Hey guys, Noah here.
Over the years, there have been quite a few people who have supported me in different ways, and one of those people is my good friend Kevin Broten.
This guy has come to visit me on numerous occasions, has sent me letters and pictures regularly, and he always answers the phone when I call. He is also a frequent reader and supporter of the blog as every time I call; he has plenty to say about it.
I would like to take this time to recognize Kevin, both for the person he is and has been to me, and the journey he has gone through over the past year himself.
One day Kevin went into work, and his boss told him he was shutting the doors, which forced Kevin to make a decision, do I find another job or do I chase my dream? Kevin has been working part-time for several years now on his business, Peace Grenades, with his free time after work and on weekends, with the assistance of his now-wife Paige as their graphic designer and business partner. And I know some other friends and family of theirs help out as well, one of them being Ben, who I also know personally from the college days.
I have known Kevin my whole life, as we grew up together in the small town of Roseau, MN but it wasn’t until college that we grew close and formed a friendship, a lifelong one.
I enjoy Kevin’s visits, not only because he has a huge personality, but I get filled in on all the excitement that goes on in his life. Like the failures and successes that go into starting and growing his business, Peace Grenades. I get to hear about him becoming a newlywed, something I never thought I would say about Kevin, but Paige must be a very patient and easy going girl to put up with him, so bless her heart. Ha! I look forward to getting out getting to know Paige better because even though we went to the same school, I have never actually got to know her. But from all the awesome things I hear from Kevin, I look forward to getting to know her as a friend as well and look forward to assisting them in any way I can.
So today I wanted to interview them and share with you guys how great these friends of mine are and to encourage you to check out their business and support them. I know my brother-in-law Jamie rocks their hats all the time, and they’re one of his favorites, and Morgan has a few of their shirts as well.
Let’s get started.
First, I want to ask you, Paige, what has being married to Kevin been like so far? He is quite a handful, is he not?
When Kevin and I first met, it was a relationship I didn’t think would last. Not because there wasn’t a spark, but because it was my first relationship I ever had with a guy, and it came easy. Too good to be true. Weekends hanging out together eventually turned into months, and it wasn’t long before I knew I wanted to marry this guy.
There’s something truly special about him. Yes, he has faults, and sometimes a terrible temper. He also cuts you off in the middle of a sentence or just talks louder than you to make his point clear, but that’s just Kevin. I’ve learned to keep quiet when needed and to speak up when necessary.
Kevin has 100% made me a better person. He’s made me look at the world from a whole different perspective. He thinks deep and hard about life and what’s the purpose. He cares for so many people, places, and animals! He has one of the biggest hearts I know, and many other people agree with me.
I think that’s probably been my favorite part about being married to Kevin – the way he interacts and picks up conversations with people, strangers even. Everywhere we go, I’m constantly told how neat a person Kevin is, and I couldn’t agree more.
When did you start Peace Grenades, where did the name come from, and why clothes?
Peace Grenades, which was only a dream for nearly seven years, became an official business with a tax ID number in November 2016. Although we now had a tax ID, we didn’t have a storefront or even anywhere to print. It wasn’t until July 2017 that I purchased a new home, which had a detached garage that was large enough to house our printing equipment, and we could finally get going.
Our name came from a brainstorming session in a buddies basement nearly 12 years ago. Originally, Peace Grenades was going to be a summer camp for youth where they could learn different tie-dying techniques. That idea never moved past that basement session, but the name was now stuck in my mind.
I grew up playing sports throughout my youth. When traveling for tournaments and sports camps, I always wanted to leave with a t-shirt as a souvenir. When I got a chance to travel with my family, I also wanted a t-shirt to help remember our adventures. As I got older, athletics faded from my life, and a new respect for art started to take over. I had never been an artist of any sort but had a desire to learn a new skill, and with my love for the t-shirt, screen printing custom apparel just made sense.
What is your favorite piece of clothing you guys have made, and why?
My favorite piece of clothing, hmm? It has to be the first design we made…it features a man silhouetted in front of the setting sun as he hikes through the forest, flying a Peace Grenades flag. We have done a second edition of it where he has gained two followers, and as our company grows, so will his following. We will come out with the 3rd edition of it in the coming year as the hikers following continues to grow.
What was it like the day you found out you no longer had a job?
No longer having the steady flow of income I had as a full-time concrete finisher was a bit of a shock. The company I had worked for the past seven years came to an abrupt halt this March as the owner decided to go a different route with his life. Management let everyone know that Sunday evening that there was no need to show up on Monday, the doors would be locked. An abrupt change? Yes. A bad thing? No. This turned out to be what I needed for motivation. I took it as a blessing, now the obligation to help my former boss grow his business turned into the perfect opportunity to grow my own.
What has been the biggest hurdle in establishing your brand?
The biggest challenge in establishing Peace Grenades as a brand came from the years I spent holding myself back from chasing a dream. I struggle in my mind to see which direction the business should grow in and probably contemplate too often on important decisions. I have found out now that although thought is important, action weighs much heavier when starting up a business. All the ideas in the world won’t get you anywhere without action.
You recently opened up a store in Roseau, MN. How has that driven your sales?
Our storefront in Roseau has been a big step for us in the right direction. To be able to run this business full-time, I needed to get it out of my garage and into the public’s eye. We have our first store in a great location directly off Trunk HWY 11, which spans northern Minnesota from east to west. Now instead of only being able to shop our apparel online at peacegrenades.com, customers can come and feel, see, and try on what they want to purchase. It’s been great and paired with the support of family, friends, and this small Northern town, I believe 2020 will be a great year.
You also did the county fair this year, was it a big success, and what would be your dream venue to have a stand at?
The Roseau County fair was great for us in 2019. The fair came about two weeks before we were ready to open up our first location, and it was key. We had a stand smack in the middle of the fairgrounds, so fairgoers were forced to pass us either coming or going from the rides.
It gave us a great chance to let the public know who we are and what we could offer them. We will most definitely be there again in 2020, and will also put in for a spot at the MN State Fair. I think it has to be every vendor’s dream to get a spot there; the exposure there is legit. I wouldn’t call it my dream to be there, but it would be a great experience.
Kevin, you have a strong personality, and I assume Paige does as well to put up with you. How are you guys using that as a strength to grow your business?
Ha, Paige most definitely has her work cut out for her. Putting up with me can be a lo,t but her subtle strength makes it possible. I’ve taken on the roll as the face of the business, while Paige is really the one keeping everything moving in the background. I print the items, but before I can, she answers emails, works on designs, counts the items we ordered to make sure they have all been delivered, then sets me loose. I think that she is more like milk while I’m the hot sauce. This works for us though, we each have separate roles, and I believe it’s a good balance.
We really have not done a whole lot of advertising, some local stuff but nothing on a large scale. Word of mouth, amplified by Facebook, goes a long way in a town of this size. I will say thank you to Joseph Bain. He is the owner of our local radio station Wild102. When he heard we were making the jump to a full-time business, he let us run an ad on the air all summer and didn’t charge us a dime (good people). I don’t know if going viral with a funny video is the answer, but I’m sure it couldn’t hurt.
I think you told me that you were trying to get some of your famous or semi-famous connections to wear your gear on stage or TV, any luck with that?
Ha, ya, that was a thought right away. It’s kind of along the lines of wanting to go viral with a video. Obviously, any exposure helps, and to get it from someone with 50,000 followers would be amazing, but that doesn’t need to come first. First, I’m going to concentrate on keeping this business moving forward; even if it isn’t at lightning speed, we will be fine. Then when we do get some big exposure in the future, we’ll be ready and more apt to handle it.
If you could give a single piece of advice to someone who is getting ready or is in the early stages of starting their own business, what advice would you give them to save them some time?
There are many things you should consider when starting a business, but most important to me was to have a sense of purpose. Businesses, just like people, need purpose. Make your business fit the purpose of your life and keep digging for it. If you focus on the larger picture, the small day to day ups and downs will matter less and less. Think big, take action, do it all with love in your heart, and find your purpose.
Thanks, Kevin and Paige! I’m excited to see you continue to grow and succeed. If you’re looking for some stylish apparel for yourself, as a gift, or for your brand, we’d highly recommend checking out Peace Grenades. And you can find them on social media below.