First, A Bit Of Background…
Before I ever even thought about starting Valhalla Shooting Supply, I actually created & owned another business called Vault Cargo Management. I started it with the help of my wife in 2015 with just a single set of ratchet straps, and over the years it quickly became one of the fastest growing companies in the USA.
To be clear, we weren’t manufacturing the products domestically due to cost constraints. It’s literally impossible to even purchase the materials in the USA for the cost that we would need to sell them for to be competitive. I was always up-front with customers about where the products were manufactured, and more importantly why that was the case. With a background in manufacturing engineering, I would have loved nothing more than to manufacture those products in the USA. Our customers completely understood, and respected our decision to manufacture Vault Cargo Management’s products overseas.
Things were going incredibly. My wife and I were expecting our firstborn son (Elliott) in May of 2018, and we couldn’t wait to welcome him into our family. Vault Cargo Management was hiring people and growing like crazy, and it seemed as though we couldn’t do anything wrong. We had customers pulling for our brand, often leaving incredible reviews on our products and customer service. I even found time to step away & get out hunting (one of my biggest passions) in the fall, bagging a few nice deer to fill the freezer & getting after waterfowl & upland birds with my English Setter, Trigger.
We were flying high, and were even being approached by private equity firms & competitors that wanted to acquire what we had built. We were entertaining the idea, as it would have meant financial security for our family as we took time to find our next venture.
But in 2018, that changed incredibly abruptly.
Not Everyone Plays By The Rules
To be clear, Vault Cargo Management had plenty of competition throughout this time. We respected many of them, and even got to know the owners of some of those companies on a personal basis to share advice. There was a big enough pie for everyone to get a slice, and we were all more than okay with that.
But suddenly, a competitor had popped up that was claiming all their products were manufactured in the USA. They even went as far to name specific cities in the United States where they were manufacturing their products. They claimed that their products (which were exactly the same as everyone else’s) had higher weight capacities & used exotic materials. They purchased reviews on Amazon (our biggest revenue source), going from a dozen reviews to well over 1,000 on some products practically overnight.
Out of nowhere, our sales absolutely tanked. We watched our revenue evaporate by about 80% as our customers ran to purchase “American Made” products. We watched our sales directly transfer over to this new competitor, who was apparently willing to do whatever it took to win. It didn’t matter if it was illegal or unethical, if it made them money they were going to do it.
We were quickly forced to lay off staff that we thought of as family. It was heartbreaking to be in a position where we had to let them go. They each had their own families, most of which we knew on a first-name basis. They had their own bills to pay & were great, reliable people to have on our staff. Unfortunately, the cash simply didn’t exist to pay them anymore.
To say this pissed me off would be a major understatement. I tried getting the Federal Trade Commission involved. They said it wasn’t big enough, and we would have to handle the case on our own. We brought it up with Amazon, who didn’t seem to care.
It became very apparent that in order to get our company back, we were looking at a legal battle. Having no experience with this in the past, I had no idea what to expect. What this competitor was doing was clearly illegal, it should be quick & easy to put them in their place & move on – right?
Boy, was I wrong….
A Long, Drawn Out Battle
This competitor literally responded to our lawsuit saying we were right, but they would rather not pay anything. Our lawyer was so surprised they started things off with an admission of guilt, and said that was the first time that had ever happened for them. There’s nothing that says a quick, clean case like someone starting off saying they used illegal methods to beat you right?
Fast forward, and we are quickly approaching a year of legal proceedings costing in the six figures. We’ve had two different judges tell this competitor that they are pretty well screwed, and they still refuse to pay.
Keep in mind that the people that own this company are Americans themselves. They simply don’t care that they are conning their friends, family, & neighbors into buying foreign products that they think were made by hard-working Americans.
This didn’t only impact my company. It consumed me & my wife mentally. It was becoming necessary to to talk about the potential of filing bankruptcy as we tried desperately to finish the case off.
I desperately needed somewhere to serve as an outlet to let off some steam. I needed to work with my hands some more, and work on creating something I could hold in my hands to show my hard work.
Started As A Hobby, Resulted In A Company
One of my biggest hobbies has always revolved around the shooting sports industry. I grew up grouse & pheasant hunting with my dad, and I absolutely love deer hunting. On top of that, I competed in multiple shooting leagues in our area, more so for fun than any awards that came along with it. There is something therapeutic about going out shooting clays with my 12 gauge, or plinking steel with my 9mm. It’s one of those things that no one can seem to explain, but everyone involved totally understands it.
After spending some time on the internet, I came across videos of people making kydex holsters. It dawned on me that I could lean on my manufacturing engineering background to get pretty good at making them. As a major bonus, it was also a way I could try to help keep up with our mounting bills & to put food on the table as we battled Vault Cargo Management’s competitor.
That’s how Valhalla Shooting Supply was born. It was the healthiest way I could find to let off some steam as I tried to deal with some incredible stress from my other business. Just me in my basement trying to get my mind off things.
Immediate Demand To Keep Up With
As soon as we released our first IWB holster – The Hilja IWB Holster (Hilja means “To conceal” in the Norse language) – we had pretty immediate demand for it. I had reached out to a few people I knew with pretty substantial social media followings to review our holsters, and the rest is kind of history. We immediately had orders coming in for our Hilja holsters. The biggest hurdle we had was determining which new firearms we should add next. Even though they are all marketed under the Hilja name, each firearm’s specific holster requires its own tooling to ensure proper retention. I obviously wanted Valhalla Shooting Supply to grow, but had to keep costs low. I didn’t have extra money laying around to grow Valhalla, it needed to pay for its own growth.
I also started hitting local trade shows. Before I knew it, Valhalla Shooting Supply’s holsters were being featured at local retailers and selling well. It quickly became a big deal just to keep up!
Keep in mind that I had a background in marketing products to get them off the ground, so please don’t take this as blind luck. If you give me a quality product, I truly believe I can find a way to sell it.
Since it was actually me doing the manufacturing of these Valhalla kydex holsters, I knew I was dealing with a quality product. I have a general rule that if I wouldn’t use a product everyday, I won’t ever try to sell it. I was 100% confident that these kydex holsters were some of the best on the market, so it was easy for me to be passionate during the sales process.
Where We Go From Here
Our primary goal is to get a more inclusive lineup firearms that our holsters fit. I definitely empathize with people out there that are frustrated that we don’t have a holster for their particular firearm yet, and my response to that is we are certainly working on adding them as quickly as possible. I certainly won’t pretend that we could likely go faster, but I’m simply not willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of quantity.
If you are looking for a model that isn’t currently in our lineup, please let us know via our Model Request Form here. We try to add models as customer demand allows for it, so please know that your voice really does matter to us. If our customers (or eventual customers) don’t speak up, there’s no way for us to hear you!