Scoping out a profit

The Potterfield family owns a hunting equipment store and has traveled the world, always ready for the hunt
Tuesday, October 28, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:20 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

From Tanzania to Florida, Brenda Potterfield and her daughter, Sara Zara, have vacationed all over the world. Each trip is different, but the primary reason they go is always the same: hunting.

According to the National Rifle Association, there are more than two million women who hunt, and that number is steadily increasing. For Potterfield and Zara, the number is not surprising. They view hunting as much more than a hobby.

Not only do family members hunt together year-round, they also own and work at MidwayUSA, which they say is a world leader in distribution of shooting and reloading supplies and equipment. Brenda and her husband, Larry Potterfield, turned their passion for hunting into a career by opening the store, originally named Ely Arms, in 1977. The Columbia-based business gives the Potterfields an opportunity to provide a service to people who have the same passion for hunting and shooting as they do.

Zara, 27, shares her father’s passion for hunting and the outdoors. She got her first gun at age 4 and has been a hunter ever since. She finds that her life seems to be dictated by hunting at times.

“I scheduled my wedding around when hunting and fishing seasons were,” Zara said. “You just can’t get married and take a honeymoon when you’re going to miss good hunting.”

Despite her passion, Zara had no intention of working for MidwayUSA when she was growing up. It was not until her senior year of college that she changed her mind.

“I realized during my time at Colorado State University that I wanted to come home and work with my family, and luckily mom and dad offered me a job,” Zara said.

Now, Zara works alongside her parents at MidwayUSA, a catalog company that distributes more than 140 different brands of hunting equipment around the world. As the marketing communications manager, she is responsible for all advertisements that run in the catalog, as well as the production of the catalogs. The facility is 80,000-square-feet and has been under the ownership and management of the Potterfield family since it opened.

The family’s intricate knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses is useful in their working environment, and Zara said strong communication makes MidwayUSA a more successful company.

Zara enjoyed other activities while growing up, such as ballet and tap dancing, but it was hunting where she found her passion. Although she doesn’t have any children yet, Zara said she intends to raise her kids as hunters because it has brought her such closeness with her family.

“I can’t imagine it any other way,” Zara said. “There’s a lot of people who don’t have anything in common with their kids, and our family has always had hunting as a common ground.”

Growing up as a hunter, Zara admits that some of the boys were scared of her. Today, both she and her mother find that women are more accepting of their hunting than men are. This doesn’t bother them because they know that most men, especially older men, grew up in an era without women hunters.

Through their work, though, the women have a chance to meet other women hunters at MidwayUSA and share their adventures. The business also helps the Potterfields meet other types of hunters and share stories and pictures with them. They have developed a loyal following, and they try to hire hunters and shooters to work at MidwayUSA as well.

Although hunting surrounds them, both Zara and Potterfield pursue other hobbies. They both enjoy cooking, quilting and doing stained glass. But, hunting gives the women an appreciation of the outdoors that they don’t acquire from any of their other hobbies.

“Hunting makes you more aware of nature because you are still enough to hear and see it,” Potterfield said. “You get to wake up with it, watch the flowers grow, the leaves fall and other things you can’t do unless you are sitting still and listening.”

Locally, Potterfield is also involved in Missouri’s chapter of Women in the Outdoors. The organization, sponsored by the Wild Turkey Foundation, is dedicated to educating and training women in various outdoor activities. Through classes and seminars, women acquire outdoor skills that Potterfield and Zara believe are necessary to have.

“It’s important to teach women about the outdoors because the women are going to teach the children,” Zara said.

Even though they work together every day, the family still finds time to play together. They vacation together at least twice a year, and the destination depends on what’s in season to hunt.

On family hunting trips, there is nothing that the Potterfield men can do that the women can’t. Hunting, Zara feels, is a universal sport in which women can easily get involved.

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