Sunday, June 27, 2010

Investors like style of ex-football star Alan Young

Former Vanderbilt football star Alan Young — a defensive lineman of the early 1990s — sells a different type of security these days.
After a brief stint in pro football, then a master's of business administration degree and later toiling as an investment banker, Young has turned his attention to manufacturing tough-as-nails doors, primarily for homes and apartments.

His security products — one is sold under the trademark "Door Jamb Armor" — are already in 225 Lowe's stores, and that's likely to double by this fall.

He just moved the company's headquarters from Saddle Brook, N.J., to Nashville to take advantage of lower operating costs here.

And, in the last few days, Young's company, Armor Concepts, won nearly $1 million in fresh seed capital from angel investors to help ramp up production, marketing and distribution of his do-it-yourself kits to reinforce doors with metal braces that guard against break-ins.

Young's six-year journey from the flash of a novel idea to actually selling security products nationwide illustrates several key lessons about how entrepreneurs can better their odds as they make a sales pitch for outside funds to expand.

How did Young win the trust of a half-dozen Nashville angel investors and improve his odds?

Here's what persuaded Crom Carmichael, who has helped fund startups as diverse as Vaco Staffing consultants and Flamedxx building products, to take part through the Nashville Capital Network.

Carmichael says financial angels like to put their money to work in ideas they understand, that have a great chance to grow (in business terms, they're "scalable") and that are difficult for bigger companies to mimic and steal away sales. He said Armor Concepts fits the whole bill.

Young is doing the right thing being the face of his company and making the world aware of his products through finely tuned marketing, Carmichael said. "A person can't buy something that they don't know exists," he said.

Carmichael also likes the fact that Young has a pair of third-party manufacturers (one in Middle Tennessee and one in New Jersey) to make the security kits, which allows Young to concentrate on sales.

Young isn't just trying to sell security kits to homeowners one door at a time. His bigger push is to sell through major distributors to large apartment owners and builders who might buy hundreds of kits each. He flew to New Orleans to make a sales pitch at the National Apartment Association convention this weekend, for instance.

"This year our sales are on track to grow by 300 percent; we have things that people need," Young said.

And the former All-Southeastern Conference defender was astute enough to master a tough lesson that not all entrepreneurs learn. He knew when to ask for help.

"I sought outside investors when I had exhausted my personal savings. I had taken this company as far as I could on my own. If you dream of becoming a national company, you need the capital to grow."

Randy McClain is business editor of The Tennessean. Reach him at 615-259-8882 or

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