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Student entrepreneur angling for online success

Posted: Dec 29, 2015


"In the outdoor sports industry, about 60 percent of start-up companies fail in the first year. Seeing success in my first year as a business owner has been a blessing." — Tom Zidek, senior marketing major

Tom Zidek is a risk-taker. The senior marketing major has expanded an Instagram account into Hooked & Tagged, a thriving online retail business offering quality products that appeal to hunting, fishing and outdoor enthusiasts.

Zidek manages to devote five or more hours each day to maintaining and growing his business while juggling the demands of being a full-time student and an athlete on Olivet’s track and field team.

He credits any success so far to the support of his parents, David and Linda Zidek, and that of other family, friends and the Olivet School of Business. Zidek says business classes and professors have been invaluable resources. Sales classes taught by Dr. Lynda Allen and the advertising and promotion class taught by Dr. Don Daake have been most helpful.

“Dr. Allen and Dr. Daake have opened my eyes to things I wouldn’t have thought about on my own,” he says.

In his sophomore year, Zidek, from Hoffman Estates, Illinois, began @hookedandtagged as a site where he and other outdoor enthusiasts could share their hunting and fishing successes. He developed the idea with friends Mike Miller ’14, a corporate communications major from Elk Grove Village, Illinois; and Andrew Pals ’14, a business management major from Crown Point, Indiana. The response was much greater than the three friends expected.

When Zidek took the initiative to expand the site into a business, his vision was to offer quality products and low prices to outdoor enthusiasts around the country. These logo products — many designed by Zidek — now include shirts, hats, hoodies and a bumper sticker.

“When I started Hooked & Tagged, my biggest question was: ‘Am I going to get any return on what I’m putting into this business?’” Zidek says. “I wouldn’t be able to keep going without the financial investment and prayer support of my family and friends.”

Through a lot of trial and error over the past two years, Zidek has found some niches in his field. About 60 percent of his company’s sales come from college students. His top-selling product is the Camo Flat-Brim (Fish Patch) Hat, his own design inspired by a dream.

In 2016 — the year Zidek will graduate from Olivet — Hooked & Tagged will expand into the expo and sport show market. With help from his friend and roommate, Noah Ballweg — a senior criminal justice major from Prairie Du Sac, Wisconsin — Zidek will peddle his products in trade show exhibit booths.

To future business owners, Zidek says: “There will be some days when you feel like quitting. There will be some days when you feel like what you’re doing is worth it. Give your business to the Lord. Have a support system. Follow your passion. Don’t give up.”

Average ACT composite score of last year's incoming freshmen