I believe I’m a great entrepreneur because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with.
When Kirk Feller took over a small screen protector brand, the company had no incoming revenue and quite a bit of debt. Feller went six months without a salary, worked out of his home while placing other employees in his daughters’ bedrooms and made a total of $8,000 in the first year of operation. The next year, however, the company made $45,000 and in the following years, millions. “A lot of people took gambles and sacrifices to be here,” Feller explains. Feller himself at one point put his house up for sale and lived off his 401K for two years. His gamble and sacrifices — and the gambles and sacrifices of those others involved early on — eventually paid off. The company now brings in over $50 million a year.
Feller resurrected ScreenGuardz under the new company name NLU Products, LLC. ScreenGuardz became BodyGuardz, and NLU Products brought on two more brands, and eventually became BGZ Brands in 2015. BGZ Brands is now the parent company of BodyGuardz, Lander, and Moxyo. Together the brands offer a wide range of mobile device accessories.
Part of the company’s success comes from their ability to move quickly and adapt to new technologies. “Literally every day a new device is being launched. We have to be able to move quickly,” Feller says. He and his team must decide which products to target while remaining fiscally responsible. Another aspect that makes the company successful is their loyal customers. “We built this company on a really good customer base that’s really loyal,” Feller explains. “We value them because they built the company.”
And perhaps the biggest part of the company’s success can be attributed to the people in it. “I believe I’m a great entrepreneur because of the people I’ve surrounded myself with,” Feller says. Though Feller is in his 50s, he embraces the millennials that makeup the majority of his employees. His employees manage themselves, while Feller creates a culture that is fun and rewarding. The company has activities every month and an annual trip wherein employees and their families have all expenses paid. “We are trying to create a community where everyone benefits,” Feller says. “Our people have always been taken care of.” In turn, BGZ’s people take care of others. Feller offers matching programs and sponsorship for charitable donations and allows employees to financially assist anyone in need.
“Our core values are integrity, innovation, quality, hard work, customer service and giving back. Everything that we do has to involve those values,” Feller says.
Feller is an EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. He and the other finalists will be recognized and the 2016 winners will be announced at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards Gala Saturday, June 4, at the Grand America Hotel. If you’re interested in attending, you can purchase tickets here.