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Humans on the Homefront

I started to see the magic…

“I grew up in Yuma, Arizona. I didn’t come from a military family but we were taught to really love and cherish this country. We were taught to appreciate the freedoms we have here. The correlation was made very early that freedom wasn’t free.“I wanted to serve our country and I wanted adventure. My dad gave me a piece of advice when I was in high school that the trick to finding what you wanted to do in your career was to figure out what you would be willing to do for free. All signs pointed to the military for me. I started researching Special Forces. Jump out of airplanes, learn how to fight, travel, blow stuff up, kill bad guys, all while protecting the USA? Yes, that is something I would absolutely do for free. That was the answer for me. All the research I was doing led me to believe that the SEAL training was harder than any other training on the planet. And I wanted to test myself; I wanted to see what I was made of. I am so glad I made that choice. The training I went through not only helped me on the SEAL team, but it helps me so much today. It’s physically and mentally demanding, and grueling, and brutal. I had to go through the hardest part of SEAL training twice. I started in BUDS 242, made it through hell week, and two weeks later was dropped. I went to Jacksonville and did two years on a ship, and came back with BUDS 256 and made it through.

“If a scientist were to break it down, I think he or she would say everyone shows up to BUDS with enough physical training. They can all do enough push ups. They can all do enough pull ups. They can run fast enough, swim far enough. We had a saying that everyone wants to be a Frogman on Friday. You know, when it’s 2:00 on a Friday afternoon and the sun is out, the beer is flowing, the girls are looking good and you’re out in Coronado telling everyone that you’re in SEAL training. But it’s a totally different ballgame on Monday morning at 0300 when your alarm is going off and it’s still dark, and it’s cold, the wind is blowing off the ocean, and you have to swim in the Pacific, and then you’re going to get a beat down, and then go run, all before a breakfast that you won’t have enough time to eat, and then you’ll have a room and personnel inspection that’s almost impossible to pass. You realize quickly that the tempo is non-stop. And you realize that they aren’t teaching you how to jump out of airplanes or shoot a machine gun yet, and that there aren’t bathroom breaks and there’s very little sleep, and that starts creeping into your brain that this is way more than physically demanding. Everyone is physically able to finish unless they get injured, but quitting is a choice you have to make. I served in the Navy for 13 years and as a SEAL for 9. I am so proud of that.

“In 2009, my little brother who is a helicopter pilot went on deployment and brought me a generic 50 caliber bottle opener from the Philippines. I loved it, everyone who saw it loved it, and people kept asking me where they could get one. Aside from flying to Philippines, I couldn’t tell them. A few years later, I took that idea and made a “Bottle Breacher,” improving on the one my brother gave me. I made my own design and made it even better. People started asking me to make them some and I started selling them out of our garage.

“I’m not a brilliant guy. I like to say I’m not a rocket surgeon. You throw me in a physics class or a chemistry class and I’ll run for the door. But the lightbulb went off. If people are willing to pay for this, I thought I might be on to something. I started to see the magic in the product. My wife Jen is my business partner and my best friend. She’s so strong in everything I’m not – organization, accounting, marketing, and she’s good with the technical and sales aspects. But, she liked the security of the military. We have two little girls. So when I told Jen I wanted to leave the Navy to go big and try doing only Bottle Breacher, it was one of the hardest decisions we had to make.

“Within 6 months, we were making $7,500 a month. Then we were making $22,000 a month. We were watching
Shark Tank all the time and I wanted to go on it. I started researching and practicing our pitch. It was about a year later when we finally got the chance. We went to the open casting call in San Diego. They said that the first 500 people would get a chance to pitch the Sharks. I thought about hell week and how we stayed up for five and a half days and knew that I could out-wait anybody. We got there the night before and we were ready. We were doing about $80,000 a month out of our one-car garage at the time. We had four guys working for us. They would work their military jobs and then come moonlight for us in the evenings, packaging and polishing and helping out.

“When I showed the casting director a picture of Clint Eastwood holding our product, she thought it was awesome. She said her dad would like one for Father’s Day. It was a good conversation, but they took about 1000 of us into a room and told us that maybe one, possibly two of us would get called back. And we did.

“When we flew out to LA, Jen and I had to sit in the green room all day; we were the last ones to get in front of the Sharks. She was pacing around the room, but being a military guy we’re so used to hurry up and wait. You don’t get spun up until you need to. Once we got out there, it went really well for us. I think I’m the first person to drink a beer while pitching the Sharks. I don’t know what they did to my beer backstage; I think someone wanted to play a trick on me and shook mine. The Sharks wanted to do a toast, and my beer exploded all over me and that famous carpet you see on the show. But you’re trained to roll with it, so I chugged the foam. Halfway through our pitch, Jen leaned into me and whispered, ‘There’s foam in your mustache.’ We got a deal with Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban. We definitely had a back order after the show, but the cool thing about adversity in a company or even in your personal life is that’s when you become stronger. It has not always been easy or a success. I believe that God only trusts you with a lot if He can trust you with a little. I failed many, many times to get to this point.

“My advice to someone who wants to start their own business? Go big. Don’t be afraid to take a chance. Have passion. Work like you’ve never worked before. The military has taught us so many skills from leadership and courage to perseverance. I think about my time as a SEAL so often. And I know if I can do that, I can do anything.”

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