Categorized | Shoestring Startup

From Drill Sergeant to Entrepreneur

Grunt Style LLC, www.GruntStyle.com

I started Grunt Style apparel company in November 2009. The idea came to me while I was a Drill Sergeant training troops on a rifle range. I am a huge fan of our Country and military but all the clothing out there to express this patriotism and pride were very generic, there was nothing modern or fashionable looking. So I decided to go ahead and make it myself and see if we could sell cool clothing for people like me. Our goal is to make the coolest looking clothing for patriots of the United States.

How was it financed ?

When we first started we only put in a few thousand dollars in cash to make the first few lines of clothing. I didn’t know anything about the business so we ended up learning as we go, which was very expensive. Eventually we had to use credit cards to continue to finance our business. If we knew what we were doing when we started, we might have been able to avoid this, but I like to say that it’s just my cost of tuition of business school.

Date officially launched?

Our first day in business was a late Saturday night at the end of November 2009. That night we made over $3,500 bucks in our first sale. We were so excited and thought that we might actually have something here. People love our products. By the end of the year we brought in nearly $20,000.

What free online or offline tools do you use?

Google Docs is something that we use all the time. It allows me to see sales progress and collaborate with employees on figures, since we can both edit documents and spreadsheets at the same time.

Social Media
Social Media was slow to start for us at first. I was like most people and didn’t really get the importance. But once I saw the value of having a Facebook fan page and how we could instantly interact with our loyal fans, we haven’t looked back. Now we will first test new shirt ideas on Facebook and let our fans tell us what they want. This has helped us get the right products to the right people. For example, we’ll put up a new shirt or apparel idea on our fan page, then within seconds we’ll have dozens of responses of if they like it or not, or even just a few tweeks. After we get enough people loving the new idea we’ll make it available for pre-order. Sometimes we’ll pay for the entire production costs before we even finish making them. Our customers save 20% for pre-ordering and we cover a lot of our costs, it’s a definite win-win.

YouTube –About Us.

Late last year I went back to the very range where I thought up Grunt Style and made this little 2 minute video:

What is the best advice you never got?

Going from Infantry Drill Sergeant to entrepreneur was a radical shift. There’s very little in similarities, except for leadership skills. Something that we had to learn from the start was to protect the part of your business that makes money. This means that if there’s a new opportunity, don’t spend the money needed for your working ventures for the new one.

What almost killed your business in the start?

I had a minority partner when we started. He was one of my best friends, but it just didn’t work out. After about five months in the business he started his own company that was separate, he was just too entrepreneurial himself, so he wanted to be bought out. The problem was that we were going through a rough time. We had a lot of bad debt and almost no inventory. We almost both agreed to just close our doors, thanks goodness I didn’t. I learned this: Business partners might work, but they usually don’t and it’s not worth a good friendship.

What is the one thing that you did right?

Selling. Selling has always been a priority in our business. It consumes about 80% of what we do. This is important for new companies because cash flow is very difficult and more important. If you’re not selling, you’re not in business, you’re just busy.

What type of marketing or advertising do you do?

Facebook is our biggest source of advertising. We post some YouTube videos for people to watch, but most of our customers come from Facebook.

What would make your business more “Successful”?

Capital is something every new business wants more of. We have so many directions we want to put our foot into but have to wait to build capital for it.

Would you want to be acquired by a bigger company, run it yourself or sell in a couple of years?

Run it my-self, of course. I think selling out to a larger company or even a IPO would be seen as selling out to our fans. Our fans like the fact that we are run by former military members and family members.

What do you think your projected annual revenue will be

The first full year in business we sold over a quarter million dollars in shirts, the second year we sold almost double that. This year we have make quite a few changes to become more profitable, so our gross sales figures will be close to the same but with much better margins.

Drill Sergeant Daniel Alarik
Founder, Grunt Style LLC

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