HARLEM — Tyler James wanted a career that would keep him close to the things he loves the most, including his family and the great outdoors.
“I grew up hunting and fishing, and I always wanted to make something in the outdoor industry,” he said.
The seeds of opportunity were planted four years ago, when he decided to design and build turkey calls for his senior project at Harlem High School.
“That was in 2010,” he said. “And I was very lucky to have Benny Briggs as a mentor.”
Briggs, a five-time world champion caller and renowned call-maker, was the inspiration for Haywood Calls, which James operates – in his parents’ backyard – with his older brother, Rusty James, and family friend Russ Winter.
“What we’re selling now is slate and glass calls,” he said, showing examples crafted from walnut, cherry, poplar and osage orange. Testing is under way now for a line of mouth calls, with wooden box calls already on the horizon, too.
His mother, Carla James, helped design a logo used on marketing materials, hats and T-shirts, which carry the slogan, “making memories one call at a time.”
The Haywood name, he added came from his grandfather, and is also his dad’s middle name. Both men played a major role in sculpting his love and respect for the outdoors.
“Hunting has been a major part of my life, but it isn’t all about the killing,” he said. “It’s about spending countless hours in the woods with those you love and making memories, both good and laughable memories, that you will never forget.”
For now, the fledgling company is marketing by word of mouth, at trade shows including the Augusta Outdoor Expo and at festivals, including the Oliver Hardy Festival held in Harlem, which proved to be one of Haywood Calls’ most productive ventures.
“This year has taken off bigger than we ever expected,” he said, adding that retailers, including Culpepper Outdoors in Evans and Waldens Outdoors in Martinez, are now offering his calls, which retail for about $40.
The men are also using social media, including Facebook and YouTube, to help share information and videos about Haywood Calls, which has also proven successful.