In 2012, aback Jeremy Tepper founded Spartan Armor Systems, it was a one-man-in-a-garage side gig–mainly affairs steel-plated anatomy armor to survivalists on eBay. The bound convoying affairs administrator by day apparent a atypical way to stop bullets from fragmenting aloft appulse with his animate plates, which are beneath cher than added anatomy armor materials. He’d aerosol the plates with Rhino Lining, the aforementioned blanket acclimated to band flat-bed trucks. In 2015, his day job won out to his ancillary gig. Tepper angry to Todd Meeks and Kevin Strnatka, who acquired the aggregation in 2015. Here’s how Meeks, now the CEO, formalized the business and guided it to No. 1201 on this year’s Inc. 5000. –as told to Cameron Albert-Deitch
Jeremy awash the armor part-time out of his garage; he was a bound convoying affairs administrator by day. He acclimated an old claret table to cut the plates, and as the business started growing, it afflicted him.
He’d do his bound convoying job from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., run about from 2-6 p.m. acquisition up abstracts to accomplish orders, and accomplish the plates from 6 p.m. until 12, 1, 2, whatever it took. He’d booty those orders to the column appointment the afterward morning.
At the time, I was a business broker. I’d acquisition buyers for bodies who capital to advertise their businesses. My above academy roommate, Kevin Strnatka, endemic one of the bounded Rhino Linings dealers actuality in Arizona. He came to me and said, “I’ve got this guy, and I’m spraying all these plates.”
“Plates?” I asked. “What are you doing?”
It would be a boxy business to sell. The books were a nightmare–they were a accumulation of invoices and receipts in the ancillary console of Jeremy’s truck. Kevin knew how abounding plates he’d sprayed, so we were able to aback into a cardinal that Jeremy was doing. That’s aback I accomplished we were assimilate something. A thousand plates a ages meant $1.2 actor in acquirement in 2014.
I saw the befalling appealing instantly.
Kevin and I bought the aggregation calm in September 2015. We confused Jeremy’s accessories into Kevin’s office, and again into a 10,000-square-foot barn space. I bought Kevin out this accomplished June.
Our aboriginal footfall was convalescent the chump service, which isn’t our industry’s strength. To this date, if you alarm up competitors, they ability not acknowledgment or acknowledgment your calls. Then, we adapted the website. Jeremy initially awash his artefact on eBay, and had a actual ancient WordPress website. We assassin bodies and put systems in abode to booty affliction of orders, booty buzz calls, do aggregate to accomplish this a absolute business.
We’ve put a lot of money aback into the business over the accomplished three years. If you put money aback into the business, abound the brand, and actualize processes to action the accomplished affection artefact you can, it should abide to grow.
The amount barter were originally survivalists and preppers. My eyes was to focus added against law enforcement, and we’ve done that. Half of our sales now appear anon from law enforcement. We’re accomplishing a niche: abate agencies, 25 to 50 admiral or less. It’s a bazaar that the beyond anatomy armor companies are ignoring.
I’ve never met so abounding law administration aboriginal responders than I accept over the accomplished three years. They’re human: Aback they appear in here, they’re actual polite, actual friendly, actual beholden of aggregate that we’re doing. So aback there’s a shooting, it hits afterpiece to home now. It’s painful.
We saw a ample access in sales afterwards the Pulse cutting in Orlando, the San Bernardino agitator shooting, and the Las Vegas shooting. I anticipate as time has gone on, our barter accept become aloof to it. Now, aback those shootings happen, there’s not as big a fasten as there acclimated to be.
We’ve additionally been impacted by the Trump administration’s animate tariffs, alike admitting our animate is fabricated in Pennsylvania and Oregon. It seems like a lot of the animate companies knew that if added countries had to pay this 25 percent tariff, they could access our prices by 25 percent. And they did–overnight.
We’ve had to access our prices on ballistic animate articles by 10 percent this year. I don’t see them abbreviation the appraisement now. This is aloof the way it’s activity to be.
Correction: An beforehand adaptation of this commodity misstated the Spartan Armor Systems founder’s name, role aural the bound patrol, and plate-cutting tool.
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