Ronnie Fowlkes is proud to have served as a Marine and graduated from the prestigious Army Jump School. He’s been a member of the St. Louis Police Department and a team lead in their SWAT group. He was exposed to First Spear during his time as a Marine and continued to see it over the course of his military and later police career, Fowlkes knew that they were something special.
Ronnie has over two decades of experience in the design, development, and delivery of top quality gear for officers and enlisted throughout the armed services. Before joining FirstSpear, Ronnie had experience working as Military Products Sales and Business Development Manager at ITW and also serving as a Manager of Business Development at Eagle Industries.
As the Director of Business Development at FirstSpear Ronnie is able to bring his past experience and knowledge to the role in new and innovative ways. Ronnie Fowlkes vast experience also put him in the right position to understand the unique mission needs that the company adopts to stand out in the industry.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
While I was working in the U.S. Marine Corps I kept on coming across FirstSpear equipment in our gear. It was really well designed and made and lasted the rigors we put it through extremely well. Once I joined SWAT and saw the same equipment in use I knew I needed to find out more – especially when I learned that it was built in my hometown.
As a leader at FirstSpear, I’m extremely pleased to represent the company. We like to say that “we build the Ferrari of the tactical world” and my own experience matches that claim!
How do you make money?
We attend trade shows and do regular marketing activities, but a lot of our business comes from the field. We have contacts working in the DOD and both local and State law enforcement also, but we’ve often found that it is the users themselves that recommend us.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
First Spear has many different government and industry contracts in place. We provide support to NATO as well as many local and state law enforcement. Our focus on quality American made products ensures that we get lots of repeat business and that our customers stay happy.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I got into this from the customer point of view. I knew the stuff worked because I used it and if you have that belief in a product it’s really easy to sell it! It’s a great product – we like to think of ourselves as the Ferrari or Gucci of the tactical world.
How did you get your first customer?
I can’t really speak to the first customer for First Spear. I can tell you that at one point I was a customer! For new customers though, we get most of them from satisfied and happy users. They recommend our equipment to their leaders, and we are called in at that RFI stage to demonstrate what we can do.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
We have a showroom, but our marketing really works best through word of mouth. We attend all of the trade shows and events, but because we have such a quality product, we often find that business comes to us instead of having to hunt it down.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
I recently moved my family. While this might not sound traumatic it definitely is when you have younger children. We ended up in a bigger home so it did not take long for the kids to adjust but initially it was quite difficult. Fortunately, when they saw their larger rooms, they quickly got over their initial hesitations.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
Being a team leader from the early days of my career has always enabled me to lead by example. I focus on getting things done. I’m actually still a little bit old school and prefer paper and pencil lists to keep on top of my jobs. I think I picked that up from the Marine Corps where they taught us how to use a journal. Now, I work on my list throughout the day and anything that’s still left over gets transferred to the top for the next day.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
I’ve recently become a part owner of FirstSpear. Now the successes of this company really does have an impact for me and I feel even more responsible than I did before.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I see the development of more equipment with a superior feature for security personnel. Our focus is on the Tier 1 Operator and ensuring that they have the best equipment possible. We know the importance they place on weight and we’ve been very pleased with the advancements we’ve made. Our new laser cutting and tube technology has helped to drive the industry forward and has reduced the load by close to 40%!
What business books have inspired you?
I would recommend the book “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrell. The text is full of insights about the sacrifices that are made for our freedoms. I’m not much of a reader but this is a good one and a book I’d definitely recommend.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
It’s not fancy software or anything like that, but from a day-to-day usage point of view, it is probably the one thing I use the most and that is my iPhone Mophie case. It has saved my life on more than one occasion and its something I depend on.
What is your favorite past time or hobby?
I’m really into sports, particularly hockey. I help coach my kids youth hockey team and love to write about the sport as well on my hockey blog. Being involved allows me to spend more times with my kids and we both get to do something we all enjoy. It’s a win-win situation.