Cybersecurity student continues to make waves with innovative fishing net business
Nate's Nets, which began as a passion project between a father and son, has now bloomed into a full-fledged entrepreneurial endeavor thanks to a dedicated student from the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.
Story by Brittany Furbee, Communications Specialist
Nate Arndt, a senior cybersecurity major from Inwood, West Virginia, began fishing with his dad at an early age, and considers it one of his favorite pastimes. After years of fiddling with subpar fishing nets, many of which were made with abrasive mesh nets that could injure fish, Arndt and his dad decided it was time to engineer a better product. In 2015, the first Nate’s Net was created.
Unlike traditional products, Nate’s Nets are hand carved from locally sourced hardwoods and feature a rubber netting design that minimizes damage to catch and release fish.
“Rubber nets are paramount when landing sensitive species such as trout, because they have a thin slime layer,” Arndt explained. “If the slime layer is scraped, the fish becomes vulnerable to infection and is likely to die, which contradicts the conservationist concept of catch and release fishing.”
Arndt and his father sold their nets to fellow anglers in the region for years, but it was until he became an engineering student at WVU that he decided to ramp up the business.
“I believe I was drawn to engineering at a young age from experiences like being with my father in the woodshop or at his work, building houses,” Arndt said. “Then, it became robotics kits, model rockets, and engines. I guess I just naturally gravitated towards engineering and solving interesting problems.”
To scale the business, Arndt utilized the WVU Launch Lab to develop a business plan, which he entered into the 2020 WVU Manufacturing Day Pitch Competition. To his surprise he was crowned the winner and received a $750 cash prize, along with a $1,000 manufacturing grant that could be used at the Robert C. Byrd Institute, West Virginia’s Manufacturing Technology Center. Several weeks later he also won the Appalachian Manufacturing Award from RCBI, which awarded him an additional $1,000.
Manufacturing Nate’s Nets is a multi-step, care-intensive process that includes weaving the nets and cutting wood strips and bending them into shapes where they can be glued, sanded and finished. Arndt was able to work with RCBI to develop a new procedure for shaping the wood that makes the entire manufacturing process more efficient.
“The engineering project with the RCBI was a structured undertaking, where we scanned our products and used CAD to make custom fit jigs to increase efficiency,” Arndt said. “Then the problems adapted again, such as the issues of scaling and product supply, which I continue to engineer and adapt today.”
With the manufacturing process streamlined, Arndt will soon begin selling his products at the WVU Davis College Store, located in the Evansdale Greenhouse. Through a new partnership with the Statler College's Lane Innovation Hub, Arndt will have access to specialized equipment that will allow him to offer custom engraving on his products moving forward.
“My engineering professors have always provided great insight into everything from manufacturing and materials to where to expand my business,” Arndt said. “This new partnership with the Lane Innovation Hub will allow me to cut designs and engrave personalized messages on my products, making each net special to the customer.”
Although Arndt will be graduating in December and has already accepted a job as a cybersecurity integrator at Progeny Systems Corporation, he plans to continue running his business simultaneously.
“I plan to continue building my career by working on defense projects and using my cybersecurity skills,” explained Arndt. “However, I absolutely plan to continue scaling my business. I regard my career as important work that provides my means, whereas my business allows me to flex my creativity and business acumen. Maintaining the balance has been key for me in my highly demanding field.”
Contact: Paige Nesbit
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304.293.4135, Paige Nesbit
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