Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Big Sky Carvers: A Rural Success Story

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Big Sky Carvers: A Rural Success Story

Article excerpt


The focus of this case is on product development for a small, but successful firm. The firm has an opportunity to expand its product line through a co-branding effort, but the new products represent a significant adjustment in how the products are made and who they are sold to. An important secondary issue deals with the opportunity to develop global sources of production as a means of lowering production costs. The case has a difficulty level of four to six. It should take about two class hours and the students will need to spend about two hours outside of class to prepare for it.


Big Sky Carvers (BSC)is a small, but quite successful firm specializing in home decor and gifts based upon a wide range of wildlife, from trout to grizzlies. While BSC is small, it is still a fairly large player within the focused industry niche for this type of product. A significant success factor for the firm has been the high level of craftsmanship exhibited in its pieces, which leads to generally higher prices. The attention to detail and quality has lead to a strong customer base, among both its retailers and consumers, for its products. The firm now has the opportunity to embark on a co-branded line of products which could develop a new method of production for the firm, leading to lower prices, and a possible expansion of the market for its products.


"When I was a kid, Dad had some old decoys around the house. They weren't rare or valuable; they weren't even very well made. But I noticed, especially when I held one of them, I was transported to another place; the memory of the brisk fall morning with autumn smells of a marsh in the air, and our yellow lab. Nancy, running around disobediently while Dad put out the decoys. Those old decoys of my Dad fueled a deep passion in me."

--Marc Pierce, Co-Founder and CEO


Marc Pierce and his family are looking forward to their annual winter trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico next week. However, before Marc goes he knows that he has to make a decision on a new product line for his firm. This line would be different in many ways from the products that Big Sky Carvers has sold and Marc has been seeking advice and counsel from all his key employees and retailers. But the final decision on whether to pursue this new line is Marc's responsibility and he knows that he must decide before he goes on vacation.


Eric Pierce and his son Marc founded Big Sky Carvers in 1980. In the past twenty years it has grown from a small producer of decorative duck decoys into a global leader in the decorative design industry.

After learning how to make decoys on a multiple-spindle carving machine, the Pierces moved from the mid-west to Montana in hopes of being able to successfully market their product in and around Yellowstone Park. Success was not easy to come by at first. However, with hard work and the addition of many artists and craftsmen from the Yellowstone area the Pierces' dream of being a highly successful leader in their field has been realized.

BSC now has a number of product lines which include, decoys, fish, game birds, signs, furniture, sports collectables, dogs, big game, and much more. BSC has become much more than just a woodworking shop; its expanded facilities include a foundry as well as furniture assembly and sign making processes.

While the products offer a unique view of nature and its beauty, the true identity of BSC is embodied in the employees. BSC has been very fortunate in assembling a talented group of artists. In addition to being great artists, they truly love the outdoors, wildlife and all the things that BSC products have come to represent.

The mission statement for BSC reflects how the firm embodies both the family nature of the firm and the love of its organization members for the outdoors. …

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