleman, came into E.C. Loomis and Son one day and bought 20 bales of straw. He came back another time and ordered another 20 bales, and we found out that he had an archery range at his house. I said the next time he comes in, I’m bringing the load (of straw) to his house myself. When I got there, he put a bow in my hand, and I shot an arrow. I said, “I want to do that.”
Q: It is a passion for you, but what was it that compelled you to turn this passion into a business?
A: The last few years I had been working for a construction company, and I quickly realized that was not what I wanted to do. The time just seemed right. We are also a very close family, and this would provide an opportunity for us to work and spend more time together. It’s easy for us to be in business together. We are a formidable team of aggressive go-getters. My wife is aggressive at getting things done. My sons Daniel and Joel are business-oriented as well. We thought it was going to be difficult financially to make this work for us, but we thought, what’s wrong with just trying it? If we didn’t do it, we’d look down the road and say, why didn’t we? So far, it’s just been amazing.
Q: What’s your plan for growing the business?
A: Our initial goal was to provide a clean and friendly environment that would make all feel welcome and not intimidated. We have many ideas to grow the business including adult leagues, children’s classes, corporate team building opportunities and private archery lessons. We would also like to work with the city of San Luis Obispo to establish an area where we could provide an outdoor shooting area.
Q: In what ways are your sons involved, and what are some of the benefits and challenges of partnering with family?
A: Daniel and his family live in the Bay Area, where he works for Apple. But he is involved in the business on a daily basis. Joel and I work together in the shop and handle all the day-to-day responsibilities. There really are no challenges for us as a family.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is considering starting a small business?
A: Anyone reading this who has started a small business knows that it is not for the faint of heart. There’s all of that time invested, from working with the city to attorneys, state government, suppliers, bankers, etc. In the end, there’s nothing more satisfying than working for yourself.
Q: How did you go about putting the business together?
A: We put a business plan together, and having been in business before, we knew where it would start. One thing that was different is that our other business had been a family feed store since 1905, and it had an existing clientele. This one didn’t. So, when we put together the plan and sales projection, we went on the conservative side. So far, the response has been overwhelming.
Q: Who are most of your customers/clients?
A: Ten to 15 years ago, our typical customer was a male between the ages of 20 and 40 years old. Now, there is no typical customer. We are seeing men in their 80s, women of all ages, husbands and wives, and of course, children as well. There are college students and corporations doing team-building activities.
Q: Where would you like your business to be in the next five to 10 years?
A: I see our facility expanding, as well as our indoor shooting lanes. We would also like to see our online presence expand because there are only so many people in our county, and we’re fairly limited on the Central Coast. We have an indoor range, but it’s limited on distance, and so I’d like to get something going outdoors in the summer like tournaments.
Q: Where do you see archery headed in the future?
A: Archery has obviously been around for a long time. As long as we can continue to offer a safe, comfortable and friendly environment, I think it will only continue to grow as more people in our community have the opportunity to enjoy the thrill of sending an arrow into its intended target. It’s also a way for people to have recreation and social interaction, and the movie industry has been really big. It’s interesting talking to young people now. I think it’s getting back to the simple things. People have become so disconnected, and I think this is a way of bringing those connections back.