This is my brother and the company he started. Pretty fun to watch it grow! This article was in the Daily Herald this week. We often laugh together about our work. He builds holsters for guns and I build holsters for sanitary pads. Both of our work has grown exponentially.
StealthGearUSA in American Fork is one of the many small companies in Utah County that has been quietly but steadily changing an entire industry.
Only about 5 years ago, Paul Laemmlen traveled extensively for his job. For personal protection, he carried a small handgun in an Inside the Waist Band (IWB) holster. Its sweaty, stiff leather was never very comfortable, but it was the only option for a concealed carry holster.
“One day, the whole holster fell out of my pants in a large public retail store. That was a bad day,” Laemmlen said. After that embarrassment, he went home, retired the holster and started looking for a better concealed carry option. After some extensive research, he found they all had the same problem. And thus a business was born.
“I have a knack for building things, so I started looking for materials that were better than leather. Leather absorbs sweat, in the summertime it gets really hot, and it’s not designed around the gun’s pressure points,” Laemmlen said. “I went on a worldwide search for synthetic materials that were non-moisture absorbing, breathable and comfortable.”
With some tinkering, he invented an entirely new hybrid IWB holster made from his patented VentCore padding riveted to a Kydex shell. Everyone he showed it to wanted one, and he quickly was manufacturing and selling them online from his basement. His business went live in January 2013, with the goal to sell at least one to every state in America by the end of the year. By December, his daughter, who was tracking sales, colored in the last state on her map.
“The industry that supports firearms has been able to be lazy for too long. There was no impetus to change. That’s why this has been personal to Paul. That moment that occurred in that store speaks to our entire philosophy,” said Randy Ataide, CEO of StealthGearUSA.
The StealthGearUSA line of holsters have become extremely popular in the concealed carry community, especially with military and law enforcement personnel. The platform, or backing, of each holster is made from multiple layers of the StealthGear VentCore foam, with extra padding behind points where the gun might dig into a wearer’s skin. Each Kydex shell is crafted not only match the gun brand — like Glock or Smith & Wesson — but also the exact model.
“Many companies just do 20 or so molds for the guns, but we have around 200,” said Jason Goates, director of marketing at StealthGearUSA.
The hundreds of blue plastic gun models lining the walls of their production facility in American Fork is a testament to that. Some handgun brands have only a few models, while others have up to 20. StealthGearUSA has all of them, so their Kydex shells fit every gun just like a glove. Every part of a StealthGearUSA holster is designed, fabricated, and manufactured in American Fork, and Laemmlon has plans for even more products.
Because StealthGearUSA’s designs are so different than any other holster, Laemmlon and his team had to design the machinery to build every part that goes into their products. But their efforts have paid off, because in just three years, the company has grown well in excess of 1,000 percent.
That growth velocity has meant a lot of moves, because they’ve had to double their production space every year. In June, the company is moving from their current 5,000-square-foot offices to a 9,000-square-foot facility nearby, with an entire floor devoted to research and design, and the other floor devoted to manufacturing and production. Since 2013, the company has grown from four employees to its current 30, with plans to hire 15 to 18 more soon.
StealthGearUSA holsters are sold to more than 30,000 customers in 35 countries worldwide, with a high proportion of those coming from first time customers who purchase more than one holster.And more and more of those customers are women. For two years now, StealthGearUSA holsters have won the Shooting for Women Alliance Ladies’ Choice Award at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas, with stories pouring in of moms and career women who comment on how comfortable their holster is. Ataide read an email Monday morning from a stay-at-home mom who wrote how she wears her small handgun from morning to night, and never has any problems with it — even crawling around on the floor with her kids.
“I have told this to Paul, you have changed people’s lives. You’ve allowed people who choose to carry to feel safe with it,” Ataide said.
And really, for Laemmlon, that’s always been the point.
“When I hear from customers who say, ‘I trust my life with it,’ that’s my goal. To have hundreds of people who know that can protect their family and feel safe with it,” he said.
For more information, visit stealthgearusa.com.
Karissa Neely reports on Business & Community events, and can be reached at (801) 344-2537 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @DHKarissaNeely