We had an interesting chat with Mr. “Matt Heck”, Owner of the Missouri – USA based start-up “Nutshellz”
Below is the interview we conducted with him:
1. What is it exactly that you do and what your start-up is all about?
Nutshellz manufactures, sells, and distributes high-end protective
equipment to military and law enforcement professionals as well as athletes in
high-impact sports like hockey, MMA, baseball, and more.
2. When has your startup been founded? And what stage is your startup currently at?
Nutshellz began in concept stage six years ago and was incorporated in 2012. We are currently in our early growth stages with two products on the market and more in research and development.
3. What is your startup’s business model and how does it work?
The Nutshellz business model is kind of unique in the fact that we
control the manufacturing process ourselves. Our distribution is done through online
sales, private distributors, and retail sales.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Jeremiah Raber is the inventor and founder of Nutshellz. Matt Heck is in charge of
business operations. Both hold ownership in the company. Jeremiah and Matt met
through church several years ago and became good friends before realizing the value
their business partnership would eventually bring to Nutshellz.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your
product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique
about you and what’s new about what you make?
Nutshellz integrates some of the world’s strongest materials like Kevlar, carbon-fiber, and
more in order to produce the strongest groin cup on the planet. It has been lab
tested and proven to stop a .357 magnum at close range. Competitor products are not
made to withstand the type of impact force that occurs when 5-6 oz. objects like
baseballs and hockey pucks hit them at speeds exceeding 90mph, much less bullets.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has your startup achieved so far?
Nutshellz milestones are: one patent on file, one pending,
two products currently marketed, over $20,000 in revenues generated, manufacturing
science perfected and protected, an established brand with global potential, solid
business plan, great management team.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is your start-up’s competitive advantage over
Competitors are Shock Doctor, Nutty Buddy, and Under
Armour. Our advantage is in not only the superior strength of our product but also
the unique design of our cup that gives professionals the most comfortable fit a cup
can have which does not obstruct movement or performance in ways other products do.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
We recently spent 6 months preparing to be on the ABC show Shark Tank. After
narrowly devoting ourselves to this pursuit for so long we were cut right before
flying out to LA to record. This was a low blow that we have bounced back from by
seeking funding elsewhere and building distribution and exposure more organically.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
The key thing outsiders need to understand is the severity of groin
related injuries and the probability of competitor product failure from high impact
force that occurs in most sports from high school level and on.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We will succeed because we
believe in our product and failure is not an option. Our ownership team is
relentless and works tirelessly to get the job done. We have broken through every
obstacle that has come into our path and will continue to. We have a billion dollar
market with tons of potential for us to dominate in our niche area.
11. If your startup succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand
We would expand into all lines of protective equipment.
We will make the strongest and most high-end gear in the industry. The sports market
is just the beginning. We will expand into military, construction, and more and
introduce multiple products in multiple industries that will be innovative and
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build your start-up based on?
The concept began when Jeremiah, former MMA fighter, realized that
a better groin cup needed to be invented due to current products not providing the
right fit and contour to stay in position during performance and leading to injuries
and lost competitive opportunities.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
We have learned that nothing comes easy. Everything takes hard work and more hard work.
You have to grind and grind in order to build something significant. However, when
you have a business that you believe in and know people need your product you will
have the passion and resolve to keep going and it will be worth it in the end.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
The biggest problem we anticipate in six months is up scaling
manufacturing. It will take a lot of work and added personnel but we have the
formula worked out that allows us to change certain variables in the manufacturing
process, along with added labor, and then immediately start producing ten times the
amount of product.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
First, is the superior protection from the ballistic rated strength. Next, is the decreased risk
of serious injuries that lead to life altering outcomes. Also, they gain an edge
from the mental confidence spike due to the knowledge of superior protection being
worn. Finally, there is improved performance for customers from the ultimate comfort
design which allows for unrestricted movement for the athlete and cup stabilization
when in play.
16. How did customers / users find out about you?
Currently our customers can find us through all the common social media channels. There are
also a lot of articles that have been written about Nutshellz in the military and
law enforcement sector. We also rank very high on search engines for key words that
are specific to our product which drives a lot of visits to our website. Many
people have also learned about us by watching UFC and other MMA events on television
and online where athletes are endorsing our product.
17. Who are your current customers / users? Who are your target customers / users?
Nutshellz customers come from a variety of market segments.
Military and law enforcement professionals were the first areas to start taking
notice of us. Since then our marketing approach has allowed us to reach high-impact
athletes in sports like hockey, baseball, MMA, and more.
18. Where do new customers / users come from and what makes new customers/users try
Customers come from niche areas like hockey, MMA,
military, law enforcement, etc. New customers try our product because they recognize
the value it brings as well as the perceived risks associated with inferior
protection. They also buy into other athlete endorsements of the product.
19. What do your customers / users say about your product and/or service?
We have conducted a lot of customer surveys over the past year from
police officers, private security professionals, high ranking military individuals,
hockey players, and MMA fighters. Nearly every single user claims that Nutshellz is
the most comfortable cup they have ever worn which validates the claims we make.
Athletes also say their performance is increased as well as mental confidence.
20. How are you going to scale?
Nutshellz plans for up scaling are first to expand our advertising through niche publications, social media
ads, and endorsement deals. In addition, we will need to add staff for manufacturing
and administrative responsibilities. Finally, we will up scale production in order
to meet the increasing demand anticipated from the brand’s growing exposure.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking
The most important component that Nutshellz is working
to add is a customized short/jock garment that will allow the groin cup to be worn
and held in position exactly as it is intended to do. We have spoken with several
different clothing and apparel companies who are interested in a partnership with
Nutshellz around this new product.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand
your start-up’s operations accordingly?
We do intend to market Nutshellz internationally. In fact, we have had requests from businesses
based out of the middle east but we have ran into some roadblocks with shipping due
to increased regulations on materials used in our product like Kevlar. We will
address this challenge as soon as we can.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your
Our company has the potential to reach a $100 million
valuation with just the sports market alone. When we penetrate the red tape involved
in selling to the Federal Government we have the potential to become a billion
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you
currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Nutshellz is not currently looking to hire new employees. Once sales
increase to a certain point we will have the capital to add a small sales team as
well as administrative employees. Ultimately, the majority of our staffing will be
around manufacturing which would need to start increasing as early as next year.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals
(VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the
first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Absolutely yes! Since Shark Tank fell through we have been
aggressively seeking a venture capital injection from a potential equity partner. We
are also working on a Kickstarter campaign and applying to every grant and
competition locally we can. Potential investors can contact us through gust.com
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
Make sure you believe passionately in your product or service and do your homework to
make sure there is a market to support the growth and profitability of your business
model. Then, surround yourself with successful people who can help you and finally
create a unique but simple brand that has the ability to gain mass exposure.