Five-year-old brand adds dealers, distributors
Five years ago, the Galley family launched Hornet Outdoors with only a handful of products. But the brand has quickly grown, with more than 70 SKUs now in its lineup and more being added monthly.
“The products and the brand got started because we own and have owned ATVs and UTVs, and like a lot of folks who have owned these products, you use them, and you enjoy using them, and you get incredibly frustrated at times with certain things,” said Tom Galley, owner of Hornet Outdoors. “You find yourself saying, ‘Why did they do this, and why did they do that, and why don’t they make it this way, and why don’t they make it that way?’”
In 2012, Hornet built its first product: a one-piece roof for a mid-size Polaris Ranger. The Galley family was frustrated because all the roofs on the market at the time were two or three pieces. As a former c-suite executive in the technology industry, Galley understands the hurdles OEMs face with developing new products. He knew freight costs were leading companies to be hesitant with developing a one-piece roof. But he did his research, found a company to manufacturer the roof his family designed, and though the shipping costs more than the product, he found a roof that he could deliver to market.
“It’s still a good roof, and it’s still a good value for the customer, and we’re still able to make money on it,” he explained.
After developing the roof, the Galley family was ready to add to their lineup. Next came a cargo rack that installs without tools, as well as bedrails for the Ranger. With that, Hornet Outdoors was born. Tom Galley’s sons Derek and Dexter run the day-to-day operations, while his wife Arnell handles the financial piece, and Tom leads the website and sales efforts.
All of the brand’s R&D is handled in-house, using a method that’s different than most. Instead of going from a Solidworks CAD model into prototype, then testing that prototype and restarting the process for revisions, Hornet starts with the prototype.
“We first build. We design and build and test and then document,” Galley reported.
With a small company, that process is easier, less time consuming and less expensive, Galley said. For example, if the team creates a rack and then find it needs more clearance for a rear windshield, they can quickly make that adjustment and retest the product, rather than bringing it back to an engineer.
“You learn some of the hard lessons very, very quickly, and you’re able to make changes literally on the fly,” Galley said.
Once a product makes it through the fit test, it’s tested in real world applications on the machines before moving into full production.
“Then we test the market by putting it on our website usually for 30 or 60 days before we pull the trigger and turn them loose,” he explained. The website allows Hornet to test marketability and pricing.
All of Hornet Outdoors’ products are manufactured in the U.S., which is important to the Littleton, Colorado-based company. Most of the manufacturing is done by a company in Commerce City, Colorado, but Hornet also contracts with manufacturers in Buffalo and Forest Lake, Minnesota. Hornet handles much of the final assembly and machined parts in-house.
Because of Hornet Outdoors’ R&D process and U.S. manufacturing, the company is able to quickly turnaround products and introduce them into the market with ease.
Though roofs and racks have moved well for Hornet, its current bestseller is the Ranger Tool Hooks. The $89.95 product comes with two hooks that attach to a Polaris Ranger bed and allow for quick and secure attachment of shovels, rakes, trimmers, or other tools.
“We tried it … and the thing just went off the map. It’s the craziest thing. It’s just one you wouldn’t expect,” Galley said.
Another Hornet product that will soon hit the market is the UTV Roll Bar POV Camera Mount. The company tested a number of camera mounts in the snowmobile and ATV/UTV market and found many didn’t work well, weren’t sturdy, or they weren’t universal.
“We integrated a Fast Clamp into an adjustable universal arm … and it’s really solid. It installs on 1-1/2 to 1-3/4-inch tubing,” Galley said. “It’s reasonably priced; it works really well; it’s solid, and I think it’s unique.”
He pointed out that about 90 percent of Hornet’s products are those you won’t find from any other company. Hornet has filed for several patents.
“All of the products were just literally born out of use and necessity, like a lot of small companies. And we just built them because nobody else did,” he said.
This uniqueness has helped Hornet launch partnerships with distributors and dealers. Western Power Sports and Kimpex both carry the full Hornet Outdoors line, while Parts Unlimited has private labeled the Hornet product under its Moose brand. Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and 10 online retailers also carry Hornet Outdoors. And Hornet Outdoors offers a dealer direct program that has been picked up by more than 50 dealers.
“Overall, we’re just really, really pleased with the line and the acceptance of the products across the board,” Galley said.
Sales in 2015 were great, while in 2016 they were still good, while softer than the year prior, Galley reported. However, with additional distributor and dealer partners, the company is looking forward to 2017.
“We think the market overall, in talking to dealers, is more optimistic,” he said. “When we combine that with the fact that our channels are more developed and more mature, I think that ’17 is going to be a good year.”