Hunting is big business. And for one Peoria business owner, equipping hunters has been very big business. Peoria native David Smith, owner and CEO of Textus/Hunter’s View, started on the road to developing his internationally successful company while working in California. “In 1988 a friend of mine, who was Taiwanese, introduced me to a Taiwanese import/export company in Los Angeles in which he was a partner. I moved to California and joined the company as a salesman, trying to develop products that were produced in Asia and could be sold into the U.S. market,” he said.
Smith parted ways with the company, but an idea had been planted. “With a total investment of $20,000 from my grandfather, father, and my father’s best friend, I began Textus Industries in May 1990. In 1993, I moved Textus from California back to my hometown of Peoria, and in 1996, we opened Hunter’s View Ltd. For 2002, Hunter’s View had combined sales of $18 million, and in 2003 we’ll have sales of around $27 million,” he said.
Success came so quickly that Smith repaid all of his original investors within the first three years. His family is still involved with the business, however. “In January 1993 my younger brother, Walt, joined us as an operations manager. In 1999 my older brother, Doug, joined us as a vice president of production. Doug is now president of the companies,” he said.
Using what he learned while in California, Smith has his companies’ products manufactured in China and brought back to the U.S. to be sold. “Textus Industries produces products like gauze bandages found in first aid kits, canvas stretchers used for painting in the art/hobby industry, and drop cloths and other paint sundry products,” Smith said
Hunter’s View is the world leader in producing tree stands and ground blinds used in deer hunting, he said. “We’re also working hard at selling hunting accessories and getting our buyers to purchase Hunter’s View apparel. Hunter’s View was the first company to produce tree stands off shore in Asia; consequently, we were able to obtain major market share.”
Smith, who admits to very limited hunting experience, nonetheless knew a good business opportunity when he heard it. “In 1996 my cousin, Marty Stewart, joined Textus Industries. I knew he enjoyed hunting, so we took a look inside the hunting industry to see if there were products that would lend themselves to being produced in China. After about a year and a half, we found and perfected the tree stands. In 1997 we had $40,000 in sales, and in 1998 we had sales of $1.5 million.”
Because his companies’ products are manufactured in a foreign country, Smith can’t oversee operations on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately, he surrounded himself with good employees. “The manager of our office in China is Qian Jun; we call him ‘Money’ because that’s what his name means in Chinese. He manages all of our operations in China, and I’ve worked with him daily since the business began in 1990.”
Like its sister company, Hunter’s View mainly manufacturers products in China, but Smith said in 2002, they opened a production office in Vietnam to produce apparel. “In April 2002 I traveled and met the family of a Vietnamese girl, Binh Dang, whom I had met in Peoria. I was so impressed with the Vietnamese family and with the opportunity in Vietnam that when I returned to Peoria we hired Binh and her sister, Dang Thi Thanh Mai. Binh is the coordinator with the Vietnam office and Mai is in charge of the Vietnam office. Vietnam reminds me of the first time I went to China. The people are hungry for opportunities and are excited to finally have a chance to interact with America in a positive way.”
Smith said Hunter’s View already has great buyers such as Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s Bass Pro, and other major retailers in the country, so his strategy now is to continue finding great products that can offer substantial value to buyers. “We also focus very hard on making sure the quality is good and the delivery is timely. What separates us from other China sourcing companies is we have a good research and development team that continually develops new items, which ensures our buyers continue to need us. One hot new product is the hunting ground blinds—and we’re having success with our apparel.”
Textus/Hunter’s View recently bought a new 65,000-square-foot warehouse on University Street, which includes 14,000 square feet of office space. “It gives us more space to hold our increased staff and provides a chance for more sales,” Smith explained. “We currently do 90 percent of our sales by producing full truckloads of product in China and shipping directly to our buyers’ warehouses, bypassing our Peoria warehouse. By not touching the product, we give our buyers more cost savings. The new warehouse will allow us to go after the smaller buyers who don’t have the ability to buy full truckloads. Additionally, we can now monitor our big buyers’ inventory levels in individual stores and ship directly to the store.”
Smith, who has traveled to China more than 45 times, said setting up operations in another country means you have to be committed to traveling. Long flights aside, however, he encouraged others to establish businesses in China. “I don’t believe we could have created Hunter’s View if we would have tried to produce the tree stands in the U.S.”
Traveling around the world presents its share of challenges, but Smith said it’s also taught him a lot. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned since starting this international business is whether the person is from the U.S., China, Vietnam, El Salvador, or Canada, all people are basically the same. There are cultural differences, but basically people just want to be happy and live their lives in a positive way.” IBI