Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Sometimes in our short existence on this planet, we come across remarkable people that make a huge impact on our lives making it kind of hard to summarize what it all means and why they mean a lot to us. We all have those kinds of people, and we treasure them. So my story about my brand new business, 37413 Gear, is because of one of those people.
My name is Corey Rust, and if you’re a regular reader of Starter Story, you may remember another business I own in Portland, Oregon called Envi Adventures being featured on this great site not long ago.
37413 Gear is a very new venture for me having started less than a week before me writing this sentence, and within that week, we haven’t broken any sales records, but we have gotten sales, and that’s very humbling. It’s humbling not only because people are purchasing products, but because they’re purchasing products to support something that means a lot to me, and THAT is more meaningful in so many ways than making gobs of money. (Although that doesn’t hurt either)
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2017, I started to become friends with a guy whose name sounds like a 1970’s TV show police detective or an Indiana Jones-esque character. His name is Jack Blazer, and Jack is one of those kinds of people that can be very intimidating but has a heart made of gold. Ask anyone that really knows him, and I think they’d agree with that.
You worked hard. You sacrificed. And you made it happen. No one can take that away from you, nor should you let anyone take that away from you.
In early summer 2018, Jack was diagnosed with a form of cancer that was not only rare but ridiculous; as is all cancer. Jack was a Portland Police Officer, and I viewed Jack as the epitome of what a fighter is and should be and someone who rarely let anything defeat him. So, at the time and for a long time after, I optimistically looked at this as just another battle he had to fight and that he would win. I suppose many shares that view, when someone that is close and we care about, is diagnosed with something so terrifying. I wasn’t any different.
For a little while, we thought it would be lucky if he made it through the summer. He did.
We thought we’d be lucky if he made it a year. He did.
Through another summer. He did.
Then as summer 2019 came to a close, Jack started to slow down a little more. He’d be in a little more pain. And we started to think about the holidays. As we inched closer to Thanksgiving, we weren’t sure that Jack would be there to hang out with us during the festivities.
Sure enough, he did.
Then Christmas came, and he was there for that too.
But after fighting through to be here for his wife and son during that time, the struggle intensified and so did the effects of the sickness. As we rolled past New Year and into January, his dad came to visit him from New Jersey, and his brother and brother’s wife came up from Utah in the middle of the month. One week later, after his dad went back home and Jack had said his goodbyes to the people that meant most to him, he peacefully passed away on January 30th, 2020 with his wife by his side.
Jack’s favorite color was orange, and on the morning of his passing, coincidentally, or not by coincidence at all, the sunrise illuminated the skies of Portland with hues of orange. The sunrise, which was heavily documented on Instagram, was jaw-dropping for most, but for those that knew Jack, it was incredibly meaningful.
Photo from @portlandpolice on Instagram
So, remember when I said that sometimes there are people in our lives that make a huge impact? Jack was one of those for me. Jack is about 20 years older than I am, and I hate the term father figure, but he was an example in my life that I needed and in the short amount of time I knew him, I learned an immense amount.
He had a sense of humor and outlook that I like to compare to comedian Bill Burr (with less swearing), and he was an intensely loyal friend. His integrity was honorable, and as the illness progressed, I realized the dramatic influence he had on so many people. He would be visited, texted, or called by dozens and dozens of current and former colleagues and friends, and they all said the same thing about Jack: “He taught me a lot.”
The day after he passed away, I wanted to figure out a way that people would remember Jack. So I talked to his wife, and we decided to order orange silicone wristbands with his name on them, a mustache (something he was very proud of), and his badge number– 37413.
After ordering them, I started to think about how amazing the Portland Police Bureau had been through this entire situation in helping Jack and his family before, during, and after the funeral. Because of that, I wanted to create an entire brand that would go to helping other police officers and their families during difficult times.
After really thinking about it and figuring out how to make it work, we linked up with the Thin Blue Line Foundation which is a non-profit that “exists to honor, recognize, and support the law enforcement community.”
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The designs are not mind-blowing. I’m a simple-minded guy and I like a minimalist look.
Incorporating a 5-digit number and a mustache into a design isn’t incredibly easy either. But, with a little playing around and figuring out color combos that worked, I’m actually pretty happy with the way it looks.
Now, you’ll look at the t-shirts and understand the point behind some, but others you’ll at won’t make any sense, like the guy in a unicorn onesie, or the ‘I Got You Little Buddy’ shirts. All have a back story told by some of Jack’s friends that worked with him.
The others are pretty self-explanatory. They’re either police/thin blue line themed, 37413 specifically themed, or somewhere in between.
Overall though, the entire process has been pretty straight forward and not incredibly difficult. With a little Photoshop skill, it’s been pretty easy to come up with the images, and using tools like Printful and syncing that with the website has been incredibly simple.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I sat on the idea for a while and toyed around with different domain names, and finally just made it happen. Once the website went live, I messed around with the logo some more and made it what it is now. Before it was just a stylized ‘37413’ and that just didn’t do it for me.
Putting the mustache in a circle did, and that’s where it stuck.
Once that was all done, I showed Jack’s wife and she started to share it on Facebook and Instagram and VERY quickly, sales started to come in! That was very exciting and I’m excited to see where this goes.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Well, it’s only been a week, and so far very limited social media and word of mouth is the only thing that’s been done.
As time goes on, other mediums of marketing will obviously be used and we’ll cross that bridge then.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
As with most start-ups, it’s hard to get going and get that momentum. However, due to the background of the brand and what it supports, I think (I hope) that it catches on and spreads.
While Jack was a Portland officer, my intent is to support police officers nationwide through the help of the Thin Blue Line Foundation.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
This is really my first stab at apparel, or anything retail really, so I’m not entirely certain how to make it grow, or what the next step is. Frankly, I’m just happy to have gotten a few sales already and happy to help support an organization that helps a group of people that I admire.
As time goes on, I’m certain there will be things I learn, things I do well, and things I screw up on. That’s all part of the process and fun of building a business no matter what industry.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Wix and Wix Stores for website hosting, and that is synced up with Printful that does all of the fulfilling of any products sold. It’s a nice tool to stay inventory free, but it does have some disadvantages.
For example, the print quality on shirts isn’t the absolute best, but for now, as we’re just getting started, it’s helped get us going and there haven’t been any complaints in product quality, so I’m pretty happy with it.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Honestly, and not to sound like a suck-up, but starterstory.com is really influential and motivating to try out new things and accept the challenge of entrepreneurship.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you love something, have an idea for something, or just get bored at work and want to create something, start a side gig. A lot of people have dreams of becoming a big business and hugely influential brand. Maybe you’ll get there, maybe you won’t. But the one thing you and someone like Bill Gates probably have in common is pride.
Not the boastful, ‘I’m better than you’ pride, but the pride of knowing you started something. You worked hard. You sacrificed. And you made it happen. No one can take that away from you, nor should you let anyone take that away from you.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Because this is a bit of a hobby for all involved and the focus is to give 100% of our profits to the Thin Blue Line Foundation, we’re not ‘hiring’ for any sort of position right now, and not sure that we will in the future.
However, if someone is good at design and wants to help us develop some really cool products, we’d love the help.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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