Entrepreneur and businessman Jody Shackelford knew it was time to seize the moment. A few years earlier, his grandfather Harry Shackelford invented The Rocket Shot, a device that shoots two aluminum cans into the air that can be shot with an air or BB gun.
He went to the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) in Las Vegas to find a company to mass produce and sell the child friendly product. The higher ups at Gamo Outdoors were in his sights.
He’d been rebuffed once before, but he returned an hour later. He talked with Gamo President Keith Higginbotham. It took several months, but the a deal has been struck and Gamo, the parent-company of famed Daisy Outdoor, will exclusively sell the Daisy Rocket Shot, Shackelford told Talk Business & Politics. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“To me it’s mind blowing,” Shackelford said. “I mean everybody has watched ‘A Christmas Story’ when Ralphie asks for a Daisy BB gun. We’re a part of that now.”
The Daisy Shot will be sold at Walmart U.S. and other retailers across the country. They’ve applied for a provisional patent, and the device is still owned by them. The patent request is based on the device’s unique use.
Shackelford, a third-year law student, began this venture more than three years ago with his grandfather. As a child, Harry would shoot cans with his elders, a common practice in the Ozark Foothills. Harry had keen shot, and soon started shooting walnuts out of the air. Several years ago he developed an idea about two aluminum cans springing into the air and then shooting them. The two developed 12 prototypes and hit the outdoor show circuit. Jody is the business arm of operation co-owned by the two.
Shackelford had started his own newspaper several years before in Hardy, and had just sold it. He needed a new challenge, he said. The response to the device was overwhelming, he said. Each time they went to a show, they sold out, he said. An elaborate assembly line was constructed in the Shackelfords’ kitchen. Grandson and grandfather made them by hand.
Bold action was required to take the device to the next level, he said. He made a pitch on the hit television show, ‘Shark Tank,’ and producers were impressed with the product. Shackelford advanced to the next round but fell short of appearing on the show where entrepreneurs pitch products to billionaire investors such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.
The near miss on the show brought some notoriety to the product, and Shackelford negotiated with Daisy Outdoor. The negotiations had stalled, and that’s when he decided to approach Gamo, he said. Little did he know the company had bought Daisy. The company recently expanded in Arkansas. Daisy and Gamo Outdoor are air gun and airsoft manufacturers, but Daisy is geared more toward the youth market, while Gamo Outdoor mostly makes products for adults, distributing its projects in 85 countries, according to the company.
Arkansas offered several incentives for Daisy to expand within the state, including a $50,000 workforce-training grant, 3.9% cash rebate on payroll tied to the expansion over the next three years and sales tax refunds on building materials and some equipment associated with the expansion, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
The Daisy brand was founded about 130 years ago in Michigan and has been housed in Rogers since 1958. It was purchased last June by Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co. (BRS), a private equity firm in New York City. Higginbotham, of Gamo Outdoor, joined Daisy. Ray Hobbs stepped down as president of Daisy after 15 years with the company, as part of the deal. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Before that, an investment group had owned Daisy for 23 years.
Airsoft and air gun manufacturing is a $300 million industry, and most of the guns are made outside the U.S., according to the research. IBISWorld predicts this trend will reverse eventually, as most manufacturing industries make moves to bring operations back to the U.S., but that the industry will still be largely manufactured abroad through 2021.
Daisy operates its distribution center and corporate offices in Rogers, while most of its guns are manufactured abroad, Joe Murfin, corporate spokesman for Daisy, said in a previous interview with Talk Business & Politics.
Shackelford wouldn’t divulge their projected units sold, or sales. He said the company will handle all the manufacturing and sales from this point forward. The Shackelfords plan to invest their profits back into their product line. They’ve got several ideas on which they’re working, he said.
“This collaboration has been really good so far … these guys have been great. We really couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said.
(Talk Business & Politics reporter Jennifer Joyner contributed to this report.)