Right on target; 12-year-old starts his own metal shooting target business
CLEARBROOK -- When 12-year-old Dawson Volker needed money to finish building his go-kart, his father, Arnold, made a deal with his son. He presented the boy with a piece of scrap metal from his business and challenged him to come up with an idea to make something out of it and make money from it.
Dawson came up with the idea for a metal shooting target. He chose a logo (a zombie) and someone at Arnold's business, Next Innovations, put the image on the piece of metal.
"It was my birthday and I told my dad's friend that I was looking for a go-kart frame because I wanted to build a go-kart," Dawson said. "He went to college at (North Dakota State), well he still is right now, and they built a go-kart. They would take everything off the frame and they would scrap the frame. So he grabbed the frame for me and I bought it from him for a $100."
Next Innovations makes wind spinners, so Arnold had plenty of scrap metal left over and a son willing to give it a try.
"So one of our wind spinners ... the middle is replaced with a ball," Arnold Volker said. "So we have 13,000 of these things that are just scrap. They have no color or anything, so I brought one home and said here, 'You need to figure out how to make this into money.'"
The idea for his concept came fairly quickly -- about five seconds, according to Dawson. At first the target was simply a metal cutout with a plain steel color.
"I looked online for the (zombie) image, because that was at the time everyone thought the zombie apocalypse was coming and everything," Dawson said.
He found the image on bigstock.com, where he had to pay for use of the image.
"So I thought I'd put the (zombie) image and sent it to their (Next Innovations) designer, and he put it on there and added the warnings and the slash marks on. He also added a target on the back because we wanted a target on it, but we didn't know where to put it. So he designed where everything should go," Dawson said.
The process took about a week because Dawson was looking at different designs.
"I didn't want to make one that looked super realistic because it wouldn't look very good. I looked at it and my father said I had to make money out of it and I said 'target' in my head," Dawson said. "I took it (the piece of metal) outside and and leaned against a tree and shot it with a B.B. gun. That didn't pierce it, so I took out my .22 and pierced it right away. Shot it with a pellet gun, didn't pierce it. All the pellet guns do is chip the paint a little."
The target was first made for kids his age to shoot with Nerf, Airsoft or B.B. guns. But with their growing popularity, they soon made thicker steel targets for larger caliber firearms.
"That's when everyone was buying the AR-15s and they (Reed's Sporting Goods) said they liked them, but they would like them even better if they were thicker for AR-15s and thirty-ought sixes," Dawson said.
He began selling them in a bar in Leonard, the Sidetrack Tap.
"That was really my first sale, they bought 10 targets. And that was a $50 sale," Dawson said.
"I think he about tipped over. I've never laughed so hard when we got to the car. He did his spiel and they said 'OK, we'll take 10 of them,"' Arnold said.
"And then I did the math and was like '$50!' and here they hand me my first $50 bill out of the till," Dawson added.
He also created his own company in the process, Shoot N Spin, which has a website, www.shootnspin.com, to promote his products, which his father helped him make.
"The website is in the process right now. It looks nice, but you can't buy anything off of there yet, but you can see where it is being sold," Dawson said.
Dawson said the "Shoot N Spin" name is self explanatory: "You shoot it, it spins," he said.
He recently trademarked the business name. In order to get the trademark, he had to be in a retail location, so he had to get photos to establish that.
So far, three locations carry his products: Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker, Scheel's Sporting Goods in Grand Forks, N.D., and Smokey Hills Outdoor Store in Park Rapids.
To promote the products, Dawson created a YouTube channel, shootnspin. It has been viewed by 60 countries and has about 26,000 views. Three of the videos are divided into youth, military/law enforcement and recreational. They show people firing at the targets with a variety of firearms.
Dawson has looked into other images for the targets, notably a deer, but for now he is sticking with the zombie.
The targets were the spark for larger projects as well. Those include the Swinger, the Super Swinger and the collapsible Dueling Tree, all used for target shooting.The items can be found on his website.