An all-American boy, who lived a life of fishing and bow hunting, grew up to become an American patriot. “I got to SEAL Team 5 on November 1, 2001,” explains Stephen Holley. He says, “Over the next two years I did two deployments to Southeast Asia and then did another two deployments in Iraq”.
Holley says one of the things he learned as a navy SEAL was how to sew; because when you’re an elite warrior, every personal detail matters, “If you lined up 100 guys from a SEAL team who are all issued the same gear, none of them would look the same”.
Now, Holley is stitching together the different facets of his life to pursue his American dream; designing hunting and outdoor gear that he markets as a layered, unbulky, performance clothing that he has personally tested out in the elements, “Even when it got down to 30 degrees overnight it was overkill—very, very warm”.
And Holley is fighting to make it in America, “The stories I could tell you and the challenges we had to overcome to keep it manufactured domestically we could sit and talk for hours”. He’s been forced out of factories by bigger competitors, other facilities have abruptly shut down after he started working with them, and now, “I am in my fourth different factory domestically”.
He says his line, called SixSite Gear, is being assembled by the same U.S. manufacturer that sews for some much bigger names, “Nike and Patagonia and the military”. That means Holley will have to sell enough to be able to keep his spot in the factory, “Obviously the startup from Dallas competing with the Nikes of the world…”.
He started all of this because of the elk that got away ten years ago, “I missed an animal with an arrow when I had been out there for a week. I had been hunting very hard; and after missing that animal I thought if I had just had this.”
‘This’ was one of those tiny details---a ‘D ring’ design that Holly thinks would have made him less visible and abler to make a tough shot. He has since been wearing his products and says he hasn’t missed again.
Holley says he is aiming for premium prices for his premium products. As a newcomer with a lot of established competition that is a big challenge. And so is continuing to have his pieces put together in the USA, “There’s just something that speaks to me about using American workers whenever you can”.
And more pressure, Holley was one of those American workers before he quit his corporate job to make his business dream come true. He made that move recently even though he has a wife and five young kids counting on him. But Holley says he got some great perspective while serving this country, “There’s friends of mine who weren’t lucky enough to come home so I look at myself and say there is one shot at this life and I don’t want regrets. So we made the jump.”