White Bear couple target 'nature deficit disorder'

  • Article by: KELLY JO MCDONNELL , Special to t he Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2012 - 5:45 PM

The pair launched FishingKids, a company with the mission of encouraging children to get outdoors and, yes, go fishing.

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Geoff and Jean Ratté got their idea after trying to find a gift for a grandson.

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It can be difficult to compete with Batman, but the masked crusader doesn't intimidate a White Bear Lake couple.

Geoff and Jean Ratt have started their own web-based company called FishingKids. In a market where superheroes rule everything from books, to toys to films, the Ratts are hoping that their "good, clean fun" books find a niche.

Their "FishingKids" idea is off and running with a website that offers games as well as outdoor products and three adventure books they've published.

"It's a means of getting little kids to imagine the world that you and I grew up in," Geoff said. "We didn't have play dates, Facebook friends or Nintendo after school. When we were kids, we didn't come home until Mom rang the dinner bell.

"Kids have lost touch with the outdoors," he said. "They do have nature deficit disorder. Kids aren't coming into the sport, and they're not leading a healthy lifestyle. What we're doing is promoting fishing and a healthier lifestyle.

"The important bottom line is, we need to get kids into fishing for their good and for the good of the whole sport."

Geoff said the vision was Jean's idea. They had gone shopping for their first grandson and couldn't find anything that appealed in the numerous aisles of Batman and other action-hero toys.

"We thought, 'It'd be great if there was something that could bring [kids] into the outdoors -- fishing and camping -- with their families,'" Jean said. "That's what got me thinking. It was my idea, but Geoff had all the contacts to make it work."

Geoff Ratt isn't a newcomer in the outdoors world. His father and two uncles owned and ran Water Gremlin, a White Bear Lake company that is primarily known for its fishing sinkers. So fishing was always a part of his life. Jean's background is in marketing.

The couple teamed up with an illustrator, writer Mike Holliday, as well as Forest Lake-based business partner Doug Ferron. Less than a year after hatching the idea, the first publication, "The Monster of White Bear Lake," hit the presses.

The story features 10-year-old Spinner and his best buddy, Bobber, and their adventures around White Bear Lake. The boys spend a lot of time with Chief, Spinner's grandfather.

"The stories are fun, friendship stories, and we lace a lot of fishing fun into every adventure," Geoff said. The Ratts live on White Bear Lake, so the location of the first book was close to their heart.

Books two and three closely followed, "The Mystery of Porpoise Point," which takes place in the Florida Keys, and "The Pirate of Creole Bay," which is set in Louisiana Cajun country.

The Ratts are focused on getting the word out on the books. Tackle companies, as well as retailer Cabelas, have helped by shipping brochures with product to consumers.

"Our job now is to bring it to the masses and let grandparents know what a wonderful gift it is," Geoff said. "It would be a total success if millions of kids became interested in fishing because of this series."

Kelly Jo McDonnell is a Twin Cities freelance writer.

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