Grunt Style founder reflects on "whirlwind" 2017, looks ahead to bigger things

Eric Dehm
February 01, 2018 - 12:17 pm

Photo courtesy Grunt Style

To say 2017 was a busy year for veteran-owned clothing company Grunt Style, might be a bit of an understatement. They called Illinois to task over taxes, got into the liquor business, opened a new facility in Texas right around the time Hurricane Harvey hit and their logo began appearing everywhere from national TV ads to the UFC's octagon. On top of all that, the company has continued to grow in size.

2017 was a far cry from Grunt Style's humble beginnings, when Founder & CEO Dan Alarik was sleeping in his car trying to sell enough shirts to feed his family. While he says he always believed in the company, seeing his dreams come true has exceeded his expectations.

6 years ago today, we we're desperate. Almost out of business and broke. @gruntstyle @clubgruntstyle @alphaoutpost @gruntfitapp We put everything into this trade show, our first one ever. So we packed up and went all in. We were so broke that after taking the budget airline to Vegas we took the free shuttle to the hotel and walked a mile and a half to the nearest grocery store and ate only peanut butter sandwiches for the next 3 days. We were broke, but never poor. If we didn't make $6k at this show we were shutting our doors forever. We worked our butts off and eventually made it back to our flight home, totalling sales at $6,200. Just enough to be very depressed about staying in business. But after taking a hard look and analysis at our business and what worked we changed things and refocused. After that month we doubled in revenues every month for the next year and expanded our team to help accomplish the vision and mission. Today, our team is over 500 Veterans and Patriots strong. We have one of the largest screen printing operations in the country, a 110k sqft fulfillment warehouse and expanding into new factories in Texas. I'm so proud of our team and our accomplishments, without them we wouldn't be here. But it's good to remember just how fragile success can be. Stay humb

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"It was more exciting than I ever could have imagined," Alarik said during an appearance on The Morning Briefing. "Everything from new contracts with the NHL, UFC... getting over 500 employees was really exciting. It was just a whirlwind."

While he's happy with the success and says it's "pretty neat" to see his company's brand expand, Alarik says he's most proud of how the company has stayed true to its roots. Of course he sets the example for his employees by continuing to invite veterans with business and entrepreneurship questions to contact him directly via his LinkedIn profile. He also guarantees any veteran with a clean DD-214 a job interview with the company. In fact, the CEO says he's hoping more vets apply for jobs. In 2018, Grunt Style aims to maintain their goal of having veterans comprise 50% of their staff, even as they grow larger. 

We're both some at the same event, he's just more famous. By a lot. Good dude. #markcuban #sharktank #entrepreneur #gruntstyle #alphaoutpost

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How much larger? Alarik is expecting to add around 300 employees to the Grunt Style payroll in 2018, meaning they aim to hire a minimum of 150 veterans. He says it can be hard to find enough qualified vet applicants to fill those spots, particularly in specialized roles. But, the end result of finding those who do fit the requirements helps maintain the organizational esprit de corps he says the company needs to have. 

"Everyone in our organization is a patriot of the United States and that's really important to us," Alarik said. "But one of our missions for our personnel department is to maintain that 50% or better. Usually we're above it, sometimes we're not, but it's always a mission objective for us. That's how we maintain that culture."

(Photo courtesy Grunt Style)

And it's a culture Alarik and his team look to maintain as they continue to grow. 2018 is already looking good with first month sales of their products, both the newest items and the proven sellers, selling at three times the rate they did in January 2017. Still, the man who started it all believes they're not even close to what they can become.

"I can tell you that my feeling is, honestly, we're not there yet," Alarik said. "We still have a long ways to go to get to where we are going to mature into. It's very interesting to be a part of this organization from the very beginning, through each of these small stages."

He says those stages remind him of the story of America, the scrappy underdog that rose up to become a big time player, even if some see the company as having already "made it," Alarik says the Grunt Style revolution is still in its early days.

You can listen to Alarik's full Morning Briefing appearance, including discussion on Grunt Style's plans for the new year, new products, and business advice for veterans below.

Click play to stream, or select share to download and listen later.

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