Nick Palmisciano is founder and CEO of Ranger Up, a business that caters to military veterans. (Courtesy of Ranger Up)
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Ranger vet Nick Palmisciano was dealing with “social disconnect” as a Duke University grad student. Inundated by negative and erroneous opinions of the war and military, Palmisciano, who graduated from West Point in 1998, volunteered with ROTC to keep himself balanced.
He started making cool and funny military T-shirts for the students, who urged him to make a website. Ranger Up launched June 16, 2006. Meanwhile, Palmisciano was rocketing up the corporate ladder at a Fortune 100 company after graduating from Duke in 2005 but felt his work had no value. He quit his job and lived off his savings until Ranger Up started paying the bills.
“It was a crazy, chaotic, scary time, but at no time did I question the decision,” he said. “My life has a lot more meaning as a result.”
Today, Ranger Up has invaded the Top 1,000 Internet vendors according to Internet Retailer. It offers tons of military-themed shirts that speak to the heart of veterans — and laugh in the face of political correctness. The company has expanded with a variety of gear and a new line of premium jeans. And it continues to help veteran entrepreneurs create and launch their own businesses.
Q. To what do you attribute the success and growth of Ranger Up?
A. I credit the military 100 percent with giving me the right ethos to succeed. As an infantry officer, I found many circumstances when we had one of two options: Throw your hands up and quit, or find a solution. Most veterans are people who find solutions.
We also have tremendous feedback from our customers. The top officers handle all social media so we know what our customers are saying. If we messed up, I want to know about it. And we will change as a result.
We have to improve on our processes every day to be the company that we want to be.
Q. The jeans have been a big success. Will you expand the product line further?
A. Many of our customers have never spent $100 on a pair of jeans. But people told us they had a feeling that they would be awesome and they trusted us.
We sold 40 percent of our inventory in the first six weeks. We expected that inventory to last six months.
We basically want to become, for lack for a better term, the military Ralph Lauren. We are already working on a partnership for some lifestyle bags that meet tactical specifications.We’re working on dress shirts, we’re working on a lot of things.
Q. What advice would you give to veterans who are interested in fulfilling their dreams of opening their own businesses?
A. Whenever someone starts a new business, it’s going to cost twice as much as you think to start, and it’s going to take three times longer than you think to be successful, and four times the work you would expect.
No matter whether you serve for three or four years or you serve for 35 years, we all eventually become civilians again. You want to set yourself up to do something meaningful.
You have to enter the civilian workforce with a mission. If you want to be an entrepreneur, it has to be your mission.
Q. You are becoming well known for investing time and money in veteran entrepreneurs. What kind of things do you do?
A. We produce videos to help veterans succeed. We did a series of four videos on how to get a job, for example.
Every veteran that writes me and wants to know how to start a company, or they want to bounce some ideas off of me, I take their calls.
We created a one-year internship program. We have them work various jobs internally so they can see all aspects of the business, and we also have classes with that veteran. And in the end, we invest some amount of money in the company.
Q. Tell us about your support of MMA fighters.
A. We are sponsoring 103 athletes. We only sponsor military, police, fire and EMS personnel. Either active or veteran.
We sponsor Tim Kennedy and Brian Stann in the UFC. They are the heroes for the generation that is coming up now. They both have sacrificed an amazing amount for their country.
We sponsor guys at every level. The only thing that we ask is that you served honorably.
I don’t care if they ever go to the UFC, I want the privates and specialists to look at him and say, “I want to be like that guy.”