TEN & TWO in Star Tribune

Fly fishing pals turn passion into growing outdoor clothing brand

By Nick Williams

Just before the pandemic hit the U.S., friends Brian Slater and Phil Clark decided to combine their passion for fishing and knowledge of advertising and design and launch a new venture, Ten and Two, an artistic outdoor clothing and apparel brand.

Both full-time professionals in the advertising industry, Slater and Clark started Ten and Two as a side business from their respective homes in the Twin Cities, with dreams of making it their main source of income.

The weekend before stay-at-home orders went into effect, they had set up their first pop-up store, where sales exceeded expectations, Slater said. As pandemic shutdowns continued, however, they realized their plan was not tenable.

"Because we don't have a ton of startup capital and it's just funded by ourselves, we were going to build it very slowly and organically by showing up in interesting ways locally, build a core following, and then let it grow from there," Slater said. "We had all these ideas and then COVID happened. Our whole strategy of how this was going to happen fell apart on us."

COVID-19 disrupted their whole work lives, as they moved to a remote set-up for their day jobs. As it turned out, the new set-up added flexibility in their routines to commit more time to their passion project. It would just have to operate in a different way.

Using social media platforms like Instagram, Slater and Clark focused on their e-commerce sales, allowing them to sell not only to consumers in Minnesota, but in Texas, Colorado and even England. In 2021, the company sold close to 600 units.

Ten and Two also sells ski apparel, which accounts for less than half of their overall inventory, Clark said.

Fueling growth were partnerships with organizations that strive to protect fish and their ecosystems. In 2020, they were connected to a river conservation group on the West Coast that needed assistance with website design and branding.

That led Slater and Clark to turn Ten and Two into more of a studio that offers marketing and advertising services to similar nonprofits and organizations focused on fish and the environment.

"That's led to a lot more customers and broadened our network of people that come to Ten and Two," Slater said. "Without a ton of social spending, we've done a decent job of growing our audience, and it's become sort of a snowball effect for us."

Slater and Clark met eight years ago after being introduced by the owner of a fly fishing shop owner who felt they had much in common.

As they fished together, they realized they could combine their creative skills from their advertising experience into a new venture.

"We spent a lot of time complaining about how stuff looked in the outdoor space," Clark said. "Everything was overly cliché, and everything felt the same. If it was a fishing brand, it had a fish on the shirt."

The brand would represent fly fishing and outdoors in Minnesota, but in an artistic fashion, allowing people to wear the items for casual outings.

"We thought we could own this space and be authentic about it," Clark said.

April 11, 2022 — Phillip Clark

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