Tom Sega has a Zoom conversation with Grant Sega, The Vice President and Co-owner of Spring Creek Manufacturing, on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack. In this podcast episode, Grant walks us through how he became involved with Spring Creek Manufacturing and took this business from the brink of failure to a success story since he began with the company 5 years ago. Grant also discusses the history of Spring Creek Manufacturing and the future he sees for this USA Made Manufacturer.
Tom kicks off this interview by asking Grant about his childhood and joking to be careful what he says. This is because Grant is not only a successful entrepreneur, but he is also Tom Sega’s son and business partner in Spring Creek Manufacturing, something that they discuss in detail further into this episode.
Background on Grant Sega
Grant was born and raised in Hermantown, MN, a city just outside of Duluth, MN. Growing up Grant was extremely active and spent much of his time either in sports or being outside in nature. Tom jokes that Grant may have gotten his energy from Tom when it comes to bouncing off the wall. It was this love of being active that led Grant to pursue it all, soccer, football, baseball, hockey, track and field. Outside of sports, Grant says he is an outdoors person to a core. From hunting and fishing to just being in the outdoors; watersports, canoeing, being in the BWCAW, and camping are all passions of Grants. For college Grant went to the University of Wisconsin Superior for Business Administration, with a focus on management. Grant graduated from the University of Wisconsin Superior in 2017.
Tom asks Grant, “what was your plan getting out of college before maybe old dad threw a monkey wrench in the plan?” Grant laughs explaining that while he wasn’t sure what exactly he would do outside of school when he graduated, he knew he wanted to do something with his major. Due to the broad nature of his major in business, Grant knew he could find something with it. Grant says that his main goal plan was “get a job, start working, and start making money”. At that time Grant had no idea that his future would lead him to become the Vice President of a USA Manufacturing company, Spring Creek Manufacturing.
Taking Over Spring Creek Manufacturing
Grant and Tom are both avid outdoorsmen and had discussed wanting to create a camping saw that would be the best of others they had used in the past and resolve some of the issues of other saws that were on the market. During these conversations, Tom and Grant began to look for USA aluminum manufacturers and found Spring Creek Manufacturing. This was a manufacturer that was close to their hunting shack where they hunt. Tom and Grant decided to stop by the factory and ended up meeting the owners of Spring Creek, which was at the time named Spring Creek Outfitters, the Newbergs. They went back and forth on the idea of making a collapsible camp saw and pursuing its creation. Two years later the Newbergs and the Segas crossed paths again at a sports show at the DECC and the conversation changed. The Newbergs explained that they could manufacture the saw, but that business was not going well, and they were not sure how long they would be around as a company. During that conversation, the Newbergs pitched that Tom and Grant purchase the company, and then they could manufacture the saw themselves.
That was the start of conversations from 2016-2017. During that time Grant and Tom had a formal conversation with the Newberg family about purchasing the business. Tom and Grant also had a formal conversation with each other to discuss if this was something they wanted to do with Grant just getting out of school. They also talked about if it was something they wanted to do and be involved in as a family in a business. On July 1st of 2017, they closed on Spring Creek and took over as the new owners of Spring Creek Manufacturing. Since then, Grant has expanded the product line of Spring Creek Manufacturing to include a variety of great USA Made gear. This of course includes the lightweight collapsible camp saw that started it all for Grant, the Tuff Camp Saw.
History Of Spring Creek
Tom asks Grant to take him and the listeners back to the beginning of Spring Creek and talk about how this company began in Mountain Iron, MN. Grant explains that the company originally began with Ted Newberg in 1985. Ted was a high school science teacher in Mountain Iron and an outdoors person to his core. Ted was an active hiker and camper, but his love was on the water paddling and canoeing in places like the Boundary Waters. His wife Videtta told me that despite Ted’s love of the BWCAW, he struggled with discomfort when portaging because of his slender shoulders on the yoke of the canoe. Ted felt like there had to be a more comfortable way to carry a canoe that would not cause him so much neck pain. To help alleviate this pain Ted started by using retired high school football pads to provide comfort while portaging. This led to him and his son, Chuck, creating multiple iterations of a padded yoke. The final iteration of this idea became the Canoe Seat Yoke. A seat yoke that works as both a seat and a portage yoke. This yoke does not have a neck bar that digs into the back of your neck and can be adjusted for ultimate comfort.
After creating this product Ted and Chuck were asked by friends and family to create one for them which led to selling these. In 1985 this creation led to the creation of a Manufacturing company, Spring Creek Outfitters which was founded on the Canoe Seat Yoke. Grant tells Tom that Ted wanted to make sure anything made by the company was quality above all else and that the items they made were simple to use and designed to portage, propel, carry, launch, or haul both canoes, and kayaks. This mission and the company’s values have continued to grow Spring Creek Manufacturing to this day.
Owning a Family Business
“Let’s fast forward,” Tom says to Grant. “The Newbergs owned the business and then you take over as the operating partner and it is a family business. What is your experience working with me “Tom” and as a family business?” Tom jokes with Grant to be nice and Grant fires back instantly saying he will have to bite his tongue jokingly. Grant tells Tom and the listeners that the biggest perk of working with family is the trust you can have in knowing you are all doing what is best for the company. Being a family, Grant and Tom have been able to be honest and a little blunt with each other. There are no hard feelings during those times though Grant says because you know you both have the company’s best interest in mind. Another highlight for Grant working with his father in business has been having another thing to bond over. Grant comments that he grew up hearing conversations around business and is now able to be involved in those conversations in a meaningful way which means a lot to him.
The Truth of Being in a Family Business
Tom talks to Grant about how some people looking in could see a family in business being a bit of a cakewalk for the family members involved. He asks Grant what some of the realities of being in business with family are. Grant responds to Tom saying that “It is not all sunshine and rainbows.” He says there is a certain level of expectations that can be higher for the family. Grant follows up by saying it is not a bad thing, but you definitely need some separation from your work self and personal self and to be careful to not mix those with family.
Grant’s Role as Vice President & Co-Owner
As the Vice President and Co-Owner of a small company Grant comments that he wears a lot of hats throughout the day. He tells Tom that although he is the leader of the company there is no job that is beneath him. During a single day, he could go from overseeing the company’s daily needs, working with B2B and B2C customers, and even helping on the production line on a mill. Grant says that it can all change from day to day, but he loves it.
Tom comments that Grant seems comfortable now that he has been in the role for the past 5 years, but asks him about the early years in his role. When Grant began as the Vice President at Spring Creek Manufacturing, he was 22, fresh out of college, and had just bought a company that was failing. Grant says he found a lot of help in the fact that it is a family business, and he had the support of his family. Grant recalls calling Tom up to 20 times a day with questions in those first few months. In the beginning, Grant tells Tom that it was difficult because he was trying to learn all the different aspects of the business, and at the same time turn it around to become profitable. Grant tells Tom, “There were a lot of long days in the beginning, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I learned so much in that time.” Grant even goes on to say that he learned more in 2-3 months of business than in his time in school because he was able to put his knowledge into practice.
The Spring Creek Product Lines
Spring Creek Manufacturing has proudly been producing products in the USA since it began in 1985, but its offerings have expanded well beyond the Canoe Seat Yoke that founded the company. Now Spring Creek has two verticals that they focus on, canoeing and paddling sports and truck racks. Tom Asks Grant to walk him through these verticals and what separates them from his competitors. When comparing to others in the same vertical, Grant is proud to say that quality is what really sets them apart. Spring Creek creates the highest quality products out of the highest quality materials. Grant goes on to say that he is not bashful in saying that because it is something that Spring creek stands behind fully as a USA Made manufacturer. All Spring Creek Manufactured products use anodized aluminum and stainless-steel fasteners so they will not rust or rot. Grant also points out a highlight which is specific to their truck rack line. This is the fact that Spring Creek Manufacturing’s racks are not year, model or manufacture specific so you can move them from one vehicle to another, something that many customers have done with their racks.
Canoeing and Paddle Sports Line
The canoeing and paddle sports line includes the Tuff Camp Saw, Drop-In Seat which is fully adjustable to fit a variety of canoe models and works as a center seat, third seat or additional seat, Canoe Seat Yoke, and stabilizer floats. Grant explains that Spring Creek is the original stabilizer float manufacturer, others may claim it he says but that is incorrect, stating that they are the original! Spring creek makes stabilizers for SUP boards, John Boats, canoes, and kayaks. Grant states that some people who buy them do yoga on SUP boards on the water and explains that the floats are a huge part of their paddle sports line. This line draws a customer that can be either experienced in the outdoors or is new to the sport and looking to invest in quality gear that will last a lifetime from the start.
Spring Creek Manufacturing has added and expanded its industrial truck rack line and manufactures standard truck racks, bed racks, cab racks/topper racks which are what Spring Creek calls their suction cup racks. Spring Creek Manufacturing has hitch racks and a headache-style rack which is a rear window protecting rack with accessory add-ons for those racks. Grant tells Tom that they also have the full-on cantilever racks that go over the full length of the vehicle. When talking about this line Grant explains that it is designed for those with a fleet or one-off vehicles that are often in construction or contract work.
Grant jokes that he could go on talking about their products all day, but you can view them all at Springcreek.com and follow them on social at @springcreekmfg as well to learn more.
Challenges of Being USA Made
Tom mentions that Grant speaks heavily of his pride of being a USA Made company and producing USA Made products. He follows that by asking Grant what challenges there are for being a made in the USA company. Grant says that the price of USA Made goods could be seen as a challenge but he doesn’t shy away from this. It is not a surprise that products produced off-shore have a lower price point, but Spring Creek is a premium product and it is made in the USA, Grant comments. He explains that they don’t shy away from the fact that their products are an investment. He explains to Tom that they make a quality product and when you buy USA Made you are not only investing in a quality product, but you are investing in your family, neighbors, friends, and the employees of USA companies. This is something Tom couldn’t agree with more and he highlights how important it is to support local and support Made in the USA companies.
The Future of Spring Creek Manufacturing
Tom and Grant discuss the challenges and growth of Spring Creek Manufacturing since Grant took over in 2017, including covid in 2020. This was a difficult time for all, including Spring Creek Manufacturing which had to lay off all its employees for 6 weeks before being able to reopen. During Covid, Spring Creek Manufacturing saw their market grow as so many new people were becoming outdoors people and were looking for quality gear. This led to great growth for Spring Creek and they pivoted quickly into focusing on Ecommerce sales. During that time, Spring Creek had to push production heavily to keep up with demand and rebuild its inventory.
As Spring Creek continues to grow over the coming years, Grant says he is really focused on expanding the company’s offerings. This includes growing the company’s truck line products and being able to employ more American workers. This is something that Grant isn’t the only one excited about though as the company has gotten a lot of press for its story and unique product offerings. One of these exciting moments for Grant especially was when Spring Creek Manufacturing was featured in Forbes Magazine.
As Tom and Grant bring the episode to a close, Tom asks Grant to leave the listeners with some pieces of advice. Tom asks what Grant would tell those considering going into business with their family members. Grant explains that he has two pieces of advice on that topic. First, he says to have open lines of communication and draw a line in the sand between what is home and what is business. You don’t want to see a family relationship ruined by business and I am sure it happens says Grant. His second piece of advice is to have fun. Grant explains that Tom and him often say to each other and others that we take our business very seriously, but we have fun. “Don’t do it if you aren’t going to have fun,” Says Grant, “I am 5 years in and still having a great time.”
During this episode of Leader Of The Pack, Tom and Grant discuss how he became the Vice President and Co-owner of the USA Made Manufacturer, Spring Creek Manufacturing, and also became involved in a family business. Tom and Grant also talk about how this iconic company was founded and how Grant Sega took this company on the brink of bankruptcy and turned it into the successful manufacturer of paddle sports equipment and industrial truck accessories that it sells today. To view Spring Creek’s full product lineup, you can shop them online at Springcreek.com, Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.com. You can also follow this USA Made brand on socials at @Springcreekmfg. Lastly, you can find Spring Creek Manufacturing products at Duluthpack.com and in the Duluth Pack Retail store in Duluth, MN. Thank you, Grant, for joining us on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack and sharing the triumphs of becoming a Vice President and Co-owner of a USA Manufacturer, and for being a friend of Duluth Pack.