We’re interviewing Millennials who have been successful doing what they love. Today, we’re featuring Aspetto, home to America’s first bullet-resistant suits.
We often get caught up in how we are going to do something instead of what we are going to do. We worry so much about logistics and money and time, that we never get around to doing what we set out to do. It holds us back. It keeps us from pursuing what we’re passionate about. It keeps us “safe”.
But if there’s ever been a person that contradicts the idea of safely pursuing your dreams, it’s Abbas Haider, CEO and President of Aspetto. Just 27 years old, Abbas has built America’s first ballistic suit company with his business partner and COO, Robert Davis.
You heard that right; ballistic suits. As in bullet resistant suits. And not just any bullet resistant suits; bespoke suits.
From a Class Project to Ballistic Suits
It all started in their senior year of college in an International Marketing Seminar. Their project was to take an American product and figure out how to market it overseas. “Why not combine ballistics and clothing together?”
They decided to use the small suit company that Abbas had created his Freshman year for the project. But with the Middle East as their target, a suit didn’t fit. “It didn’t really make sense to take a suit and market it in the Middle East,” says Abbas, “So, our first thought was violence. Why not combine ballistics and clothing together?”
Talk about big dreams, not to mention the creativity. In Aspetto’s story, there’s a lot of believing in something and sticking with it. For Robert, his post-college plans didn’t include owning a bespoke suit company. In fact, he’d always planned to go to Law School after finishing his undergrad. But once they finished the project, Robert knew that Aspetto was something sustainable. It was a real company with something valuable (and let’s face it, pretty cool) to offer customers. So he stuck around.
“Why not combine ballistics and clothing together?”
The Turning Point
But what is now a super cool company didn’t just materialize. And it’s not like Abbas and Robert were born into modern suits. Abbas was a bag boy and worked a lot of retail jobs. And Robert did all kinds of things, from working at a marina to cutting down trees.
But as with most companies, there was a turning point. They went after a contract that was totally unrealistic. They didn’t have any hope of winning it. “But then we got a call for a purchase order. And that purchase order was the biggest we had ever seen,” said Abbas. “And the best part about that is that they gave us 30 days to produce a huge contract, and we did it seamlessly. And that really changed the company.” The lesson? Sometimes you have to go after things that you think are unrealistic. After all, that customer might think you’re the perfect company for the job.
How to Love Your Job
“The only way you can enjoy your job is if you take some time off,”
“The only way you can enjoy your job is if you take some time off,” says Abbas. It’s important to remember that work/life balance is essential to how well you work. Sure, being a business owner means you have to put everything into your work. And sometimes you don’t see the dividends until way down the road. But if you’re going to keep at it, you need to take a break (even if you end up working a little on that break).
And that’s the other side of it–being willing to work even when you’re supposed to be relaxing. Robert told us this story, “In the earlier stages of the company I was on a trip with my buddy and his dad. And I got a call from Noel (Aspetto’s seamster extraordinaire) and for several hours I had to work–even on vacation. And I got off the phone frustrated. My best friend’s dad (a successful business owner) asked me what was going on; I explained that I was frustrated from having spent all this time on the phone on my vacation. And he said, ‘yeah but wouldn’t you rather be the one that everyone goes to to grow your business. You are such a pivotal role to it, isn’t that the way you would want it to be as a business owner?’ So I thought about it and realized, I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Sometimes being the pivotal role is hard, but it’s also rewarding. Sure you might have to sacrifice more, but you also reap more rewards.
Aspetto has done several things for their community. From tailoring donated suits for vets to supporting a friend helping refugees. “No company truly grows without helping the community,” says Abbas, “That’s something you have to do. You have to give back to the community.”
What’s their advice to someone who hates their job?
“I don’t think any success comes without struggle.”
When we asked them what they would tell someone who is unhappy in their job, Abbas replied, “Someday you’re going to get old and you’re going to look back and you’re going to say ‘I could have gotten out but I didn’t.’ So do it now. Take the first step; it’s the hardest. The second step will be much easier. I don’t think any success comes without struggle.” As with most rewarding things, starting a business isn’t easy. There’s a lot of sweat, frustration and struggle. But if you never try, you’ll regret it the rest of your life. You’ll look back and wonder what could have been. Step out. See what happens.