Things were going so well, incredibly well. Travis Wilcox, uncharacteristically, had taken a chance and it was paying off in a big way. He is, by his own account "the most conservative person on the planet." Risk-taking is not in his nature, and even he himself seemed surprised by his desire to start a business, a very unique business at that. But something about this idea would not leave him alone. He "felt compelled to try it." After months of research, gathering feedback from family and entrepreneurial friends, creating business plans and giving presentations–perhaps trying to persuade himself as much as anybody else that this could work–Travis took the leap and decided to start Heber Hatchets.
Travis got his first taste of hatchet throwing at a Christmas party. Before trying it, he, like many of us, was skeptical as to how hatchet throwing could possibly be feasible–not as a business, that was definitely not on his radar–but just the physical act itself. Could any non-pioneer-mountain-man possibly throw an axe several feet and get it to stick into a wooden target? Multiple times? And is that fun? After actually trying it though, also like many of us, he was hooked.
When he began thinking about possibly starting his own venue, he took family, and then entrepreneurs he respected, to various hatchet throwing places to give it a go. He wanted them to see what this axe throwing thing was all about. Everybody seemed to agree that it was a great time, and that Travis was on to something with his business idea. Travis moved his business plans forward.
When it came time to find a location, he rented a warehouse in his hometown of Heber. The location was a bit off the beaten path, but would be a relatively inexpensive option. He would later realize that that had been a mistake–he had paid too much attention to his inner anti-risk-taker–but at the time, it seemed like keeping the overhead as low as possible was the best course of action.
Before their doors had even opened, a great opportunity emerged. After Travis' daughter had set up a meeting between her father and the Provo-based escape room venue, Get Out Games. The businesses decide to form a partnership.
Heber Hatchets started up in July 2018. In August of the same year, Heber Hatchets in Provo opened for business. These venues, especially in Provo, where Heber Hatches was located on the town's main strip, were incredibly popular. Hatchet throwing was a hit and the business was a success. By December of 2018, another location had opened in Logan. At the beginning of 2019, two locations were opened in Idaho, followed by one in Spokane. Another Heber Hatchets was set to open its doors in 2020 in Kennewick, WA. Everything was built out, everything was ready. Things were moving fast. And then COVID hit.
The pandemic has crippled every industry that involves people getting together and Heber Hatchets has taken a severe hit. Closed for months, but still responsible for paying rent, utilities and other overhead, the business is lucky to have survived, and that was only due to earlier atypical but prudent management decisions. The weakest location (and namesake of the company) in Heber, has had to shut down, but the others remain, and have even reopened, though in a very limited, and less lucrative COVID capacity. Despite all this, Travis remains optimistic.
Learn more about Travis, his story, his entertaining and unique business, the difficulties he's seen, the mistakes he's made, and the advice he has for other entrepreneurs, and Ete's obsession with The Blue Dot in this episode of The Company Next Door.