It's hard to imagine. Over the course of just a couple years, Noah Currier has gone through more than most people do in a lifetime. One car wreck took his ability to walk, another took his fiancée. Two crashes left his heart and body broken and his future uncertain.
After the second crash when he lost his fiancée, Noah was completely devastated. He sank into a deep depression and had frequent thoughts of suicide. Not wanting to hurt his family, he pushed through -- painfully -- each day. For months, one wake up after another, he didn't know what would come next. He was out of hope and ideas when he received a simple but powerful invitation.
He was asked to participate in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, an annual event organized by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He reluctantly agreed -- and was instantly hooked. He began upping the level of difficulty with wheelchair rugby, flying, skydiving, and offroading. He also became a part of an amazing community of paralyzed and amputee athletes who participate in events such as the Spartan and Tough Mudder races.
Participating in the games was the spark of hope Noah needed to see what was possible. He immediately wanted to share that experience with others like him. His first thought was to start a nonprofit -- but he was put-off by the bureaucracy and paperwork. After preparing his application for a 501c3, he learned that the process may take up to two years. The same day he submitted his application, he created an LLC as something to do in the meantime. He set up a website with an online store, and started creating merchandise.
His idea was simple. Make and sell t-shirts that featured one powerful quote from William Shakespeare's Henry V: "He who sheds blood with me will always be my brother." But for Noah, it was never just about selling shirts, it was about living his values. Everything had to be made in the US. Everything. And he wasn't willing to compromise.
The t-shirt designs were popular, and he saw the opportunity to make his dream a reality. He recruited three friends to move to Illinois and help him set up a homebase in his two-car garage in July -- laser-focused on launching on Veteran's Day, 2011 or 11/11/11. The four built shelves, designed the shirt, contracted for printing, set up the website, and then launched.
Noah named the company Oscar Mike which translates to "On the Move" from military radio jargon used on the front lines. According to their website, "To us, being Oscar Mike means being active, staying positive and living life to its absolute fullest."
The first year's sales were $60K, and they doubled every year after that. To date, Noah has been focused on building the company -- working hundreds of hours a week while also volunteering and continuing to participate in sports events himself. Today, Noah's company employees 10 people and supports veteran participation in dozens of events each year.
They sell online and in Dick's Sporting Good stores across the country. Noah is on a mission to continue to build and grow the company. "There is so much potential to build awareness about disabilities and veterans while also giving people something of value that they'll enjoy -- a shirt." Oscar Mike also puts a percentage of its profits (and all of the donations to the Oscar Mike Foundation) towards helping other veterans participate in adaptive sports.
Noah also sees his position as one of greater potential influence in the industry. His commitment to American-made has been unwavering. However, it's not easy: Companies that make, dye and manufacture apparel in the US are few. So, he's reaching out to his competitors to encourage them to bring operations back home. He knows that getting these few remaining companies more business will lead to more options being available to them for future expansion. Noah would like to start producing other kinds of apparel with more high-performance fabrics.
Noah has nothing but words of encouragement for other would-be entrepreneurs. Business was a big part of how he turned his life around and found a rewarding path. He was able to take the focus off of himself and his losses and instead see how much potential he had to live an amazing, rewarding life -- and to help open those doors for other people.