Our military is often only openly appreciated in times where there is a holiday spotlighting their accolades and support they’ve provided to us as Americans. But if it weren’t for those holidays like Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, what else are we as Americans doing to show our continued support for active and retired servicemen?
Two founders of a company called Toes To Barbell (Toestobarbell.com) spent some time with me discussing the creation of their company and the purpose behind it. Toes To Barbell is a Raleigh, North Carolina based company comprised of four members: Chris McKinley (Founder), Ian Brambs (Co-Founder), Simon Kang (Co-Founder), and Dustin Castillo (Co-Founder). The four are frequent gym goers and would always workout with one another in their neighborhood garage.
As they’d workout, a question always lingered in the back of their heads and that was why they were wearing another brand’s clothing to exercise in. They figured, why not just make their own and rep it proudly? Not only that, but with 3/4 of the company serving in the active military, the group believed they could create a product where people could have the ability to workout in and also give back to the military community. The four realized what they needed to do.
What was the turning point that made you and your team move forward with your business?
Chris: “”We were just a group of guys who truly had a passion for fitness and loved to train. Back then, the concept of a fitness apparel company was just an idea tossed around in-between sets. The honest turning point was the simple creation of the name itself. Once the name was created we had something to stand behind. The name eventually led to the logo and the rest just fell into place after that. We always knew we could create the same quality of clothing the “big guys” were creating and do it with a purpose behind it. A purpose that meant something to us. The purpose is the fuel for everything. But it shouldn’t just be about fitness, it should also focus on supporting the military; we want to give back to the communities who have made us who we are today.”
Dustin: “We wanted to do something with our own talent and skills while making sure the military was at the forefront. With our Hero line – for every shirt that is purchased, one will be donated to an active service member.”
What do you hope consumers will gain in supporting this cause?
Chris: “We want to create this intersection between the military and the active community. We want people outside the armed forces to feel apart of the military community.”
Dustin: “For some soldiers that are very young and far away from their family, it’s kind of cool for a soldier to receive a shirt from family members overseas and to know that they’re being thought of. That alone is what we hope our customers will gain from this.”
Explain your thought process behind your logo and the name of your company?
Chris: “The name of the company is a play on words off the exercise ‘toes to bar.’ We wanted simplicity in our logo just like we want in every shirt and product we make. We’ve always felt that simplicity is actually harder to achieve than complexity, especially when it comes to design. The logo is simple but it stands out and that’s what we like best about it.”
Since your website’s launch, what is the next step for your team?
Dustin: “We want to be able to get representation with every military post within state side. The good thing about the Crossfit community is that they do a lot of competitions. We can really grow just by going to these events and social media. But we’re not strictly for just Crossfit followers, even though we do have a strong base coming from that community. Functional fitness is very popular, but we want to make sure that we’re not just targeting only the Crossfit community. Fitness is not just inside the gym, it’s all encompassing.”
What is your advice for someone looking to pursue their own ideas?
Chris: “There’s 24 hours in a day, and I can assure you that not all of those hours will be taken up by your regular work hours. If dudes in the active military are doing it, we think you can too.”
Dustin: “We feel that being physically fit is a passion for us. If you have something that you are extremely passionate about, it’s almost impossible not to succeed.”
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