Tier 1 Targets - Derek and Kyra
Tier 1 Targets – Derek and Kyra

Please describe your service to our country (years in service, rank, deployments, etc): I enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 2005 and was assigned to 3D Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment from January 2006 until May 2011. I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom two times, and Operation Enduring Freedom four times. My duty positions included Rifleman, Grenadier, SAW gunner, Machine Gun Team Leader and Military Working Dog Handler.

When did you retire? I left active duty in May 2011.

Please describe what the SOF brotherhood means to you: Being a part of the special operation brotherhood is unlike anything I can describe. Us Rangers look out for each other no matter what is happening. It is an incredible feeling knowing that someone always has my back, and no matter what if someone needs anything I can either help support them, or find someone in the brotherhood who is able to.

How has the transition from warfighter to civilian gone? It has been difficult finding my role in society. When I left active duty, I knew I needed to get an education so I decided on becoming a Mechanical Engineer. After graduation I landed a job as an automotive product design engineer in corporate America, and realized that was not the life for me.

What is the name of the business you started? Tier 1 Targets, LLC

When did you start it? February 2017

Why did you start this company? I realized I had a couple of options in life. Either I would work for someone else or I could work for myself. I decided that I didn’t want to work for someone else, and just started designing my own products with the knowledge and skill sets that the Army and my education gave me.

Please describe your products/services: Tier 1 Targets specializes in the design and manufacture of reactive steel target systems. Our products include simple steel silhouette targets, to steel targets that move when shot. Our plan is to start with steel targets and continue to grow by developing paper targets. Once we have our steel and paper target product lines, we will then continue to grow by designing full scale range and training facilities.

Where is it located? Tier 1 Targets, LLC is located in the small down of Grass Lake, Michigan, which is about twenty miles west of Ann Arbor.

What does this company mean to you/why is it important? Tier 1 Targets is my American dream. It’s not just a company, it is my vision of what my America is and can be.  The most important part of my company is that I get to make the decisions that I think are best for the company, as well as help me provide the means to give back to fellow Veterans which is why Tier 1 Targets gives 7.5% of all profits back to non-profits that support Veterans.

What have been some challenges as an entrepreneur? The hardest part of starting a company, when you’re not a trust fund baby, is realizing that everything has a cost. From business cards, logo design, website design, materials, marketing, and going to gun shows – everything has a cost. Luckily, I have been able to save quite a bit by designing my own products and have recently found a place that lets me use the equipment that I don’t have in order to produce our products.

What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? My favorite part of being an entrepreneur is that I get to decide what the priorities are, and what products will be developed and released next. I get to take an idea in my head, do a little research, design something up in SolidWorks, and then go to the machine shop to turn my idea into a physical object. There really is nothing better than taking something from a sketch on a napkin, and then developing it into a production design.

How did your SOF career prepare you for what you are doing now? (In what ways have you drawn on your experiences as a SOF soldier in your business life?): Honestly that sleep depravation training paid off very nicely while in college. I remember many all nighters to prepare for those final exams, or to complete those last minute projects. On a serious note, though, being a SOF member gave me the attention to detail required to look at all aspects of the projects that I am working on to ensure that I am not missing any minor details.

What do you offer the consumer not only through your business, but also through your expertise as a SOF Veteran? I like to think that my time in Ranger battalion, and all that time spent on the range gave me a VERY good understanding of what a quality firearms training product should be, and how it should function.

Who has influenced you as an entrepreneur? Mostly I look up to my fellow Ranger buddies who have also started companies. One I look up to most, and he doesn’t know this, is Sean Menches at Scroll Factory. He provides some awesome Ranger Swag, but more importantly he is always helping people in need. He doesn’t use his company for personal gain only. I see him giving back to the Ranger community more than most others, and I hope to be able to give back just like he does.

Why do you live where you live? I call Grass Lake, MI home for a couple reasons. The most important is the property I live on. I have a few acres out in the country without neighbors to give me a hard time when I am out back doing product testing. I also grew up in this area, only about 10 minutes down the road.

Favorite food? My favorite food is my mother’s homemade kniffles, or german dumplings. Other than that I am a huge fan of the Hawaiian pizza.

Favorite place in the world? It’s hard to say what my favorite place in the world is, as I have not done a ton of traveling. I did spend some time elk hunting in the Colorado back country and hope to be able to make it back there as often as possible.

Favorite movie? I am a huge Ron Burgundy, I mean Will Ferrell, fan so “Anchorman.”

Favorite book/books? I despise reading….

Pets? I have 3 Dogs, a Dachshund (Diego) , German Shorthaired Pointer (Meiko), and a Belgian Malinois (Kyra). We also have a cat (Raven) and 5 ducks for our pond (Duck 1, Duck 2, Duck 3, Duck 4 & Duck 5).

What do you like to do in your spare time? Not much spare time when trying to run the company, but I enjoy bowhunting, dirtbikes, and computer games. Oftentimes my business partner and I will have a meeting while playing PC games together as we live a few states apart. If you’re a steam game look me up, Username : TerroristBob375.

Words you live by (ethos)? As a business owner, the most influential thing I have heard is, “ Your net worth is only worth your net work.” There is nothing more true than this, especially as a small business owner, because nobody else is going to do the work that needs to be done, except you. Also RLTW (Rangers Lead The Way).