As we celebrate our 8th Anniversary this August, we sat down with the founder of The Armored Republic® and AR500Armor®, Tyler O’Neal, to chat about where we came from, where we are, and where we’re headed.
Here, Tyler talks about why founded AR500 Armor and what it was like in the first years.
Q: Why did you start AR500 Armor?
A: There are a lot of reasons why I founded AR500 Armor, but the main ones were to make armor attainable and affordable to citizens. There was an issue I identified when I was an enthusiast, namely that owning body armor as a civilian was expensive and required you to jump through a lot of hoops to obtain something that was a passive, defensive product. So, I started AR500 Armor to address this, by making armor that was affordable and attainable to every free man.
Q: How did you operate in those first days?
A: I actually started out in my backyard, and there are a lot of funny stories about that. On a couple of the initial test runs, I sourced the product as a proof-of-concept. We then started getting our own equipment to design and manufacture the armor and apply the [FragLock™] polyurea coating. Eight years later, we now employ more than one-hundred people and run three production shifts. All from a single-person backyard business.
Q: How did you manage growth through the years?
A: That was challenging. Growing a company from one employee in your backyard to more than one-hundred now, running multiple production shifts and trying to keep up with demand...has been a wild eight years. I managed it, honestly, by getting gray hair in my mid-20s and having a great supporting team. By making the right hires and bringing aboard people I trust and who share the vision of not just wanting to work somewhere, but wanting to improve and change the industry and drive armor ownership to civilians. If it wasn’t for the people we’ve had on board who've shared that view, there’s no way we would be where we are today.