Editor’s Note: A company seeing where it’s come from to determine the direction it needs to go is an important aspect of growth. Toxey Haas had an acorn of an idea about how to become invisible in the woods when he created Mossy Oak, and with that one idea he grew the company that’s far reaching into the outdoor industry with many branches off the trunk of the tree, deeper roots and taller trees that have spread. One person who not only watched but was a part of the idea of Mossy Oak from the beginning was Bill Sugg, who is today the president of Haas Outdoors/Mossy Oak in West Point, Mississippi. Sugg was the first employee Toxey Haas hired to become a part of Mossy Oak.
Although I was fortunate enough to be the first employee at Mossy Oak, I’m not exactly sure how I went from being the first employee to president of the company. In the spring of 1986, I’d just come in from turkey hunting in the morning and stopped at a crossroads grocery store to get a cup of coffee. Toxey and his dad, Mr. Fox, came into the store also needing a cup of coffee. We all three had worked at Bryan Foods and lived in the same town, so I knew who they were.
I worked at Bryan Foods for 9 years; Mr. Fox was in charge of career management at Bryan Foods; and Toxey had worked there for 3 or 4 years. I had left Bryan Foods before we met at the gas station/grocery store and gone into the insurance business. When I saw Toxey, he was wearing a suit of camouflage I’d never seen before. We talked about how we were going to hunt turkeys and where. When I asked Toxey, “What’s that stuff you’ve got on?” Toxey replied, “This is a new something I’ve been working on.” After turkey season was over, Toxey called me later that year in July and told me about this new camouflage pattern. Toxey had lined-up a photo shoot of his new camouflage pattern with a photographer named Sonny Jameson. Toxey asked me to wear my World War II camouflage, which was the only kind of camouflage everybody we knew was wearing back then. Toxey planned to wear his new camouflage pattern, Mossy Oak. His team would use these pictures to do a consumer ad to try and sell some of this new camouflage he’d created. So, we went into the woods, and the photographer made pictures for the ad.
I didn’t hear from Toxey again for about another month. Then Toxey called me up and asked, “Bill would you come and meet with me? I want to tell you about all I’m trying to do and lay out what I’m trying to accomplish with Mossy Oak.” Toxey and I met, and he showed me the mail-order ads and the manufacturers he’d lined up to print the Mossy Oak pattern on material to make hunting clothes. Toxey asked me how much time I might have to help him sell this new Mossy Oak camouflage. I explained that I had about 2 days a week that I could go to sporting-goods stores and show them the pattern.
My first trip was to Columbus, Mississippi, to meet with the Woods and Water folks. That meeting went well, and we sold some clothes. I started calling on sporting-goods stores across Mississippi. That fall I went into one sporting-goods store, and the owner told me, “I like this camo, and I want to buy some of it. What are your terms?” He meant how long could he wait to pay for the clothes. I extended my hand and smiled, “Can you put $750 in my hand?” I couldn’t wait to get to a pay phone to call Toxey and tell him that I had that $750 in cash I was bringing home to him. Our company vehicle in that day was Toxey’s wife’s old car. In December of that year, Toxey and I believed that we might have a tiger by the tail with his Mossy Oak camo.
I shut down my insurance business and went to work for Mossy Oak full-time. Toxey continued to work for Bryan Foods until February of the following year after his daughter was born. When Toxey came on board full-time, the two of us laid our ears back and went to work as hard as we could for Mossy Oak. I was first employed with Mossy Oak in 1986, and Mossy Oak incorporated in the spring of 1986.