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Robert started SHEATH LLC in 2014. They detail the beginnings of their company in their Starter Story interview: 
Q: How did you get started on SHEATH LLC?
In the beginning, it was an idea based out of necessity. I couldn’t find the product I wanted so I created my own. At the time, I was not strapped for cash because I was in the Army, but I was only making about 50 grand a year risking my life for a cause I no longer believed in.
It was in Iraq in 2008 when I was on my second tour with the Army 111th Quartermaster Company. As you can imagine, it was hotter than the devil's balls. This time I was in Tikrit and I was on mission.
My biggest problem was that I couldn’t help but be annoyed with my underwear situation at the time. The underwear I had been issued were old, loose, saggy and coarse like sandpaper, making my situation downstairs a hot mess with extreme chafing and discomfort. In fact, it was so uncomfortable that I had a “necessity is the mother of invention” moment and I conceived the idea that if everything downstairs (the junk, package, boys, frank and beans etc) was separated, this would eliminate skin-on-skin contact, thereby reducing excessive moisture and improving comfort significantly.
So while testing out my prototypes, the boys were now being kept cool and dry rather than compressed and constricted under hot, dark and moist conditions for long periods of time, which, for anyone, comes with undesired consequences, i.e. persistent rashes and/or excessive need for re-adjusting.
A failed business in my past
Being that I was in the army, I had no background in clothing construction development or design, but I did have a background in inventions. I actually, unofficially, invented crazy keys back in 2000. Yes, the keys that have your favorite football team or Disney character on them.
I had the idea back in 2000, but quickly gave up after a few months because it was too hard to do the way I wanted to manufacture the keys. Rather than painting the design on, I had envisioned it engraved on the key, which overcomplicated the invention, and ultimately, because it was too complicated, couldn’t find help, so I gave up.
This was also prior to reading the book that changed my life, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which would have taught me never to give up at the first sign of defeat. Unfortunately, or as fate would have it, I did give up at the first sign of defeat, as many often do. But the experience wasn’t a total loss.
What I took from that endeavor was to keep things simple. Don’t over complicate things. I applied this when conceptualizing SHEATH. Keep it simple. Had I figured out the paint on the key idea back in 2001, which I had actually tried once but with too thick of paint that would constantly chip off, I would have succeeded and my life would have turned out very different - I would have been the key guy with kiosks all over the world in Walmarts and Home Depots, but now I am the underwear guy.
Both are cool and I love my current position, but I never forgot my first major invention that failed. Particularly when I saw a “Crazy Key” in a store about 5 years after I had given up, I felt like I got punched in the gut… Fortunately, I was in the Army at the time so I didn’t dwell on it and it wasn’t long after that that I had the idea for SHEATH. So to reiterate, I didn’t have experience at all in underwear or fashion, but I did have experience with inventing and was now armed with the knowledge of keeping the idea as simple as possible and not giving up at that first sign of defeat.
The lesson is, in the beginning, keep it simple. Baby steps. It is the key to starting a business. Many people over complicate the matter so much in their mind that they never even make the first move. There is always time to expand on the idea later, once you are solidified and making enough money to turn the cogs of the business.
Before moving forward with my pouch underwear idea, I did some research to see if the product had already been invented.
I noticed on google patent search that in 1981, a man in China invented something similar, and therefore, I didn’t think I had the option to make a full Utility patent, so I decided to create a design patent to provide some protection.
Note: Design patents are essentially useless unless you are designing a new shoe. If you are designing something with functionality, you need to attain a Utility patent.
With or without a patent, I knew the idea was good because when I would tell friends about it, they unanimously agreed that it was a clever idea. Never did someone say to me, “this is stupid”, aside from the obligatory skeptical family members that felt like I was throwing my life away. (When starting a business or taking a professional risk, be prepared for some of those closest to you to be the least supportive. It’s not always the case, but if it happens, waste no time trying to convince them or change their minds. Drop their opinion and move on. It is a sad truth.)
I also knew it was a good idea because I loved the result and it worked. Speaking of the idea, let me explain in greater detail what it is and then I will get back to how I knew it was a potential game-changer.
The idea itself is simple; an isolative pouch on the interior of the underwear for the groin region. We describe it as an inverted kangaroo pouch for your joey, a hammock for your soldier, a holster for your gun, a sheath for your sword. These descriptions quickly cue people in on the functionality of the underwear, which is to isolate the male anatomy from the inner thigh region, thereby eliminating the need to readjust by keeping you cool and dry. They look like regular underwear on the outside, but it is what we’re packing on the inside that makes the difference.
I noticed on the United States Patent and Trademark Office search that similar inventions already existed, but nothing quite like what I had in mind. This lent credence to my design, as I now knew that others had been on the same track of thought and that there was clearly a demand to be met.
Contributors to this article:
- Pat Walls, Founder @ Starter Story
- Wiki Updater