SITREP 002 - The kick in the butt I needed
18 Series Bag Company SITREP 002 19 November 2021
SF culture can be funny. We occasionally eat our own but most times, we kick each other in the ass to keep moving. It likely stems from the Q-course where the belief is held that one must earn their place to be there. Who wants to be on a team where someone can’t hold their own and quits when it becomes tough? However, a good teammate will always provide help to a fellow brother to pick them up when needed. In the continuation of the 18 Series Bag Company SITREPs, SITREP 002 will focus on the beginning of our business. These are real-time lessons learned.
It all began when a bag manufacturer came into the office to showcase his goodies in 2018. We looked at his bags but quickly identified that his company products were well built but weren’t operationally suitable for SOF. We asked him to build a bag for 10th SFG(A). Our shop knew going in that we would be creating an entirely new product line for him (you're welcome). We collectively decided that was ok because we would begin to learn how to build bags, understand textiles, timelines, and our Group would get a much-needed bad-ass medical bag.
Through a couple of prototype iterations, we finally designed a medical bag that 18Ds could use. The next bag came quickly after that. I wanted to build a concealed bag for the newly approved folding buttstock for the M-4. Once again, we designed the perfect low-visibility bag through a series of iterations at his shop.
I realized that this guy must have thought that he had found his golden goose when he called and asked what other ideas we had for him. That’s when I pitched him on becoming part of his company. I would continue to design bags for Special Operations under his company, collect a commission from sales, and ultimately buy into the company. I was invited up to his location for the day and we spoke about future strategies, people I knew in Special Forces, and additional bag designs. I asked him things like, what it would take to buy into his company to be part owner and what a sales commission would look like. I also asked him to put it in writing, getting a contract in place, and he replied that he was more of a hand-shake kind of guy.
On the way home I called my long-time friend Kyle Lamb. Kyle has been a long-time mentor to me and has provided sage advice in trying times. I asked him what he thought about what I was getting into, and he said frankly, “If he doesn’t want to put anything on paper and just do a hand-shake deal, walk, no run, as fast as you can out of there!”. Kyle went on to explain that handshake deals were bad business and described several examples during his time as a tactical tycoon. Kyle encouraged me to go out on my own and asked me why I wasn’t already making my own tactical bags. I replied about not knowing anything about the bag business. He kicked me in the ass and said, “dude, you’re already doing the hardest part!” (Did you read it in Kyle’s voice?) He was referring to the design process. So, we incorporated 18 Series Bag Company a month later and began looking for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to build our bags in the USA to make them Berry Complaint. We have since found an OEM and solid partners to help us get our product to the market. In January, we will officially debut our bag line at two major exhibitions (WEPTAC/SHOT Show) in Las Vegas where our bags will go in front of Program Managers, Acquisition Officers, and S-4s. Getting our bags into the hands of acquisition folks is a large step forward.
The takeaway is that business life is not team life. Why would anyone prone to ‘hand-shake deals’ consider your long-term growth? Trust your instincts. I am lucky enough to have great mentors to give me the necessary kick in the ass to launch my own thing. Rely on mentors and guidance from your inner circle. Like a team, find military folks in the business world who will help you, pick you up, but not do it for you.
Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
Always forward. - Matt
Next SITREP - Important for our souls to team up with a SOF specific charity