Thomas Tedder sees no signs that U.S. guns sales will decline anytime soon. That means his holster-making company, Tedder Industries, currently of Hayden, likely will enjoy strong growth for years to come, he says.
The company had 30 employees when it moved to North Idaho from Arkansas in 2013, and it has grown to more than 200 employees in less than three years, Tedder says.
Tedder is ready to pull the trigger on a company move to larger quarters in Post Falls, where he recently bought the long-struggling 182,000-square-foot outlet mall, originally called Post Falls Factory Outlets, located on the south side of Interstate 90 near the Pleasant View Road interchange.
Tedder Industries manufactures handgun holsters under the brand names Alien Gear and Old Faithful, both of which are popular with the growing concealed-carry market.
The company currently is headquartered at 827 W. Prairie, in Hayden, where it occupies 30,000 square feet of space in three buildings.
“It’s very packed,” Tedder says.
He plans to consolidate Tedder Industries under one roof in the southern portion of the mostly vacant outlet mall complex, where the company will occupy 50,000 to 70,000 square feet of space.
Tedder says an application to change the mall’s use to manufacturing must first be approved by the city of Post Falls.
He hopes to start the Tedder Industries move there in four to six weeks.
Tedder says he also plans to renovate the entire complex and hopes to attract other manufacturers to the larger, north building.
Tedder Industries sells most of its products online.
Tedder claims his company’s holsters are priced below many of his competitors’ prices, and most components for the holsters are made in the U.S.
The composite shells that are molded to specific gun models, for example, are manufactured in Hayden, while stainless steel parts are manufactured in Spokane.
The company also soon will be making its own screws, he says.
“Doing it ourselves keeps costs down,” Tedder says.
Tedder Industries’ holsters are only available in a couple of independent retail stores, Tedder says, adding, “It’s hard enough now making enough of them to sell to people who come to our website.”
Tedder declines to disclose annual sales figures, but says they’re on a steep growth trajectory.
The market for firearms and accessories is politically charged, he says.
“You can see sales increase when politicians make statements about clamping down on guns,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of new gun owners in the last six years.”
According to FBI statistics, a record 23.1 million federal firearm background checks were conducted for prospective gun buyers in 2015, up from fewer than 15 million background checks in 2010.
Gun sales also spike after terrorist attacks and mass shootings, Tedder says.
“People want to protect their families,” he says.
The 37-year-old father of four adds, “I never owned a handgun until I had a family.”
On average, someone who decides to become a gun owner eventually owns seven guns, he asserts.
“That’s a lot of future holsters for us,” Tedder says.
The company can keep a low profile in North Idaho because it doesn’t have to do a lot of marketing here, he says.
“Houston has 8 million people,” Tedder says. “We sell four times as many holsters in Houston as we do in the whole state of Idaho.”
Tedder says Tedder Industries advertises in gun-friendly publications and websites, but thrives largely on its growing reputation among gun owners for high quality at competitive prices.
“The secret to our success is to make them better and sell them at a better price,” Tedder says.
Alien Gear inside-the-waistband holsters are priced from $30 to $44. Outside-the-waistband holsters run from $30 to $35.
They come with a choice of neoprene or leather base material and molded, gun model-specific composite shells. They also come with a parts kit, enabling buyers to adjust the holsters for wearing comfort and holding tension.
Steel-core leather belts are priced at $60. Combo packs of two holsters or a holster with a belt are discounted $10 to $15.
Old Faithful Holsters, which are sold on a separate website, are priced at $75.
Earlier this month, Alien Gear garnered a concealed-carry gear-of-the-year award from the firearms publication Gun Digest.
Last year, Alien Gear’s Tuck 3.0 Holster was dubbed an editors’ choice by the National Rifle Association’s American Rifleman magazine.
The preceding year, Alien Gear was voted best holster by readers of Concealednation.org.
“We don’t rest on our laurels,” Tedder says. “I want to keep doing that kind of stuff.”
Alien Gear is planning a major new product release next month, he says.
“We worked over two years with 15 to 20 different versions of prototypes on the one about to come out in three to four weeks,” he says.
He estimates the company has invested $250,000 in the new design, with most the cost going into new tooling.
“We’ve got a lot of smart people contributing, and I spend a lot of time in engineering,” he says. “I’m personally involved in all product development from concept to pricing.”
Alien Gear is working on its third generation of design improvements. The first upgrade, Alien Gear 2.0, introduced the neoprene base, which is intended to be more comfortable than leather. The current holster design, Alien Gear 3.0, includes a patented steel retention spring that holds the gun in the holster under tension.
Tedder Industries also has applied for another patent for its soon-to-be released 4.0 holster models.
One of the company’s biggest challenges is to hire enough people to keep up with growth.
“The unemployment rate here is incredibly low,” Tedder says. “People have a choice of who to work for, but we’re always able to find the people we need.”
Tedder says he’s fostered a revolutionary workplace culture in which employees recognize each other’s contributions and have a direct say in promoting peers to supervisors.
“Most people quit their jobs because of their immediate supervisor,” Tedder says. “I don’t promote supervisors. They do.”
He says employees hold weekly elections to determine junior-level supervisors, called mentors, who earn an extra $1.50 an hour.
Most mentors get re-elected. Once they’re elected three consecutive months, their terms go up to three months between elections.
Tedder contends employees are less likely to be upset when their supervisors are promoted by their peers.
“They feel empowered; they have a say in the workforce,” he says.
Tedder says employees have input over picking senior supervisors, although he and upper management have final say.
He says, though, that he hasn’t yet overridden employee recommendations for senior supervisors.
Most other business owners he’s talked to about the policy seem cool to the idea of employees voting for supervisors, Tedder says.
“I don’t know if anyone is copying it,” he says. “I think they should. I haven’t found one negative side effect.”
Tedder was a computer programmer in Fort Smith, Ark., when he started making holsters as a hobby in 2010.
“I bought a newly released gun, and I couldn’t find a holster, so I made my own,” he says.
At first, he tried purchasing a holster to modify it, but thought it still needed improvement.
“I designed the next one from scratch,” Tedder says.
After he made a few holsters for friends, he bought some scrap leather, built a website and started selling them.
“It got to the point that I had no free time, and I had to make a decision,” Tedder says.
He decided to quit his programming job, and he started up Tedder Industries with one other employee.
Tedder moved to North Idaho in 2013.
“My wife is from the area,” he says. “She grew up in Libby (Mont.) and lived in Coeur d’Alene. We’d been visiting for 10 years and decided to permanently relocate, mostly to be closer to family.”
Tedder says he didn’t know about North Idaho’s economic development organizations, such as Jobs Plus, and Idaho’s job-creation incentives at the time.
“I was new to the business world and didn’t know these kinds of things existed,” he says. “I’m still amending tax returns for programs and rebates that I didn’t know about.”
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