Thanks For Your Patience!

December has been a rough month for me…fun, but tough handling customer service calls and sales.   You see…I own and operate a business that makes the vast majority of its sales activity during the final three months of the year.   For those who don’t know, I’m in the business of marketing and selling calendars.   So it should not be surprising that the last few months of the year are basically make it or break it time for me.

Back in 1988 I was in my final year at the University of Minnesota when I took a class called writing for publication.   Essentially the class focused on newspaper and magazine writing…and in order to get a grade it was necessary to “get published.”   During the academic quarter I set out to write an article for the Minnesota Sportsman magazine entitled “Luck of the Draw,” an exposé of sorts describing how the Minnesota turkey lottery system works from within the DNR.   I queried the editor (a fancy way of saying I bounced the idea off of him) and got the go-ahead for the article.   Eventually the article was accepted, I received a nice check for $160, and I was officially an outdoors writer.

At that time I was inspired by another outdoors writer, namely Ron Schara of the Minneapolis StarTribune.   I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained…so I took the time to write Ron a nice note stroking his ego, but also stating that I would like to learn the ins and outs of being an outdoors writer from the best.   Well, about six months passed by and I did not hear from him…then lo and behold I received a call one day that forever changed my life.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking…but no…Ron did not want me to be a writer.   Instead, Ron explained he had this little calendar company on the side and needed some research assistance.   It would just be a little gig and we would see where it might go from there.   Well, to make a long story short eventually Ron hired me to work for his calendar company…and several years later we actually started a business together known as Wild Ideas, Inc.   It was in this business where we developed his outdoor information calendar which Ron now markets for both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

In January of 1996 Ron and I departed ways over a business disagreement, but I maintained doing much of what I had done for nearly eight years previously.   Today, I own a business called Outside Connections, LLC and together with my close friend, Jeff Flood of Mankato, we engage in many exciting calendar projects.   Currently we are the licensed calendar manufacturer for Ducks Unlimited, and have maintained this prestigious arrangement for over a decade.

Predominantly we produce and market imprinted promotional calendars to business and other interests who place their advertising message on the calendar buying them in bulk.   We’ve worked with many major clients such as Federal Cartridge, Stroh Brewing, Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, to name but a few.   During my 16+ years now of being in this calendar business I have been invoiced for and purchased over $1,000,000 worth of calendar products that have been resold to my customers.   We have paid Ducks Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited Canada together nearly $200,000 in royalties to help finance their important conservation programs.

I’m very proud of what I have accomplished in business mostly as a small, closely-held company specializing in marketing calendars.   This past year, in fact, I actually assembled my first ever printed catalog of calendar products and had a huge marketing effort to boost sales.   Guess what…it worked.   My business during the past 12 months has doubled in sales volume to the point that I can hardly keep up.   For much of the past 2 months I have literally worked 16 to 20 hours days…and the pace was becoming exhausting.   Hence, my decision to postpone writing in my blog for a short period during December.

As I reflect back it has been a fun year in business for me during 2004.   I’ve learned a lot in business…and I see much more promise for the future.   This coming year I plan to hire an employee so next fall when my business keeps growing I can take a little more time off to do some hunting and generally enjoy the fall season like I want to do.   In the meantime, I just want all my blog readers to know that I AM BACK…and ready to keep this thing rolling.   Thanks for your patience while I’ve been away attending to some other important aspects of my life.

© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.


Dear Sportsman’s Bloggers,

    I have to apologize for my somewhat sporadic entries during the past few days…but I am currently in the midst of my busy sales season with my business.   As much as I would like to take the time to leave daily entries about some of the fun aspects of life, and I will as time permits,…my business is currently consuming about 18 hours of my daily life these days.   I just don’t have time other than to sleep and work.    Sorry!!!

    From now until Christmas I will do my best to leave entries…but once Christmas is over I will then resume my mostly daily writing schedule.   Until then, I once again encourage each of you to step up to the plate and do some writing in my absence.   I will place it on this site and give you by-line credit.

    Thanks again for your patience during the next few weeks!

Jim Braaten

Thanking the Important People in Your Life

Each one of us has one or perhaps several of these people in our lives.   I’m talking about the folks who influenced you in discovering and enjoying the outdoors.   Perhaps it was a father who made sure you got to tag along in the boat while fishing.   Or maybe it was an uncle who allowed you to traipse with him while squirrel hunting in the woods.   No matter what the circumstances or who the individual may have been, undoubtedly if you enjoy the outdoors you can thank at least one person for helping develop this life-long interest.
I have such an individual in my life.   When I was a mere 10 years old one Saturday morning (32 years ago this past Thursday) the preacher came knocking on my door only to inform our family that my father had died on the way to work.   As you can imagine this sort of news has a way of turning your life upside down.   Yet, through the caring and strength of both family and friends eventually your boat stabilizes, and life turns back to some semblance of normalcy.

Today I want to honor and recognize one of the most influential people who has ever touched my life.   Gary Urness, who technically is my first cousin, once-removed, gave of his time unselfishly to make certain a young boy had all the experiences that his father was not able to provide for him.   Gary took me hunting, he took me fishing, he showed me how to shoot a gun, and how to build a deer stand…he showed me how to enjoy life.   His guidance set me on a course that very easily could have taken a very unsavory path…but people who care about your development won’t let that happen.
Earlier last month during deer season I was walking through the woods when I came to the tree where I had my very first deer stand.   Gary’s deer stand was a short distance away.   I sat down by that tree for several hours and contemplated the many good times I’ve experienced in my outdoor life and I did it in one of the very places it all began.   I remember when both Gary and I first started deer hunting it was a learning experience for both of us, but I believe our bond grew stronger because of this shared interest and thirst for knowledge.   In time, our experience and motivation to spend time together with our mutual outdoor interest allowed both of us to greater enjoy activities that, had it not been for the other person, we would not otherwise have singularly experienced in life.

Indeed, that is one of the true pleasures in life.   When you are given the gift of spending time with another individual to experience a shared interest there are few greater pleasures that life can afford to the both you.

Gary often likes to remind me that the year I was born was the year he graduated from high school.   That proved to be important in our friendship because what it meant to me, especially during the first years, was mobility.   Not only was Gary a mature and positive influence in my young life, but often times he was the means by which I was able to travel to the lake fishing, to the gun show, to the trapping supply dealer, to the sporting goods store, to name but a few.   I recognize now and appreciate the fact that when I asked Gary if we could go to one of the aforementioned events or places, his regular plans for how he might have spent the day usually took a backseat to whatever suggestion I was asking of him.
During this holiday season I hope you take some time to reflect on the many good experiences that you have had in the outdoors and be sure to thank those individuals who have made positive influences on your life.   We all have such individuals; we just don’t always take the time to give them their due.


Gary, I just want to thank you for giving so generously in your life.   The memories you’ve helped me create will be fondly embraced for the rest of my life.   I know these past two years have not been easy for you as face health struggles, but I do certainly hope that some of our adventures spent together will continue to put a smile on your face, much like they do for me.

As you well know life is a precious gift we should not take for granted…and I would say that the two of us didn’t squander the opportunities that were given to us.   Thanks for helping a confused, little boy turn into a man who has been blessed with a passion for the outdoors.   You, more than any other person in my life, are responsible for developing this interest.


© 2004 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.