Why We Love Our Gear Guy

I want to take a couple minutes this week to call your attention to the Iron Project-branded gear that we’ve started selling through the F3 Store (buy! buy!). And not just for crass, commercial reasons -- there’s actually a leadership story to tell.

The guy who owns and operates the F3 store is Alex “Malko” Thrasher and he’s also the founder and owner of the MudGear brand of obstacle course racing (OCR) gear. We modestly consider MudGear to be a company that was incubated inside of F3.

Back in 2011, when we first came up with the F3 logo and I slapped it on some Under Armour shirts for guys to wear when we ran a Super Spartan race in Winnsboro, S.C., I basically sold the T-shirts out of the trunk of my car. As F3 grew, that was not a particularly great way to sell shirts to guys up at Lake Norman, or for collecting the sales tax required under North Carolina law.

So in 2012, when Malko -- still in the heady rush of his early months as an F3 member -- told us his idea of starting a sportswear brand targeting folks who were doing Spartans and Tough Mudders and Warrior Dashes (in other words, us!), we were inspired.

See, by then Dave and I had come up with F3’s mission, which is: to plant, grow and serve small workout groups for men for the invigoration of male community leadership. While we could see that selling men shirts with the F3 logo on them was helpful to the overall effort -- guys really, really liked the shirts and they clearly added to the esprit de corps of the whole thing -- shirt production, sales and fulfillment didn’t really fall within the plant-grow-serve task we had set for ourselves.

Here, on the other hand, was a guy who was so excited about sportswear that he wanted to go toe-to-toe with Nike, Under Armour and the rest and beat them to the punch in the OCR space. Here was a guy who would have to become an expert in sportswear production, sales and fulfillment if he was going to have any success. And he was one of our own guys!

What’s more, what Malko needed most was what any entrepreneur needs coming out of the gate: a market for his product. And we had that market.

So we cut a deal: Malko would run a Gear store for F3 Nation in exchange for the exclusive license to sell F3-branded gear. As Malko developed MudGear-branded racing shirts, socks and base layers, they would roll out first to F3 men for wear-testing and feedback.

That agreement has stayed largely the same in the 5+ years since we first struck it, even as the selection of items offered in the F3 Store has expanded far beyond workout shirts (F3 embroidered belt, anyone?) and the MudGear brand has become an industry leader in the OCR space, allowing Malko to work on the business full-time. Earlier this year, he moved nearly all MudGear production onshore.

Through the years, royalties from the sale of F3-branded gear have helped fund planting F3 in new Leap cities. And Malko has added other clients, like Females in Action and now The Iron Project.

We’re proud to have MudGear as a gear partner in The Iron Project, and not just because we’ve got the CEO on speed-dial! Malko’s story is a great example of the dynamic impact people can have in a culture of shared leadership. If you want to build a “freed to lead” culture in your company or organization, please contact us and let’s have a conversation about how we can help (and we’ll be happy to sell you some custom T-shirts … ).

Tim Whitmire