Entrepreneurial Spirit Calls Student Killian Bailey to Start Online Business

Monday, June 14, 2021

Killian Bailey has turned his interests in engineering design, entrepreneurship and hunting into his online enterprise, Bailey’s Game Calls, which uses 3D printing to produce creative and distinctive plastic duck calls.

What started as a creative way to provide a special holiday gift has turned into a budding entrepreneurial enterprise that has combined a Rose-Hulman student’s knowledge of engineering design and love of hunting.

Killian Bailey is putting technology in the hands of today’s sportsmen and women, literally, through specialized waterfowl calls produced by his three-year-old online company Bailey’s Game Calls.

A patent-pending approach uses 3D-printing technology to manufacture affordable plastic calls that have distinctive tones, float (making them hard to lose when dropped in water) and can be crafted specifically for each hunter or as a corporate/company novelty item.

“You have to have the right call with the right tone to attract the ducks (mallards, geese, or wood ducks) and every hunter has his/her own distinct personal preference,” says Bailey, an engineering design major from Rochester, Indiana.

Bailey’s Game Calls was created in 2018 after Bailey witnessed friends losing their beloved waterfowl calls in wetland areas during hunting trips.

“Some calls are cherished family heirlooms, so losing one can be quite a personal disappointment and really ruin what could have been a great hunting experience,” he states.

Bailey started enjoying hunting at age 12 alongside his father, 1992 Rose-Hulman mechanical engineering alumnus Kirk Bailey, chief technology officer with Zimmer Biomet. The son’s fascination with waterfowl calls and how they work grew after arriving in the inaugural year of Rose-Hulman’s engineering design program. As his classes explored advanced technology techniques, he started using 3-D printing machines in a campus Maker Lab, inside the Branam and Kremer Innovation Centers, to develop and fine-tune the process of creating calls using polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as PET, or acrylic materials that have a density that produces distinctive tones to help attract waterfowl.

“There’s a lot of technology and science within such a simple device that fits into the palm of your hand,” Bailey says. “The reeds are the secret behind each call. In the past, wooden reeds (like those used in a woodwind musical instrument) were hand-made. My reeds are made from Mylar polyester materials and cut by an optical laser to produce a more distinctive sound.”

He produced the first call as a holiday gift for his father. As it was being used, other hunters began showing interest in having additional calls produced for them and others.

“As I began spending more and more time creating calls for friends and relatives, the entrepreneur in me quickly saw this as a business opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. It was a lot of fun using technology to create something that brought great joy to others. That’s why I wanted to become an engineer,” he says.

Now, with little marketing or promotions, Bailey has sold more than 200 calls through online orders. He now has two 3D printers at his off-campus home producing game calls.

“It has been a labor of love and something that I can share with family and friends,” he remarks. “I don’t expect that my calls will be the only ones on the market, with technology being introduced in so many areas of hunting. But it’s definitely the wave of the future and I’m currently enjoying the ride. I would love to make duck calls for the rest of my life.”

Bailey is sharing his insights and experiences with other students as a member of Rose-Hulman’s Sawmill Society, a group of nearly 60 innovative, forward-thinking alumni and others who help inspire each other. He is one of two current students in the group, which includes such successful entrepreneurs as Michael Hatfield, co-founder and executive chairman with Carium; Jeff Ready, founder and chief executive officer with Scale Computing; Erica Buxton, chief financial officer with Razor USA; Dustin Sapp, chief operating officer with Formstack; and Wes Winham, founder and chief executive with Woven.

Bailey is planning to wrap up his engineering design program requirements by spending this summer and 2021-22 fall and winter academic quarters in an internship with Indianapolis-based Major Tool & Machine. He will gain more hands-on experiences in design for manufacturing, project management, machine shop techniques, welding and fabrication, and quality control.

He says, “The engineering design program and my past work experiences, in and out of the classroom, have helped provide a pathway to becoming a well-rounded and broad-based engineer. I’m able to jump on assignments and quickly get to work on finding a solution. I’m ready to see where the future will lead me.”