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Stronger Together: The Story of Survival and Tactical Systems
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on July 2, 2015

Do not allow fear to keep you from doing what you want to do.

Meet Nick Koumalatsos—Marine Special Operations Veteran, CEO of Survival and Tactical Systems (STS), and winner of the May Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award. Our team had a chance to catch up with Nick to have him share his experience as a Veteran entrepreneur.

Q. How did your time in the military prepare you for business ownership?

A. Military guys often sell themselves short, but when you look at how they conduct and execute missions, you would see there’s no difference between military operations and business operations. When you apply those same skills to a small business, you really set yourself up for success.

Q. What sparked your idea for STS?

A. I was in contracting and saw that my work was utilized well by the company and was operationally profitable. But I missed being on a small team, conducting operations with a close network of highly trained individuals. I kept thinking, “What is life about?” What I wanted was to shoot guns, work out, go surfing and have a good life. So I thought, “How can I put together a package that reproduces a Special Operations team and make money?” That was the birth of STS.

I built a plan for a training compound where my team and I would impart what we learned in Special Operations to private corporations and civilians. We want to give that small team mentality to our customers and teach them how to protect themselves.

Q. You say in your mission that you are committed to “offering knowledge, training and equipment needed to protect all that you hold dear.” Why is that so important?

A. What we tell our clients is that we live in a volatile time. People are not as safe as they think they are. Our goal is to offer the most quality training you can provide to protect everything you care about—yourself, your property, your wife and kids, and your dog. Life is precious and when it’s gone, it’s gone. We take that very seriously.

Q. What inspired your logo design?

A.When I was thinking about the logo, I researched the top Fortune 500 companies and asked how they branded themselves. What I saw across the board was simplicity. Something simple speaks volumes. I also wanted our logo to mean something and share STS’s ethos and morals. So our logo is a graphic representation of the Spartan shield.

Spartans did not believe in individuals—they believed they were stronger together and trained that way. You only last so long with your shield and weapon, but when you go with your brothers—shield to shield and thigh to thigh—you are almost unstoppable.

Q. What gave you the courage to pursue your dream of business ownership?

A. You’re right, it took courage. I wanted to be in charge of my own success. I wanted to create a team environment. I wanted to build something my team could profit from and proudly say we did it for us. I rolled the dice, used my savings and created STS. We started out in 2013 with me, a business card and a name. By summer 2014 we saw a huge spike which started a snowball effect. Winning Commander’s Call was an amazing step to where we want to take our business.

Q. What piece of advice would you give to fellow Veteran entrepreneurs?

A. Do not allow fear to keep you from doing what you want to do. If you fail, you fail. You show me a successful person, and I’ll show you someone who failed 15 times before succeeding. We cannot allow fear to drive what we do with our business.

Survival and Tactical Systems (STS) is a Veteran-owned business based in Holly Ridge, N.C. that provides high quality, American made firearm products to the Military, Law Enforcement and civilians.


© 2015, StreetShares Inc. All rights reserved.

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Open For Business In California!
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on July 1, 2015

Originally published June 30, 2015 on PR Newswire

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Sticking to Your Guns: The Story of Poe Wovens
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on June 23, 2015

“Don’t be intimidated or dismayed when faced with what seems like an insurmountable task. Prove them wrong and keep going.”

Nancy Sunderland, Founder and Creative Director of Poe Wovens—an American-made, Vermont curated woven baby wraps store—knows a thing or two about sticking to your guns as an entrepreneur. As a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran, mother of five and wife of a dairy farmer, Nancy has been through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Here are five lessons she shared with us at StreetShares about what she’s learned along the journey:

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May Winner: Survival Tactical and Systems
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on June 16, 2015

Entrepreneurship is about creating financial freedom, and we want to help our fellow veterans make it happen! That’s why we created the StreetShares Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award.

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Thank You For Your Sacrifice
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on May 25, 2015

Last November, a few of us here at StreetShares had the honor of attending IAVA’s Heroes Gala in New York City. Travis Kalanick, Co-Founder and CEO of Uber, was awarded the 2014 Civilian Service Award for his leadership and commitment to post- 9/11 veterans. As Kalanick stepped up to the lectern to speak, he was overcome with emotion and said:

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April Winner: Daddy’s Deployed
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on May 18, 2015

Entrepreneurship is about creating financial freedom, and we want to help our fellow veterans make it happen! That’s why we created the StreetShares Commander’s Call Veteran Business Award.

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Commander's Call: April Finalists!
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on May 13, 2015

We were excited to see all the awesome applicants for April's Commander's Call Veteran Business Award. Thank you for your participation! We are proud to announce the five finalists for April's award:

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5 Inspiring Veteran-Owned Businesses
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on May 8, 2015

One of the most exciting aspects of life here at StreetShares is the ability to hear the stories of inspiring businesses, especially those run by military veterans. Below are five Veteran-owned businesses we are proud to know and support:

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[infographic] Small Businesses: Starting Small, Winning Big
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on May 4, 2015

Since 1963, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the President of the United States have together issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week. This week the government—alongside the entire country—recognizes and applauds the accomplishments of small businesses that serve as the backbone of our economy.

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Marines Can Do Anything: The MN8 Foxfire® Story
| StreetShares Blog

By StreetShares on April 29, 2015

“I remember hitting my rock bottom in basic training. At that moment, I made a decision that nobody was ever going to tell me I couldn’t do something.”

September 11 deeply affected our country, but for Zachary Green, Founder and CEO of MN8 Foxfire®, it was the inspiration for creating his business. Foxfire is a company that sells photoluminescent products—glow-in-the-dark exit signs and firefighter equipment—to keep firefighters safe by providing dependable visibility in dangerous situations.

Like many entrepreneurs with military experience, Zach can attribute his greatest lessons in business ownership to his time in the Marine Corps.

Lesson 1: Push through the opposition
As a kid, Zach dreamed of becoming a Marine. When he shared his dream with his family of lawyers and musicians, they were anything but thrilled. Hot-headed, young and proud, Zach left for training at Parris Island anyway.

Zach struggled in basic training. Everyone in the military starts out even, regardless of background. That was debilitating and tough for Zach—he wasn’t as good as he thought. It also didn’t help that his drill sergeants were honing in on him and breaking him down.

“They kept saying, ‘You’re not going to make it. You suck. You’re no good. You’re a sissy’,” Zach recalls. “I hit rock bottom and made a decision that nobody in my life was ever going to tell me I wasn’t good enough. Nobody was ever going to tell me I couldn’t do something.”

His military training taught him a tenacity for pushing through any opposition. Zach ended up graduating at a decent position in the class.

Lesson 2: Devotion to the brotherhood

When Zach met his wife, he left the military. A couple years went by and he missed the thrill, adventure and action of being in the field. Zach figured the next best option was to join the volunteer fire department.

“What pushed me to join was the brotherhood," Zach said. “There’s something about when you serve in combat with people—when you suffer and you bleed and you sweat together—that incredible bond that most people don’t understand.”

That devotion to the brotherhood, coupled with his remembrance of 9/11, inspired Zach to use the photoluminescent technology he had recently discovered and channel it into creating products that kept his fellow firefighters safe. MN8 Foxfire was founded in 2010.

Foxfire’s motto is by firefighters for firefighters and those we protect.

“When I get an email from a firefighter that says, ‘a little while back I was in a situation that if that glow-in-the-dark technology hadn’t been there, I may not have survived—your product made all the difference in the world.’ Those stories are the inspiration for what we do,” Zach said.

Lesson 3: Accomplishing the mission over troop welfare
Challenges abound in small business, as Foxfire experiences daily. The greatest one for the team is marketing a product that’s never previously existed.

“We’re not just out there selling photoluminescent exit signs and helmet accessories,” Zach said. “We’re educating people why they should change from traditional exit signs. That’s challenging.”

Driving a company forward comes with personal challenges as well. Zach had an epiphany a while back that he was holding the company back because he had exceeded his “span of control." In the military, accomplishing the mission comes before personal and troop welfare—even if you die, the mission has to move forward. So Zach stepped down from his role as president and hired an experienced Chief Operating Officer.

“Stepping down was the best decision I made,” he said. As CEO, Zach can now focus on selling his product and educating firefighters.

Lesson 4: Marines can do anything
When Zach left his corporate job to found Foxfire, his boss told him, “You’re making a mistake. This is not going to work out. Startup companies fail. You could fail.”

Zach would not be dissuaded. He knew he had more to offer and that a firefighter and Marine could do anything he put his mind to. Five years ago, Foxfire was just an idea. Today, the company has more than 60,000 firefighters using the product in 25 countries.

One of the proudest moments of Zach’s career happened a few of months ago: There was an update on the national news about a window washer that was stranded outside of the 80-somethingth floor of the World Trade Center Towers. The New York City Fire Department was up there rescuing him and you could see the Foxfire products on their helmets.

“This was so impactful because the FDNY is the largest and most prestigious fire department in the country—and the heroes of 9/11,” Zach said. “To see them on the World Trade Center Towers using my products to help each other be safer—that was so inspiring.”

To learn more about MN8 Foxfire®, visit their website at www.mn8foxfire.com.

© 2015, StreetShares Inc. All rights reserved.

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