Startup T-shirt companies are a dime a dozen, but the ones that succeed are able to speak to unique audiences. That explains the success of Ranger Up, a clothing line developed for the troops, by the troops.
Former Army Ranger Nick Palmisciano founded the company in 2006 after receiving his MBA from Duke University. He was fed up with the misperceptions his fellow students had of Iraq and the war. Their anti-military attitudes, he says, led him to wonder: "Where is the support for our troops?"
Palmisciano recruited a buddy, mixed martial arts fighter and Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Tim Kennedy, to bring the company to life.
His goal? Boost morale by making patriotic T-shirts to support wounded troops, to honor veterans, to support those serving and to give civilians the chance to show patriotism.
"Nick's attitude and that of the whole Ranger Up team is infectious," Kennedy said. "They don't talk about being a successful apparel company, but instead being something bigger than that: a company that really looks out for the troops."
Kennedy got involved because he wanted to be a part of that effort.
"From other people, that sounds like a sales pitch," he said, "but they believe it, so I want to help."
Using their shared experiences in the military and their quirky sense of humor, the team at Ranger Up has developed a passionate following among service members by creating military and MMA-themed apparel. Some of it — such as the "Marine Corps Recruiting Depot: Berkeley, California" T-shirt or the one that portrays Saddam Hussein with the words, "You Stay Classy, Iraq" — is irreverent; their other lines are top-quality, edgy designs.
While Ranger Up might seem like just another apparel company, Palmisciano is quick to counter: "Shirts are a means to an end. Our goal is to celebrate service in a genuine way, and employ more vets as we continue to be successful."
Ranger Up backs up that claim with action. The company donates to charities for wounded warriors and Palmisciano and others spend time with injured soldiers, he said. At the recent "UFC Fights for the Troops," the company, along with a sponsored athlete, Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter and Navy veteran Dale Hartt, visited the Fort Bragg, N.C., Warrior Transition Center.
"When we went there to visit, we donated a bunch of our new Purple Heart T-shirts," Palmisciano said. "The command sergeant major ... told us it was the best damn shirt she had ever seen. The troops loved it. That meant everything to us."
Kelly Crigger is a freelance writer and author of "Title Shot: Into the Shark Tank of Mixed Martial Arts" His book is available on RangerUp.com or on Amazon.com.
Win a three-pack of Ranger Up T-shirts! Send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com by March 15, and you'll be entered into a random drawing. Include your name, rank, branch and current duty station.