Cabela’s: A Success Story

CabelasMost Nebraskans have either been inside a Cabela’s Sporting Goods store, or driven past one of their numerous locations throughout Nebraska.

According to The New Yorker, there are fifty Cabela’s stores in the United States that bring in $3.5 million dollars of revenue. Its stores look like “enormous log cabins… Cabela’s exhibits have been described as ‘natural-history museums,’ and its stores are billed as tourist destinations. When a Cabela’s opened this past October in Waco, Texas, people lined up for hours outside in the rain, starting at 8 a.m. on the previous day.”

The cult following of Cabela’s, located in Sidney, Nebraska, is a far cry from the kitchen table dreams of Dick Cabela, who started a mail order business for fishing flies out of his Chappell, Nebraska home in 1961. Filling orders out of his kitchen with his wife, Mary, eventually the business grew and moved to other buildings in Chappell, and a 50,000 square-foot vacant John Deere building in Sidney, Nebraska. The world headquarters are still along I-80 in Sidney today, but they now encompass more than 250,000 square feet. Eventually, the Cabela’s opened a retail store in Kearney with a wildlife display including more than 250 mounts and live native Nebraska fish in over 4,000 gallons of water.

By 1998, Cabela’s offered over 90,000 products: It’s important to note that 45,000 of these were designed and manufactured specifically for Cabela’s. Instead of just continuing their mail order and direct retail business, manufacturing the Cabela’s brand became integral to the store’s success. It’s a high-quality product, too. Cabela’s brand clothing and footwear is guaranteed for the lifetime of the product under normal wear and tear and defects in workmanship, and all other Cabela’s brand merchandise is guaranteed for one full year. This gave them the extra leg up in a very niche industry, and the opportunity to expand and go public, eventually doing so in 2004.

And although Dick Cabela passed away last year, his story of hard work, entrepreneurship, and commitment to well-manufactured products lives on. In Cabela’s: The World’s Foremost Outfitter, David Cabela walks us through some of the best advice that Dick Cabela gave regarding business:

Testing: It’s okay to take risks, but you still must test products and ideas.

Controlled Growth: Many entrepreneurs find themselves on the road to success, then over-extend their capabilities; look for long-term growth and solutions.

Honesty: Build your company with integrity.

Surround Yourself with Top-Notch People: A company is only as good as those who run it.

Flexibility: It’s challenging, but you must swim upstream sometimes to find your own niche in the marketplace.

Distinctive Positioning: Cabela’s found a market that was relatively unexplored.

Time: It takes a tremendous amount of time to get a business started in the early years.

photo credit: Cabela’s in La Vista, NE via