MARENGO – An entrepreneurial veteran has taken his plans to expand his Marengo apparel business directly to the community, forgoing outside investors and other conventional ways to grow his endeavor.
Noah Currier, founder and owner of Oscar Mike, a clothing store along River Road in Marengo, said a community-based donation drive to generate the necessary capital to expand the store’s product line is the ideal move for a small business that prides itself on being all-American made.
The former Marine, who served in Iraq in 2003, and his staff had raised, as of Thursday evening, more than $49,000 after starting earlier this month a campaign through Kickstarter.com, a crowd-sourcing website that funds creative projects.
The donation total would allow Oscar Mike to add a new line of T-shirts, but Currier hopes the business raises $2 million by the campaign’s Aug. 16 end to add a diverse inventory that includes athletic gear, active wear and outdoor equipment.
“I don’t know if we will hit that mark or not. If it ended today, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.” Currier said, noting that other Kickstarter campaigns have generated $1 million. “I’m actually proud of what we accomplished already, but I think we can do a lot more.”
Formed on Veterans Day 2011, Oscar Mike initially specialized in military-themed T-shirts. The name Oscar Mike lends itself to military radio jargon meaning “on the move.”
The business employs 11 people, eight of whom are veterans. Ten percent of gross sales also goes to the company’s nonprofit arm, the Oscar Mike Foundation, which sends disabled veterans to adaptive sporting events.
Currier, 31, is paralyzed from neck down after being in a car accident three days after returning from combat in Iraq.
Eight years later, he and a friend hatched the clothing store idea as a way to support adaptive sporting competitions, with an emphasis on promoting products manufactured in the United States.
They used their disability compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to help start the fledgling business, and even received word that the VA would supply them with a $163,000 grant to help buy equipment and inventory.
But the company’s desire to have all its products manufactured in America has prevented them from receiving the grant, since the lowest bidders that would supply the inventory and equipment all do business overseas.
“Finally, we said, ‘Screw it. Let’s figure out a way to come up with the capital we need in another way,’” Currier said. “That’s why we are using Kickstarter.”
The Kickstarter campaign details the different product lines the company could buy under certain donations. At $100,000, Oscar Mike would add active wear. At $1 million, it could distribute running shoes, boots and other footwear.
The lowest allowable donation is $1, and donors receive different incentives, like personalized dog tags and T-shirts, for giving certain amounts.
“I think locals supporting local businesses starts every business,” Currier said. “That’s the definition of American-made, and the American dream. I don’t think you can do without the community.”