There’s a lot of talk about the positive traits that people in the military walk away with: leadership, teamwork, hard work etc. Sometimes the positive just can’t be pinned down to a specific word, attribute, or characteristic.
Nick Franz’s journey to the military and eventually to founding Frag Out Clothing Company has been all about that experiential learning.
Nick was born in Detroit, Michigan and joined the Air Force in March of 2001. Nick’s path wasn’t direct; he said that at 20 years old he was “about to be homeless and wanted a job, benefits, and education. The Air Force offered that possibility if you were willing to work.”
It wasn’t a given that Nick would join the Air Force. When it came time for his decision, Nick was choosing between the Marine Corps and the Air Force. He had family in both and the unanimous advice was to go blue. Nick said, “I love the jokes and everybody teases the Air Force, but when it came down to joining the military, my family said, ‘Don’t be an idiot, go Air Force. Pick a job you can take to the outside.’ It was great advice but I may have picked a different MOS (military occupation specialty, military speak for ‘job’) had I known I wouldn’t stay in aircraft maintenance after the Air Force.
As mentioned, Nick joined the Air Force six months prior to the September 11th attacks and mentioned that while he was already proud of serving, 9/11 changed his perspective on his service and it seemed that much more important to him.
The Military Experience
When you ask Nick what resonates with him about his military time, you may expect teamwork, commitment to mission, or all those other traits listed earlier. Nick eagerly answered, “Experience! I saw so much of the United States and of the world. I was stationed in Alaska, Texas, and New Jersey. I remember a mission swapping out a jet of UAE. We flew from McGuire Air Force Base to Scotland and were on the ground for 2 hours. Took off from Scotland and flew to the UAE where we switched crews and flew back to Scotland, and immediately on to NJ. We were gone 36 hours and hit all those countries. When would I have ever done that if not for the military? When would I have ever gone to Alaska? Life experiences man, those impact you in untold ways.”
The Transition Experience
Nick medically discharged and was going to pursue a job instead of education because he wanted to pass along his education benefits to his children. He sent out his resume close to 500 times and only received a few responses, most not offering an interviewing opportunity for the job he was targeting. He eventually found out about a vocational tech GI Bill for service-disabled veterans and he signed up and started school. Along the way, he had the drive to start his own business. Apparel was most interesting and he looked around and saw giants such as Grunt Style or Nine Line Apparel but felt there was a niche he could work his way into. He decided to launch Frag Out while attending school and see where it would lead him.
Nick has been building Frag Out Clothing Company for close to 2 years now. His best advice to other veterans looking to start their own business is to “take baby steps. Start out slow. See what people want and go from there.” He jokingly estimated that customers only purchase about 20% of his designs. The other 80% stays in inventory and eventually needs to be slashed in price to move. Now, based off that learning experience, his design process includes a stage where he produces a limited quantity and offers it up through pre-sales to gauge the market before committing resources. He highly suggests veterans do the same when starting a business. Find your niche, roll out a limited offering, gauge the market, and then act if you see positive results.
Nick said that his favorite element of running FOCC is that success and failure is purely on him and is completely dictated by the end user. You can’t argue if most customers don’t want to purchase your goods, you just need to design better. Likewise, you own the success if you have a design that sells as soon as you’re producing it.
This is a common theme in the Featured Veteran-Owned Business stories; many veterans enjoy the challenge of putting their fate in their own hands. Nick’s ability to soak in lessons from experience and apply it moving forward is sure to keep Frag Out Clothing Company in the game for years to come.
Rapid Fire Q&A
Contact: What is your favorite MRE?
Nick: None! I was in the Air Force; we eat in chow halls or dining facilities haha!
Contact: What is your favorite weapon or weapons system/vehicle/platform etc.?
Nick: The A-10. That thing is one of a kind.
A-10 Over Afghanistan - Wikipedia
Contact: What is your favorite piece of standard issue gear?
Nick: The super thick jacket liner. I was stationed in Alaska and that thing was so warm. It was like a woobie in jacket form.