One former U.S. Navy SEAL still fights for his country even after leaving the service.
“What most people don’t realize is that a lot of Navy SEALs know their way around a sewing machine,” SIXSITE founder, designer and former U.S. Navy SEAL officer Stephen Holley says with almost a grin. “Most guys on the Teams know how to sew.”
It makes sense. SEALs adjust their training, tactics and weaponry based on the mission at hand. Their clothing and gear is no different. Fastening or attaching objects with stitches using a simple needle and thread can provide just the advantage needed for success.
“Guys would rip apart their clothing or gear and sew it all back together based on dexterity, their jobs within a platoon or the weapons they carried,” Holley says. “They would move pockets around into different locations and angles. I did the same thing back then with my gear before a mission. Now I just apply that thought process to hunting.”
Although incorporating tactical elements into a hunting jacket is how SIXSITE started, that’s not the story.
Getting that tactical hunting gear manufactured in America, however, is.
“The first few times I went overseas with the SEAL Teams, it was to southeast Asia. I’ve been around the world a couple of times and, having seen the rest of the world, it was very important to me that we manufacture SIXSITE camo and gear domestically,” Holley recounts. “Little did I know how difficult that would prove to be.”
Over 97% of apparel sold in the U.S. is made in factories overseas, where workers are frequently paid extremely low wages and often work in dangerous conditions. Quality overseas is suspect at best, but there were other challenges Holley faced closer to home.
“The first three factories we tried working with simply weren’t the right ones for us,” Holley confesses without going into detail. Even today, the former SEAL still knows how to keep a few secrets.
“I had people tell me I was crazy,” Holley admits. “That it would be a lot easier if we went offshore and produced our line overseas. It would be much better from a cost standpoint as well. But from a quality perspective and, equally as important, a heritage perspective, I did not want to manufacture overseas. At all.”
“It’s like anything in life,” Holley recounts. “You’ve got to persevere when you get knocked down. You have to dust yourself off and just keep going.”
In that sense, business and hunting are similar; a comparison not lost on Holley. “Rarely do I go out on Day One of a hunt and have any luck. More often than not, success comes at the end of a six- or seven-day hunt. After miserable weather, maybe a miss or two, or a blown stalk do things finally come together. You persevere and don’t quit. You don’t take ‘no’ for an answer and fight through that adversity until you find success. Just like in business.”
And it’s paid off. Two years and four factories later, Holley and SIXSITE have finally found a partner that has the technical capability and shared attitudes about manufacturing in America.
“No, it’s not easy,” Holley acknowledges. “But I think there are people out there that appreciate, albeit harder, that we’re making things here in the United States.”