FORT MILL — It could have been any one of the many trips with his uncle fly fishing that got Jesse Horine hooked.
Horine, 18, wanted to know why his uncle made his own flies instead of buying them. Turns out, the ones for sale weren’t up to snuff.
“That’s when I realized the demand and the opportunity,” Horine said.
Horine, a Fort Mill High School graduate who heads to College of Charleston this fall, sold his business idea for high-quality fishing gear and apparel to take second place in the June 18 state YEScarolina Business Plan Competition. The third annual event asks high school students to create and submit business plans, then present them for competition at the county and state level.
Horine took second, with $2,000 in cash and an October trip to nationals in Silicon Valley in California.
“It’s pretty cool to see a bunch of young entrepreneurs that have businesses, and it’s because of programs like this,” he said.
Horine’s business is SouthernFly. He plans to manufacture, market and sell apparel and equipment around the many variations of minnow fly he created for mountain, saltwater and even lake fly fishing. He’s promoting online and through social media. Last week he waited as the Web domain southernfly.com expired, at which point Friday it became his to set up shop.
“Then I go from there,” Horine said.
Horine estimates 80 percent of the students at the state event were legitimate small business ventures, rather than school projects that wouldn’t last past a final grade. Many already had limited liability company status. The four to six judges each round, and the auditorium full of people for the finals, largely were Charleston entrepreneurs.
Horine “played that slide pretty hard” showing how Charleston could be a key market for him, coming away with a pocket full of business cards.
“That’s amazing as a young entrepreneur,” he said. “Connections are everything in the business world.”
Jennifer Molnar is in her first year teaching at Fort Mill High, coming from Rock Hill High School where she worked with YEScarolina. Molnar was thrilled with Horine’s spot among the top 40 nationally to compete in October.
"Teaching entrepreneurship is more than teaching concepts,” Molnar said. “It’s providing the opportunity to teach life skills allowing students to make their business dreams a reality.”
Horine hopes to blend his time in Charleston between schools and pushing the business to local bait stores and retailers.
During state competition, he wasn’t announced among the finalists and was walking out of the building when he received a call to come back for the finals, already in progress.
Their applause was “reimbursing for my confidence,” he said.
Horine enjoys all sorts of fishing, from bass on Lake Wylie to fly fishing streams in the North Carolina mountains.
“I’ve been a fisherman all my life,” he said. “It just so happens when I picked up fly fishing we found they didn’t have flies the quality and size that fishermen really wanted.”
John Marks • 803-831-8166