As a law enforcement officer, Brad Gallagher was convinced he could get more bang for his buck by thinking small when it came to the size of secure boxes used to safely contain and transport explosives.
Specifically, Gallagher, who went into police work after serving in the U.S. Army from 1992 to 2000, saw the need for a box smaller than what was available on the market because space is at a premium in an equipment-packed police vehicle. So he designed a safety box that was only a fraction of the size of existing boxes.
But when he introduced his concept to the established manufacturers of those devices, Gallagher was told that the law-enforcement market wasn’t big or lucrative enough to justify producing the scaled-down product.
“They mostly produce for the mining industry, while our product was designed to be more operator-friendly,” said Gallagher, who was certain there was a market for a more compact explosives-transport box based on his experiences in the military as a combat engineer and military police officer, then in law enforcement with special-operations teams.
At that point, Gallagher literally took matters into his own hands. With a $10,000 startup investment that he made back within six months, in 2012 he began producing himself what he calls the Bang Box under the banner of his limited liability company, Blue Line Breachers. “One of its uses is to store flash bangs, so the ‘bang’ is easy to remember,” Gallagher said about the product’s name.
Even though he started producing the Bang Box seven years ago, he signed up for the Veterans Florida Entrepreneurship Program at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship in 2017 in an effort to grow and improve Blue Line Breachers. And with today being Veterans Day — in the aftermath of the sixth annual National Veterans Small Business Week from Nov. 4-8 as declared by the U.S. Small Business Administration — we salute the 2.5 million-plus businesses owned and operated by Gallagher and his fellow veterans. They comprise more than 9 percent of all U.S. businesses, and almost 200,000 of those businesses are in Florida, third among all states.
“The only thing I wish is that they had this (veterans entrepreneurship) program around when I started in 2012,” Gallagher said. “There were a lot of things I had to learn the hard way that they were teaching. They went into all aspects of what you need to run a business … starting it up, a business theme, pitfalls, marketing techniques, how to make contacts. Even though I had been in business five years, I walked away with a ton of information – how to better organize my existing business, ramp it up to the next level.”
Gallagher’s business already operates at a fairly high level, given his resources. His original hunch about having a marketable idea – even with a limited potential customer base — turned out to be correct. Starting seven years ago with the sale of seven boxes to a Central Florida police agency, word of mouth among the law-enforcement fraternity has resulted in the sale of “several thousands” of the boxes in every state except Hawaii. Many Southwest Florida agencies use them, including the Lee County and Collier County sheriff’s offices. Besides police forces, other customers include private companies, including SpaceX and Rocket Lab USA, along with engineering schools. “Anyone who needs a small, compact container for explosives,” Gallagher said.
His small Bang Box, which is about the size of a lunch tote and weighs about 20 pounds, sells for $260 with a $15 shipping fee, while his bigger model costs $475 and is $40 to ship. Larger customized boxes can cost almost $2,000 and are delivered by a semi-truck.
Using a patented seven-gauge steel frame lined inside with wooden slats cut to direct the effects of an explosion, and securing the box with a locking device built into the frame, Gallagher says he makes the “thickest, safest and most secure box on the market.”
“We did live testing on it to ensure it doesn’t fragment out,” Gallagher said, adding that the Bang Box is also “more theft-deterrent than what was out there,” noting that police vehicles often are targets for break-ins. “This box provides peace of mind for the operator because they know it has been tested.”
The device Gallagher produces starts with the box frame fabricated by a custom steel manufacturer – “I could weld them, but I want to make sure each product is exactly the same, so there are no variations,” he said — then he does all the finishing work himself in the garage of his Estero home.
“International headquarters with the honor wall behind us,” Gallagher joked about his jampacked-but-neatly-arranged garage workshop. Besides neat stacks of parts and components he needs to build Bang Boxes and a giant roll of bubble wrap he uses to prep them for shipping, the space features a display of all his service commendations on the back wall, along with a golf cart that he has fashioned like a military Jeep.
With the training he has received through the veterans program, and the help he continues to receive from FGCU at the Institute for Entrepreneurship (he had just finished a workshop on contracts at the Emergent Technologies Institute on the day of this story interview), Gallagher is ready to really blast off his business. Blue Line Breachers was enhanced by $8,000 in seed money he earned for a video pitch to investors at the conclusion of the veterans program. Future plans include expanding to more custom products under the Blue Line Breachers banner — along with a new workspace considerably bigger than his garage.
“We’re excited to offer this great opportunity to help veterans pursue their entrepreneurial passions,” said Dr. Sandra Kauanui, director of both FGCU’s new School of Entrepreneurship and the institute, who was one of the original architects of the statewide veterans program. “Their military backgrounds have prepared them well for many aspects of owning a business, such as resourcefulness, leadership and taking initiative. Brad is a great example of a veteran who has used his experience in the military and police force to create a product that will save lives. Our entrepreneurship faculty and staff enjoy being able to give back to those who served our country.”
Indeed, many of those who served, like Gallagher, continue to serve us, although in a different way. Today, they are entrepreneurs who provide needed goods and services, instead of soldiers to whom we will be forever grateful for keeping us safe, secure and free.