The 700 Club: Sense of Purpose
From Frogman to Businessman: Eli joined the Navy to be a SEAL in 2001 after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He didn’t make it through the tough Basic Underwater Demolition and Seal training (BUD/S) and was assigned to serve as a gunner’s mate on the USS Gettysburg for two and a half years. It was a difficult time for Eli because he still wanted to be a SEAL so Eli leaned on his faith and prayed, Lord this is the only desire of my heart. When the opportunity came up for him to go through BUD/S again, Eli took the risk and this time, he made it!
After three deployments to Iraq, three of which were as a SEAL, Eli made the decision to get out on his last deployment. At the time, his daughter was two years old. “It was hard to watch her grow up in photographs,” says Eli. "I did what I needed to do and served my country. My heart was no longer in being a SEAL." He says it’s difficult to transition into civilian life because of the steady paychecks and good healthcare but Eli started looking for ways to make money outside of the military. (Eli served on Chris Kyle’s team from 2006-08)
In 2009, Eli’s brother brought back a bottle opener from the Philippines which was made out of an old 50 caliber bullet casing. "I had never seen one for sale in the states," he says. A couple of years later, Eli had the idea to paint one black and put his team symbol on it. All of his buddies wanted one. The lightbulb went on! Eli knew he had his hands on something but needed to figure out how to market the bottle openers. "I don’t have a business degree,” he says. He and Jen started making them in their garage and in 2014 they went full-time. Several years later, Eli decided to try out at a casting call for ABC’s Shark Tank in San Diego. Eli had one more month to go in the Navy. "God’s timing is perfect," he says. Eli got in line at 11 pm that night and finally spoke to a casting member at 1 the next day. The casting calls are difficult as only one or two get selected for review which normally takes up two to three weeks to receive a call back. Several days later, Eli got a call from a staff member at Shark Tank. The producers wanted them on!
They appeared on Season 6 in November 2014 and landed a deal with Shark investors Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban. Bottle Breacher sold $1 million in the first week after the show. "We went from making 150 of them a day to making 1,500 – 2,000 a day!" says Eli. Since then, Eli and Jen have gone from 8 employees to 35 and expect to see sales of $10 million by the end of this year. The Bottle Breacher is an authentic bullet casing which has previously been fired. Eli replaces the bullet tip on the once-fired piece of brass casing. "It’s a real bullet without the danger," he says. Prices range from $10 to $50 depending on personalization.
Eli says there has been adversity along the way. "I learned if I’m not walking in God’s favor, I wouldn’t be successful." Eli grew up in a Christian home in Tucson. He met Jen in 2004 and were married a year later. "God’s given me this success," he says. "If you don’t take what God has given you to bless others, you are missing the boat." Bottle Breachers donates to 60-70 military non-profit organizations. "That’s one of the best parts of my job is to support these non-profits," he says. "I know you can’t outgive God."
Featured interview found on The 700 Club with Mimi Elliott.