This is How One Green Beret Crafted a Multimillion Dollar Backpack Company

Jason McCarthy was in the Army between 2003 and 2008, ultimately becoming a Green Beret. He served in Iraq, Europe, and West Africa, and was awarded a Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal, with a V for Valor. But, even with all he accomplished, he had no idea that running a multimillion dollar company was in his future.

McCarthy received an MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown. However, it wasn’t until after his time in the service that he came up with his multimillion-dollar idea.

During his time as a Green Beret, McCarthy’s wife was serving in the Foreign Service as a diplomat in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, a West African nation.

“They love a good coup d’etat in Africa, said McCarthy, according to a report by Forbes, “and I took some of the wartime practice from Iraq and built her a go-bag, or a ‘go-ruck,’ to keep with her in her truck at all times.

“Then, because I hate half measures, I made one for the house, then a few more for some other Americans working at the Embassy,” said McCarthy.

“I was set to move to Abidjan in 2008 when I transitioned out of the military, and I needed something to do. She told me, ‘You should do the go ruck thing,’ which basically meant use what I had learned in Special Forces and teach people how to be more prepared in their daily lives.”

That’s when the idea behind Florida-based GORUCK was born.

McCarthy admitted that building the company was a challenge and that there were a lot of “dark days” as he got underway. Plus, transitioning out of the Special Forces was more difficult than he originally anticipated.

“[I] found myself going through a divorce to the only girl I’d ever loved,” said McCarthy. “So, then I’m at rock bottom and couldn’t reasonably make a good decision for the life of me.”

“I was lucky enough though, to have a great friend in Jen Paquette, a member of the founding team at the Green Beret Foundation.”

Support from the Green Beret Foundation, the Special Forces community, and his dog, Java, helped McCarthy rally, allowing him to move forward and connect with couple backpack designers over Craigslist. They helped create the first line, the GR1, ensuring that the backpacks would be just as functional in Baghdad as they would in New York City.

The company initially struggled. The cost of the gear was high. Since the brand was an unknown, it took time before it was recognized.

“I had every dollar poured into GORUCK, plus some, and I knew I needed to do something,” said McCarthy. “I didn’t know anything about Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, but I did know how to building teams through physical challenges, so I created the GORUCK Challenge based on the team training in Special Forces training.”

While it took 2.5 years to get the original backpacks manufactured and a substantial commitment to manage the Challenges, they ultimately became successful.

Last year, GORUCK earned $15.5 million in revenue and is expected to cross $20 million this year.