June 2019

Papa’s Got a Brand-New Bag: How two local guys changed fatherhood forever

Author: Barry Kaufman

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but no one ever talks about invention’s father: the steadfast dedication necessary to bring an invention to life. These long hours and late nights spent tinkering and perfecting an idea, willing it from abstract thought into concrete product, are no less important to an invention. And yet we only ever hear about necessity.

It’s often the same thing with parenthood. Not to detract at all from the vital role a mother plays in a child’s upbringing, it’s just that these days fathers have stepped up to the plate in a big way. Far from the dads of yesterday who might be good for a game of catch now and then, today’s fathers are in the trenches of parenthood, changing diapers, cooking meals, running carpools and helping shoulder the load.
But until a few years ago, those shoulders would inevitably be carrying something else: a frilly, pink diaper bag. That is, until Tactical Baby Gear decided to change fatherhood forever.

“We were doing the ultrasound for our second child, and when the nurse said it was a girl, I just thought, ‘I have to carry that purple bag again?’” founder Beav Brodie said. With his wife Brandy working full-time and often late nights, Brodie was that dedicated dad who would handle dinner duty, daycare drop-offs and dirty diapers. But a flowery diaper bag just didn’t fit his sensibilities.

Digging around online yielded few promising results. And that’s when Brodie decided to make his own. With a background in upholstery from designing custom cars, he stitched together the first prototype Tactical Baby Gear bag, using tactical surplus and raw materials he found online. It was a hit and showed promise beyond his own needs.

“I’m surrounded by dudes like me who are really involved with their kids but don’t want to carry around a feminine diaper bag or single dads who are asking, ‘Why do I have to carry a flowery bag around when I’m the only one who’s using it?’” he said. “At that moment, I knew there was an idea there.”

However, that idea nearly stalled in the beginning. Selling his bags online as one-offs certainly worked as a side hustle, but eventually Brodie hit a crossroads. “I knew that wasn’t sustainable,” he said. He needed to scale up. And that’s when he found Alexander Kristoff. Or rather, when he reconnected with Kristoff.

The pair had both grown up on Hilton Head Island, shagging golf balls for extra spending money. Since then, Kristoff had gone off to Charlotte, where he’d pursued his entrepreneurial dreams. He had invented a type of disposable, collapsible liquor flask, but more important, he had taken it to market and transformed it into a viable business. “That business morphed into us doing licensing and expanding into the broader market beyond liquor, and we wound up in Target,” Kristoff said.

It was his celebratory social media post showing his flask in Target that caught Brodie’s attention. He commented on the post that the pair should work together, and soon they were locked in a four-hour brainstorming session on the future of Tactical Baby Gear.

“I knew how to make things, but everything beyond that … he had more business knowhow than I did,” Brodie said.

“I was always passionate about building a business. I just loved the journey,” Kristoff added. Shortly after coming on board, Kristoff also found himself facing fatherhood for the first time—and the second and third times as well, thanks to a set of twins and a third shortly after. “Yeah, we got a little aggressive. We went from zero to 100.”

With Kristoff’s business savvy and newfound perspective as a dad guiding Brodie’s entrepreneurial spirit and ingenious designs, Tactical Baby Gear hit the next level: international distribution through a global ecommerce site, specialized manufacturing, an expanded product line, and sales that led to that most inevitable result of business success: imitators. These days, you’ll find any number of different labels selling diaper bags, baby carriers and accessories with a military look and feel, but Tactical Baby Gear led the way.

“We created a market in the baby bag industry that didn’t exist,” Brodie said, adding with a laugh, “we also catch a lot of flak for it.”

With the inevitable rise in imitators came the think pieces from the likes of Huffington Post and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, decrying the so-called toxic masculinity that gave rise to the manly diaper bag. “It’s surreal when you start to hit mainstream media platforms,” Brodie said. “I find most of the negative stuff comical. They spin it so far out it couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re just trying to help dads be better dads.”

Part of that includes building a community of dads from all corners of the world, brought together by Tactical Baby Gear’s robust social media efforts, from videos to blogs to podcasts.

“It’s not just selling a product to people; it’s helping them be a more engaged parent,” Brodie said. “Doing podcasts and all of that is us educating parents along the way through our experiences and other people’s experiences…. There are communities out there. We want to head up a community like that.”

The community-building, social media marketing, and endless meetings with manufacturers, distributors and retailers have all been part of that hustle to take an idea and build an empire. That’s the unspoken and oft unheralded father of invention: the dedication to see an idea through. It’s a long journey that Tactical Baby Gear has taken, and it’s only just beginning. 

For more information, visit www.tacticalbabygear.com or call (843) 505-8658.

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