GORUCK

www.goruck.com

Jason McCarthy (CEO) & Emily McCarthy (Head of Community) | Jacksonville Beach, Florida | Retail

GORUCK

“We used digital tools to not only sustain but actually grow the GORUCK community at a time when it should have been impossible to do so. Digital tools are a force multiplier for just about anything you need to get done.”

Jason McCarthy, GORUCK | Jacksonville Beach, Florida

The rucksack is more than just a bag. It’s a way of life. At least that’s how one husband-and-wife team in Florida sees it. This military-style hiking backpack has also provided them with a great way to make a living, too. The GORUCK story began in 2007 when former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy found himself grappling with a rare commodity: free time. Never one to sit still, Jason used his skills from the Special Forces and applied them in a new way. He started by making a rucksack for his wife Emily, who was stationed as a diplomat in Côte d’Ivoire, and before long the couple found themselves with a small business. GORUCK, which Jason describes as a pre-digital company when it began, eventually transitioned into a digital-first business. As a result, Jason and Emily could do more than just save their business during COVID-19 — they were able to sustain and grow communities at a time when connectivity had suddenly become more difficult, and more important, than ever.

“At GORUCK, we principally do three things: We build stuff, we build communities, and we lead events,” Jason says. Jason initially thought traditional retail was the best way to get GORUCK’s product to market. He remembers driving to 48 different states trying to find stores to carry the products he designed. It was frustrating. And above all, it was incredibly inefficient. That’s why GORUCK transitioned to selling directly to customers over the web. The GORUCK team turned to G Suite to change the way it operated and relied on tools such as Google Docs to collaborate internally and Google Meet to stay connected with face-to-face communication. The company began using Google Ads and YouTube to speak directly to consumers.

76%

of Retail industry used digital payments pre-crisis, on average

This pre-crisis digital readiness also included use of websites (71%), and social media (72%), and a majority (64%) increased use of these tools during the crisis.

They also discovered the power of blogging as another way to communicate with and grow its customer base. “Community is everything for us,” Emily explains. “We have more than 350 ruck clubs across the country. These are autonomously led groups where members can get together and ruck together. (“Rucking” is the act of hiking or walking while wearing a weighted rucksack.) Social media has always been critical for the community and event sides of the business, and GORUCK has used many platforms over the years, including Instagram and Facebook, to get the word out, organize, and communicate.

But what happens to a community-focused business when human contact becomes difficult or impossible? “We used digital tools to not only sustain but actually grow the GORUCK community at a time when it should have been impossible to do so,” Jason says. GORUCK launched a podcast called “Glorious Professionals,” which featured everyone from epidemiologists to Green Berets discussing how to lead in difficult times. The company also began a new digital training program, which provided daily workouts for the rucking community.

53%

of SMBs found digital tools more helpful to them during the crisis than pre-crisis.

Most SMBs (53%) also plan to continue to use more digital technologies in their business, even after the pandemic.

Thanks to its digital connectivity, GORUCK was able to help more Americans connect and get out in nature and exercise — safely — in the middle of a difficult period. This digitally driven company was able to sustain itself as well by tending to its community and selling through an inventory of training tools on its e-commerceenabled website. Sales of training items were up by as much as 300%.

When it comes to advice for other small businesses, the McCarthys believe it’s important for companies to take stock of what they have available to them and then swing into action. “Use what you have, and don’t wait for perfection,” Jason says. Emily adds, “And don’t forget that digital tools are a force multiplier for just about anything you need to get done.”

When it comes to advice for other small businesses, the McCarthys believe it’s important for companies to take stock of what they have available to them and then swing into action.

GORUCK

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