For Brandon Turner, inventing products for duck hunters was the easy part. The hurdles came with selling the items that included a duck call air freshener and a mechanical duck decoy.
Since 2015, Turner, 40, has overcome threats of a patent infringement lawsuit, lack of financing and now COVID-19.
But his company, Banded Mallard Co. of Jacksonville, has continued to grow. Turner doesn’t expect the global pandemic to damage sales for his motion decoys that the company manufactures and sells exclusively through its website, BandedMallard.com.
“At the end of the year we’re going to have a bigger year than last year,” said Turner, who operates the company out of a small shop located on his property.
Last year, Banded Mallard sold about 2,000 decoys, generating about $200,000 in revenue, for the business that employs Turner and occasional extra help. And those sales stemmed from the company’s social media accounts. Banded Mallard has about 60,000 followers on Instagram, Turner said.
“In this day and age, you just don’t need a retail store anymore,” he said. “The average Joe can reach as many people as he wants to.”
John M. Adams, vice president of product development at the hunting apparel firm Natural Gear Camouflage, of Little Rock, has known Turner for years and weighed in on Banded’s success.
“Brandon is a great, down-to-earth guy,” he said. “What you get with his product is they have a motion system that is unique, and not something ducks get accustomed to or become leery of, as many have experienced with the ‘spinning wing’ type decoys.”
Turner is expanding the company and soon will be building decoys in a nearly 1,000-SF metal shed that is under construction on his property.
Turner also plans this year to begin sales of goose decoys for about $3 each.
“I’m excited about them because the snow goose decoys are so expensive,” he said.
The decoy work comes naturally to Turner. Growing up in Marianna (Lee County) just southwest of Memphis, he was drawn to the outdoors and duck hunting.
“I just lived and breathed it,” he said.
Wading Into Business
In 2005, Turner said he needed a particular duck blind to reduce the chance of detection by the ducks he hunted on public land.
“I came up with an idea for a floating duck blind,” he said. He then decided to make more and sell them to local sporting goods stores.
“I guess I was just young, naive, you know,” Turner said. “I didn’t really know how much capital investment it took to start something on that scale.”
He received some funding from family members to help him get started.
At that time, Turner also worked at the L’Oreal Maybelline makeup plant in North Little Rock, helping to keep their machines humming. Turner’s duck blinds were selling. But when the Great Recession struck, the manufacturer Turner used went belly up.
“I didn’t have the capital to go overseas,” he said. “It was a bad time to invest a lot of money into something.”
So his duck blind business closed and Turner focused on college.
Turner graduated from Arkansas State University, in Jonesboro, with a degree in business. In 2010, he left L’Oreal and took various jobs that included selling insurance and annuities.
Around 2015, Turner came up with the idea to create and manufacture a refillable car air freshener that looks like a duck call and hangs from a rearview mirror.
But he needed to borrow about $60,000 for the startup costs and didn’t have collateral for a loan. He ended up selling a 20% interest in his company to get the money.
The air freshener “got me back into all the stores,” Turner said. “And then that opened the door for me to do some other things.”
He started making knickknacks like duck call necklaces and keychains. Then he came up with the idea to create a motion duck decoy. Called the Drake Wake, the mechanical decoy spun its head around, creating a wake in the water.
The product was a hit, but not for Turner.
“We sold a lot of them through … the retail stores,” he said. “We just weren’t making money on it.”
Making matters worse, he received a cease-and-desist letter from an attorney representing a Colorado man who said he held the patent for the mechanical decoy and wanted Turner to stop selling them. Turner said he could have fought the issue in court, but he decided to pull the products.
“I had some other stuff on the back burner,” he said.
So he launched the line of the BloodBath mechanical decoy, which flutters its wings in the water, and the FrenzyFeeder, which bobs its head in the water and is the company’s best seller.
Turner said he’s motivated to keep his word to the investors helping him to follow his dream that he wouldn’t let them down.
“And man, that’s cost me enormous sacrifice to fulfill those words, but that’s what I’ve done,” he said. “And that’s what kept us going through the roughest of times. I would not let those guys down.”