Tim Ralston: Survival Gear Inventor, Lifelong Entrepreneur

Written by on September 10, 2013 in Blog, Featured - No comments
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We heard about Tim Ralston because of his connection to the outdoors. A friend said to us, “You’ve got to meet Tim.”

When we paid a visit to the Gear Up store in North Scottsdale, we were blown away by Tim’s inventions. He has designed a unique line of multi-function tools and weapons perfect for survival situations. Talk about innovation! He’s always improving his inventions and dreaming up new ideas for the next one. You never know, you may just need to call on Tim if a natural disaster strikes or the unthinkable, a Zombie Apocalypse occurs! His hopes are you will learn survival skills before you actually need them. So let’s chat with Tim and see how his inventions have helped pave his road to becoming a successful entrepreneur.

GrowSW: What exactly is your job title?

Tim: My title is President and Founder of Recon Agency; we conduct business as Gear Up.

Tim Ralston of Gear Up

Tim Ralston of Gear Up

GrowSW: Tell us a little about Gear Up.

Tim: Gear Up is a self-reliance and outdoor gear company, also an American tool company- we build the product, as well. We bring innovative survival and outdoor gear to the public.

GrowSW: How did you get the idea to start your own company?

Tim: We operated our own marketing and advertising firm called E Image Agency for 16 years. When the market started to crash, my wife and I decided to do our own thing.

I’ve always wanted to open an outdoor gear and survival store, so I started one online. Then in 2010, I invented The Crovel, a one-of-a-kind multi-shovel, and it really put us on the map almost overnight.

The Crovel is a survival tool that is half crowbar and half shovel.

Tim said he bought every crowbar he could find in the first wave of manufacturing of The Crovel. 

crovel tactical shovel

The Crovel Tactical

Tim: I made 30 Crovels, went to a gun show and sold out in a half hour. The crowd just mobbed us. We built 60 more Crovels for the next time, a 2-day trade show in Tucson, but it was a bit smaller.

The next week, I went to a manufacturer with a prototype and I did a photo shoot with a green Crovel. We submitted a press release and Uncrate picked us up the next day. We were also featured in Men’s Journal and as Maxim 2011 Product of the Year.

Next I went to a larger manufacturer and started to ramp everything up. I received a phone call from National Geographic and they asked if I would like to be on their TV program and if I could bring my shovel. Well, yes I can. They got to see some great stuff like the unveiling of new models of The Crovel.

GrowSW: When did you decide to make this your career?

Tim: We stopped working with our marketing clients in 2011. Right after that, my wife and I went full time on Gear Up.

GrowSW: What sorts of jobs have you held in the past?

Tim: Oy. Well, I started as a para rescuer (PJ) in the Air Force and transferred into air traffic control. I was in for 4 years and when I got out at 22, I decided to chase my bucket list.

I was a ski instructor in Vail for a while. Then I worked for Bally’s Health and Tennis as a sales trainer; I got into the fitness industry.

From there, I traveled through Europe with a backpack for eight months and learned photography, and when I came back to the states, I became a photographer. Having experience shooting in Europe, really paid off.

Later I put photography behind me, met my wife at an agency and worked in marketing at our company. She then came up with an invention – the Z Pointe… it was an automatic cosmetic pencil sharpener.

Z Pointe by Marie Ralston- sold on QVC

Z Pointe sharpener

We had Z Pointe in all the department stores- Dillard’s, Barney’s, Sacks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales and Ulta. We traveled to the Orient, where we had the product made, and learned all about manufacturing.

Next, we got our foot in the door with QVC, which really launched our marketing company.

We sold more Z Pointe’s in four minutes on QVC than all year at other places combined. We found other products to market, and in a 9-year stint we one of the go-to vendors that helped QVC bring in new products.

After that we opened the first UV Free tanning salon and that was really successful. People heard about our success in turning businesses around and re-branding companies, which kept our marketing company busy.

Then one day, we decided that we wanted to brand ourselves and that’s when Recon started. Now, I’m the brand and I can create innovative products for the public.

GrowSW: This may be an obvious question, I suppose. Have you always been an entrepreneur?

Tim: Yes. Pretty much.

GrowSW: What do you like about it?

Tim: That “Aha!” moment. Everyone has it.

GrowSW: What is the most challenging part about operating a small business?

Tim: Trying to gauge demand and keep up with it. We’ve gotten caught with “our pants down.” It was difficult to know how many products to build with unknown factors such as being featured on a TV show or a National magazine. We would completely sell out and have back date orders out to the wazoo.

GrowSW: What have you learned from being an entrepreneur?

Tim: To never give up. NEVER give up. For every no, there’s going to be two yeses. Keep a positive mental attitude. Just keep swinging. You learn from your successes and roll that momentum into your next project.

GrowSW: What would you have done differently?

Tim: When you start out, you may be under funded. We have found ourselves in that situation and had to learn several skills and wear a lot of hats. I would have increased my funding plan by at least 30 percent. It is also important to learn how to do things from the ground up, then bring on assistance as you grow.

GrowSW: I know you prefer to keep your partners and manufacturers based in the U.S. What made you decide this and how does it affect your costs?

Tim: Unfortunately, it makes the costs substantially higher, but I think that the American people really appreciate that we’re keeping the work and the jobs in the U.S. These are skilled tradesmen, welders, engineers, fabricators, and we’re keeping them busy with our products.

Most people are willing to pay extra for quality and workmanship.

We cut our competitors products in HALF on stage. Literally we take the cheaper version of our tool and cut it in half with our tool. It’s a pretty compelling demonstration.

Crovel cutting through the competition

The Crovel cutting through the competition

GrowSW: How did you initially raise money to fund your company?

Tim: We had an angel investor who knew us from another project. He liked the concept and trusted us. He invested a small amount of capital and we launched it by going on DoomsDay Prepper, where we sold out in a matter of hours.

For our watch, project, Recon 6, we are thinking of doing a Kickstarter campaign as soon as our prototypes come in.  The Recon 6 is a never-before-seen survival watch that is sure to capture a lot of attention.

GrowSW: What are you working on now?

Tim: The Recon 6, the Adventure Pod, the X Caliber shot gun, my new gun the Scavenger 6, with six barrels, in which we just obtained patents. We’ll be in the Sept/ Oct. issue of Lui Magazine in France. Also look for Gear Up on the new Pioneer Magazine’s feature article on my BOSS (Bug Out Survival Shelter). I’m also on the cover and in the magazine; American Survival Guide.

Gear Up on American Survival Guide

GrowSW: What advice do you have for others who have created inventions and are considering taking it to the next level?

Tim: If it’s a good idea, it would be to do it! That’s it. Just got for it. Most inventors tend to hold onto inventions so tightly that someone else will come up with it and get it on the market before you can and reap all the rewards. It happened to me once.

GrowSW: How long do you think you would you survive in a natural disaster or zombie apocalypse?

Tim: I’d be able to adapt to most anything.

GrowSW: Do you think you’d outlast the general population?

Tim: Easily. Hands down. Bring it on!

GrowSW: What’s the most valuable tool, that you’ve created, for someone in a survival situation?

Tim: The Crovel is probably one of the most valuable tools. It doesn’t require bullets. I can do a lot with the Crovel. But now that I made the X Caliber shotgun, it’s the best survival weapon. The Crovel is the best survival tool and the X Caliber is the best survival weapon.

Check out Gear Up on Facebook and Twitter. For information on their products, visit the Gear Up website.

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