Key to fostering innovation is maintaining homegrown talent in Durham Region
By Ian McMillan – Metroland
DURHAM — Dan Miguel’s passion for fishing has taken him from the waterfront to the boardroom.
The 31-year-old Ajax resident is co-founder of National ProStaff, an online sport fishing platform launched in 2011. The business, located in the Spark Commercialization and Innovation Centre in Oshawa, has exploded in growth during the past year.
“I’ve always fished,” Mr. Miguel said sitting at his boardroom table.
He’s dressed in a T-shirt and jeans, not something associated with the old school image of a businessman. But make do doubt, Mr. Miguel is all business.
“I really wanted to make a career in the fishing industry,” he said.
The career Mr. Miguel originally wanted for himself was in sport fishing, not something that gets a lot of media attention. He fished prostaff (sponsored angler) for seven years, sponsored by Rapala, the world’s largest manufacturer of fishing lures and other fishing-related products. This took him to fishing tournaments and shows all over North America. He eventually put away his fishing pole and worked for three years in marketing.
“One out of four people fish,” he said. “It’s bigger than hockey.”
It was during his time with Rapala that Mr. Miguel noticed a disconnect between anglers and brand ambassadors. There are hundreds of sport fishers out there but how do they get sponsored?
“There are no scouts out on the lakes or rivers (looking for great anglers),” he said.
The world of sport fishing is all about who you know, explained Mr. Miguel. Fortunately for him, he knew a lot of people in the industry, but for the vast majority of anglers, there was a massive disconnect.
So he decided to connect them by creating an online platform, www.nationalprostaff.com . He quit his marketing job and he and his friend and fellow UOIT grad Brandon Wetzel launched their NPS website platform in 2011. The next summer another friend and UOIT alumni Chris Lazarte invested in the company and joined as a partner and co-founder.
NPS connects thousands of anglers, top brands, tournaments, and outfitters. It displays the latest products top anglers use, allows products to be endorsed by anglers on their profiles and tagged to content so users know exactly what products work.
For prostaffers and companies, NPS offers a place to stay better connected with fans and sponsors and helps companies better manage their teams.
NPS also allows users to highlight their knowledge and talent, generate a fan following, and apply directly to brands for sponsorship.
Despite NPS’s success to date, when the site was launched even Mr. Miguel admitted it was a bit nerve-wracking.
“I had no guarantee that anyone would want to use it,” he said.
But reel them in they did, especially after winning the Spark Centre’s Ignite competition in 2014. The $25,000 prize money, joining the Centre’s Thrive Accelerator Program and moving their headquarters to the Loft has helped NPS expand from two people to 10 full timers.
“That competition was massive for us,” Mr. Miguel said.
With the prize money, NPS was marketed to the US. The site now boasts 200 brands and has attracted pro angler Brent Ehrler.
Along the way the Spark Centre helped NPS get about $100,000 in grant money.
“These guys (Spark Centre) make it hard to leave,” Mr. Miguel said.
But the business hasn’t been without its challenges. NPS may be all about fishing but in order to build and maintain its online platform, it requires innovative talent.