It took Faith Akopov three attempts at starting her own business before she found the key ingredient to success: passion.
She discovered it in a business called Tri-Cities Tackle, located at 660 George Washington Way, Suite M, in Richland. It’s inside the Nutrex Building next door to the Richland Dugout.
“Learning your passion is loving what you do,” she said. “This is my third business I’ve opened and run. I also did a fitness studio and a life coaching business. This one, I’ve truly felt the passion behind it.”
Akopov, who is in her late 30s and a mother of daughters ages 7, 6 and 2, calls herself a mompreneur.
She has entrepreneurs in her family – her grandfather, her father, and her husband Michael among them.
For the past 13 years, she has refined her business chops by helping her father run his business, Master Tech Automotive in Richland.
For Akopov, Tri-Cities Tackle is the one business closest to her heart.
“I knew I wanted to do this once I saw the need in the Tri-Cities for a Ma and Pa shop, especially in Richland,” she said. “I love fishing, and I love helping people.”
Akopov grew up in the Denver, Colorado, area, where she embraced the outdoors.
Plus, her father owned a private ranch in nearby Wyoming. A ranch with seven lakes on it.
“Since I was a little kid, my dad had us out in the great outdoors, fishing, hunting, hiking, shooting and kayaking. It’s been in my blood since day one,” Akopov said.
During her childhood, she played sports – basketball, soccer, golf.
“But my dad planted the seeds of fishing while I was young,” she said.
So three years ago, she started Tri-Cities Tackle in her garage, with a small mini fridge with bait, and four pegboards to hang her tackle.
It just took off.
“We got the word out through Facebook, word of mouth, the fishing community, and going fishing with friends,” she said.
But soon, the garage space wasn’t enough. So she and her husband bought a small trailer, parking it by by LU LU Craft Bar + Kitchen (with the owners’ permission).
Or she’d set up shop at Maverik Adventure’s First Stop on Keene Road in Richland and sell from there.
“I made my own hours, and I did well being out for four hours at a time,” Akopov said. “The support from customers was great.”
Still, that may have not been enough. While her neighborhood homeowners association forced her to move her trailer out of her driveway, it also may have been time to find a more permanent home for the growing business.
And that’s what she and her husband did two months ago, moving into the current location.
“The goal is to get an employee next year, because I’m going to need the help,” she said.
The store offers tackle and bait for walleye, sockeye, salmon, sturgeon, bass and trout. Akopov also specializes in custom airbrushing, custom rigs, Legacy Fishing Wholesale tackle, and has created her own fishing products, such as Vortex Blades and the Scent Bullet.
The Legacy products, as well as the Vortex Blades and Scent Bullets, are the result of Akopov and her husband bouncing ideas off of each other.
“My husband and I can work each other into a frenzy,” she said. “Every month one of us will have a new idea. We’ll bounce ideas off of each other.”
The latest one is the Scent Bullet, where you can put a gel into the middle of a two-piece set that screws together. The fish pick up the scent.
It should be ready to launch in the next few weeks.
Akopov sells her Vortex Blades to other businesses wholesale, and customers – besides getting them at her store – can also buy them at local Ace Hardware stores.
Sometimes, Akopov will give some of her fishing friends her new products to use, and then she wants their feedback – good or bad.
“I just want the honesty,” said Akopov, who has talked to endless fishermen these past three years to know the local fishing scene. “It’s about knowing the seasons, and what works for the area. I don’t want (inventory) just sitting here. It took me a good couple of years to learn the seasons. Fishing is a year-round sport. There is walleye season, salmon season, sturgeon, so on. It’s endless.”
As a mother, Akopov also needs to find that work-life balance while watching her kids grow up. She and Michael share the parental duties.
“I have dinner with the family, I’ll help the girls with their homework. After the kids go to bed, I’ll get back to work, maybe working on the computer looking for inventory,” she said. “Michael also works the back end with inventory.”
While a small fishing tackle business may not be able to keep pace with the bigger box store, Akopov offers something better.
“Our top priority is customer service,” she said. “If I don’t have it, I can get it for you. I spend time with my customers. I enjoy talking and giving tips and advice on how to help customers catch fish. My passion has always been to help others.”
Case in point: recently a 15-year-old boy came into her store looking at gear. He told her his old fishing rod was broken and asked what he could get for $10.
“I told him to put his money away and come back next week and I’d have something for him,” she said.
She put the word out on her Facebook page.
“Social media just blew up on that one,” she said.
Local fishermen donated 10 fishing rods to the store.
“We ended up using Rods and Reels in Need,” Akopov said. “It’s a charity based on the west side of the state to help people fish.”
When the boy returned the following week, she had a whole setup waiting for him. She said she wanted him to do two things for her: stay out of trouble and get good grades in school.
“He came in yesterday to tell me his grades are up,” Akopov said.
This business, she said, is about relationships.
“Some of my customers are now my good friends,” said Akopov.
Her biggest thrill, though? Giving someone tips before they go out fishing for the first time. Then they catch that first fish and send her a photo of it.
“To me, it’s the best feeling ever,” she said.
Akopov doesn’t get out to fish nearly as much as she would like these days, but when she does go, she absolutely loves it.
“When you’re out in nature, you don’t have to worry about anything else going on. It’s about just being,” she said. “People say the tug (on the line) is the drug. It is.”
Tri-Cities Tackle: 660 George Washington Way, Suite M, Richland. Contact: Tricitiestackle.com; 509-591-2383; Facebook. Hours: 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday to Friday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday.
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