By Chris Meehan | May 23, 2022
Uncharted Supply Company's first product, the SEVENTY2 Survival System, is still the company's flagship, explains CEO and Founder Christian Schauf. Priced at $399, it includes first aid products, a water filtration system, a radio, and other items.
"I had a hypothesis that emergency situations were rising rapidly, whether it was natural disasters or overpopulation or political or societal or whatever," Schauf says. As someone who toured Operation Iraqi Freedom 39 times with his band, Catchpenny, and grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin, he knows the value of being prepared for almost any situation.
"The reason we call it the SEVENTY2 is that 95 percent of all survival situations statistically are resolved in 72 hours, meaning the cavalry's arrived," says Schauf. "Historically, these types of products were not well thought out."
Customers buy the product when they aren't thinking about how they'll use them in an actual disaster, Schauf explains. "We thought, 'How do you guide people in the situations when the adrenaline is through the roof and you haven't been there before?' Hence the word uncharted -- it's something that you haven't navigated before."
Uncharted worked with guides on Mount Everest, pilots, doctors, and soldiers to develop the system. "We really tried to build a high quality product, but the big focus was instruction and organization, and kind of a psychology around using the products in an emergency," says Schauf.
Organization is key, he notes. "Instead of dumping a bag of 40 things out and looking for that one piece . . . you open it up and there's screen-printed instructions that are color coordinated with the pockets. For first aid, everything's red. If you need first aid, you can eliminate 80 percent of what's in that kit. If you need first aid, you can get right to it. That's kind of how we think about everything there."
Schauf put a big chunk of his savings into the first round of inventory, thinking he might sell a few hundred kits in a year. He sold out in three weeks, so the company launched the kit on indiegogo and raised $400,000 in the first month of the campaign.
The company also garnered a spot on the Shark Tank TV show. "Shark Tank was a massive exposure moment for us, and generated huge sales," says Schauf. "We did agree to double what we'd asked for on the show, but Shark Tank is speed dating and then you have to get married. Ultimately, we did not reach a deal during that process. That said, I would do it again without hesitation."
Beyond the SEVENTY2, the catalog now includes such products as first aid kits and hip packs as an entry point to the brand. That expansion has also helped the company grow into stores. "We went from a direct-to-consumer model just over a year ago when we had like one store in Park City to now having 200 retailers," says Schauf. The company's products are now available in Bass Pro, Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse, and other stores.
"To be honest, when I built the first product, I built it for the most novice type of person," Schauf says. "I never expected that today we'd sell to everyone from U.S. and Canada border patrol to the Secret Service to the FBI and countless private security groups."
Where Uncharted Supply Co. manufactures
Uncharted Supply started out by sourcing and white labeling products for the kit, but now, says Schauf, "Over half is our own design."
The company primarily manufactures in China, he continues. "It's worth noting that I'm a pretty proud American," he says. And when I started this company, I exhausted every resource I could to try to do this in the United States."
"With some of the increased tariffs that we've seen out of China, as well as, increased transportation costs -- especially within the past two years -- I've been looking super hard at the U.S. and North America, including Mexico options," says Lead Purchasing Manager Jonathan Foster. "For some justified reasons, I think overseas manufacturing gets a bad rap, but I will say that a lot of manufacturers out there right now are high-quality manufacturers. And you can find people with really good production capabilities in China that just don't exist here."
Adds Schauf: "When you start talking about building a product that you can trust that I'm going to put my name behind, I'm going to hand it to somebody I love and say, 'I wholeheartedly believe this will make a difference.' There's a certain level of quality of each product in that kit that you have to have."
Some kits have 60 or more pieces, so there's also a need to find suppliers with competitive pricing. "If we really want to affect change you have to get to a price point where as many people as possible can afford this," says Schauf. "If we're building a $5,000 kit and only 5,000 people can afford it, we're not reaching our goal of really trying to make the world safer."
The company also does most of its kitting in China and at its 3PL locations in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego.
"You'll see us continue to build products that have a broad use case and appeal, but are also capable of performing at a very high level for professional use cases in difficult environments," says Schauf.
"This is sort of a challenging time to start a business with supply chain issues and the restraints on raw materials and cost of goods," he adds. "It feels like we're fighting a new monster every day. We are growing, we're growing this year over last year. During COVID, we doubled that year essentially. I wouldn't say it's been a linear path."