MBAe grad targets chic, safe solution for women who conceal carry
Recent MBAe graduate Melissa Clampitt is locked and loaded on filling a void for the fastest- growing segment in the gun industry.
The niche she has her sights set on is comprised of nearly 28 million women gun owners in the U.S., 42 percent of which hold concealed carry licenses in their states.
Personal safety as a military spouse and a young business woman prompted Melissa to secure a concealed carry permit, but she couldn’t find a holster that was fashionable, yet functional, for a woman’s purse.
“For years I would go into gun shop after gun shop only to find bright pink, black, or camo products for women, and never a holster specifically designed for a purse. As a woman who wants and needs to wear stylish or business clothes on a daily basis, conceal carrying on my body is typically not an option,” said the Michigan native.
That dilemma along with repeated safety concerns from her active-duty Army husband spawned “CLUTCH,” her start-up company, which plans to manufacture and sell holsters for purses that are as fashionable as they are safe for the gun owner.
“People, especially men, ask me ‘Why does a holster need to look pretty when it won’t be seen in a purse?’ The answer is for many women, when they like the way something looks it makes them feel comfortable and confident. When carrying a gun, those feelings translate to carrying safer and more effectively.”
In determining a market need, Melissa sought out anecdotal feedback from more than a hundred women and gun shop owners, who cited demand for a product she was looking to produce.
“I found that many women are turned off by the pink and camo designs that are often associated with female gun accessories. And it became clear I wasn’t alone in my frustration with the lack of functional and appealing products.” said Melissa, who has developed several prototypes and computer renderings of her holsters.
CLUTCH holsters are a safe and non-permanent purse conceal carry option for women to accessorize their personal style. The proprietary design uses a magnet system to secure the holster inside a purse keeping it stationary so the gun is accessible and isn’t loose, and unsafe amongst other purse items.
Melissa was recently awarded $2,500 in prize money as one of seven winners of The Arthur M. Spiro Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Pitch Smackdown competition. Nearly 40 entrepreneurs pitched their business ideas to a panel of business owners and investors, who presented more than $30,000 to the fledgling businesses.
“I am using the money to refine my holster design and bring the CLUTCH brand to life,” said Melissa, who aims to turn CLUTCH into a household brand providing a fashionable twist on gun accessories and apparel.
Still in the development and prototyping phase, CLUTCH will offer about five different sizes of holsters to accommodate various types of guns. The holsters will come in a few different colors and patterns, with a chic look priced around $70 as well as a more economical, but still fashionable version in the works.
“I’m currently working with a U.S. manufacturer to develop samples that meet the quality and safety standard I want for my customers.” She said the cross-section of her customer base entails women ages 21 to 65 who are fashion-conscious and own a least one handgun. They are mothers, young women, and working professionals who want to be able to defend themselves and their families.
Melissa already attracted interest from retailers, but she plans to soft launch the business online with a collection of apparel and jewelry, preferably in time for the Christmas holiday season. Within a year, she expects to be selling CLUTCH products to retailers in South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. She said her business idea probably wouldn’t be where it is today without the Clemson’s entrepreneurial master’s program.
“On many levels, the MBAe program gave me the confidence to move forward with my business idea,” she said. “Beyond developing a business plan, I learned elements of accounting, operations and networking. The feedback I received from classmates and mentors connected to the program was invaluable. My Clemson MBAe experience is and always will be a part of CLUTCH.”
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