Tom Amenta, left, Ranger Up chief operations officer, with founder and president Nick Palmisciano. (Photos courtesy of Ranger Up)
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A veteran-owned T-shirt company with a strong following among soldiers has been named one of the “Hot 100” companies for 2014 by Internet Retailer, the major trade publication in e-commerce.
The ranking places Ranger Up alongside giants such as Wal-Mart.
Ranger Up also ranked No. 2 in the Social Media 500 category. And the best is yet to come, says founder and president Nick Palmisciano, a former Ranger known for investing time, wisdom and money in veteran entrepreneurs. He sees this honor as not only validating the product but also the business model he freely shares with countless veteran entrepreneurs.
“Making the Hot 100 list is the business equivalent of getting your Ranger tab,” Palmisciano said. “OK, that’s probably not accurate, but this is definitely the highest professional honor that Ranger Up has ever received. The Hot 100 is a subjective evaluation by some of the sharpest minds in the industry that we are a company on the rise.
“We’ve been elevated in a manner, from being a ‘T-shirt company’ to a brand thought leader. I mean, we’re on a list that includes Wal-Mart, Urban Outfitters, Louis Vuitton and the Gap. Bottom line: It’s time to fill our warehouse with rich mahogany and many leather-bound books. Not only does that make us feel like all our hard work is paying off, but it gives us the incentive to prove Internet Retailer right. It’s a nice acknowledgment of what we have always known — motivated veterans can accomplish anything.”
Palmisciano launched the company seven years ago when he grew frustrated with the “social disconnect” he saw as a Duke University graduate student. Inundated by negative and erroneous opinions of the Iraq war and military, Palmisciano volunteered with the school’s ROTC program to keep himself balanced.
He started making cool and funny military-themed T-shirts for students, who urged him to start a website.
Today, Ranger Up boasts more than 200,000 Facebook followers, 10,000 Twitter followers and 4,700 YouTube subscribers and has logged more than 4 million YouTube views. Internet sales rose 134 percent from 2012 to 2013, growing from $320,000 to $750,000.
T-shirts are by far the core product, from the American Spartan Athletic Fit emblazoned with the words of the Constitution, to the Betsy Ross Glory Normal Fit, to the classic “When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend” and the blunt-force message, “If you weren’t there then shut up.”
Ranger Up produces two or three new shirts every week, ranging from humorous to traditional and thought-provoking. The company’s three top officers still come up with the ideas, with input from business partner and UFC fighter Tim Kennedy as well as customers.
Last year, the company launched American-made jeans and released an animated cartoon, “The Damn Few,” on DVD. Both received high acclaim from customers. This year, Ranger Up will develop, with help from Tactical Tailor, premium civilian-wear backpacks “with some new twists.” A knife agreement with “an amazing partner” also is in the works, Palmisciano said.
He credits the military “100 percent” with giving him the right ethos to succeed. And he is quick to share his lessons learned with other veterans looking to launch their own businesses. The assistance ranges from personal guidance to internship opportunities to financial support. His stated goal is to make the 0.45 percent of Americans who serve in the military a part of the top 1 percent in American business.
“We’re preparing for the next round of our ‘vetrepreneur’ program, and we will engage the ‘Ranger Up Nation’ in helping us choose the next veteran entrepreneur to train and invest in,” Palmisciano said.
“These are incredibly exciting times for us, and we’re honored and proud to have such support from the military and veteran community. We love serving the best people on the planet.”