Company Profile: Hunter Safety Systemon Jul 9, 2012
Question: Tell me about the early years and how HSS got started?
Answer: The thing I love about our story is that it is truly based on good old American ingenuity. Our owners consist of two brothers, John and Jerry Wydner, and a lifelong friend, Jim Barta. These guys did everything together as kids, from chasing rabbits in vacant lots with bows and arrows to fishing. John and Jerry eventually moved to Alabama while Jim still resided in Michigan, but every year these lifelong friends would get together to hunt and spend time together. On one particular deer hunting trip to South Alabama, John, the eldest of the group, found himself in a precarious position. While getting situated in his tree, he watched in surprise as the bottom piece of his tree stand went crashing down to the rocks below. The only way he could get down the tree was to slide down the bark covered trunk of the tree, a few painful inches at a time. Once he got down the tree, his brother Jerry showed up to check him out. Once he realized that, other than a few cuts and bruises, his brother was okay, Jerry's initial response to his older brother; "You big dummy. You were not wearing your safety harness." John quickly replied, "No, did you have yours on?" After a little thought, Jerry replied, "No , but I am not the one that fell!"
That evening, back at camp, the ideas and sketches started to flow. All of the guys had dozens of different harnesses that they had received over the years with the purchase of a new tree stand. The overwhelming reason they did not wear them was because they were complicated and difficult to wear. They came up with the idea of incorporating the safety harness into a vest or jacket. Returning from their hunting trip with the ideas and sketches in hand, they enlisted the help of John's sister in law who also happened to be a seamstress. She actually put together the first working model for Hunter's Safety Systems. This model is currently held in a glass case at the offices of HSS. In 2001 they went to every consumer show they could think of and sold 1,800 units of the new product in the first year. This year, 2012, they will sell over 200,000 units. All because three lifelong friends created a product to help protect themselves and ensure that they would return to their wives, children and grandchildren.
The New Ultra Light Harness puts an end to the "It's to heavy to wear" excuse. In fact, you will hardly notice you're wearing it.
Question: How is HSS different than other hunting products companies?
Answer: Everything in the hunting industry is geared towards performance; whether it is arrows, bows or clothing. HSS is different than any other company because we are about saving lives. We are not a tree stand company selling an accessory. We are not a clothing line trying to come up with a new product. Safety and saving lives is all we focus on.
Question: What’s one thing people do not know about HSS as a company?
Answer: I believe that it would have to be the genuine way that we care. I have seen our three owners sit and read stories from loved ones of individuals that have died from falls, or from individuals that have been paralyzed from falls. The owners will have to turn away because they get so emotional and will actually cry while reading these letters. However, over the past few years, we have gotten to shed more tears of joy while reading letters that express thanks for making a product that saved someone’s life or the life of a husband's, father, brother, etc. Those letters are what drives use to make the best product we can. Last year, we lost 24 of our fellow hunters to treestand falls because they were not wearing a full body safety harness and were not attached to the tree from the moment they left the ground until the moment they returned. Our goal is to reduce that number to zero.
Question: Tell me about the culture of HSS?
Answer: We take a tremendous amount of pride in HSS. We love our company and our owners. It is a family oriented business. We usually arrive early to work and stay late because this is really where we enjoy being.
Question: Tell me about the struggles of developing the full body harness in the early days?
Answer: TMA had not yet started certifying harnesses, and we had to find a way to test the product in order to ensure that a 300lb man could safely use our product. We also had to engineer buckles that could handle a severe fall without failing to do their job because the weakest point of any harness is the buckles. Our owners were also told that there was no way that you could get consumers to pay $100 for a harness when they can get one free with every tree stand purchase. We also had to make safety “cool” and raise awareness that there are people dying because they are not wearing their safety harness.