There’s nothing like serving a niche of a niche industry . . . which is exactly what PJ and Rosanna Dufour have set out to do.
Paul “PJ” Dufour has been an avid fly fisherman all his life. A retired carpenter by trade, he discovered the art of handcrafting custom bamboo fly rods years ago. What began as a hobby turned into a business in 2020, and PJ’s Fine Bamboo Rods was born. “Fly fishing is already a niche industry,” Rosanna explains, “and bamboo fly rod fishing is a niche of a niche.”
Prior to launching the bamboo fly rod business with her husband, Rosanna spent more than eight years running a restaurant in Pagosa Springs, which is where she learned about the SBDC. “I bought the restaurant with no industry knowledge and a reputation that needed to be rebuilt, so I was working from the ground up. At my first consultation, the SBDC helped me get my books and payroll set up, which became one of the cornerstones of my success.”
By 2019, the Dufours were ready to sell the restaurant, and the SBDC was instrumental in helping them through the process.
After the sale, they turned their full attention to the fishing rod business. Although they initially planned to open a brick-and-mortar location, they had to quickly adjust their business plan due to the pandemic.
“In retrospect, starting with ecommerce turned out really well. It gave us the time to do research and development, and we built the brand and business before expanding our offerings,” Rosanna says.
After two years of ecommerce, they were ready to grow. They applied and became part of the 2022 cohort of the SCAPE program. “That was an amazing experience,” Rosanna says. “To be able to make this succeed, we needed all the advantages we could get. With all the tools and resources from SCAPE, we developed a solid business plan. I felt so much more prepared for a startup this time around.”
Last summer, the Dufours signed a lease on a retail space in downtown Pagosa Springs and launched their brick-and-mortar operation. They now offer six-day bamboo fly rod building courses, and participants come from all over the country to attend.
Shoppers can stop in to watch PJ and class participants handcraft bamboo rods. All of the products in the store are natural material based. The apparel is bamboo, and the store features fine woodworking, leather goods, and other items that support local companies with the same values and morals.
“We always intended to expand and enhance the fly fishing community in Southwest Colorado. We didn’t want to be just another fly shop,” Rosanna explains.
Shortly after opening, The Durango Herald visited and wrote a piece about the new shop. Phillips 66 got wind of it and asked the Dufours to be part of their “Live to the Full” campaign. Next month, the company will be featured in Drake’s Fly Fishing Magazine.
Moving forward, the Dufours hope to keep the media synergy going and to continue increasing exposure. Their classes are booked through September, and custom fly rods are booking nine months out. The Dufours are also excited to increase their offerings. This summer, they will host their second women’s fly fishing clinic and adding fly tying classes.
Rosanna says, “We are very grateful for all the support in Southwest Colorado. A lot of business owners could benefit from all of the free resources in available. Mary Shepherd does an amazing job and can help owners build connections in just about any business area.”