WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
February 16, 2019
Black Buffalo Co-Founders JD (L) and Mark (R) with fellow entrepreneur, CEO of Grunt Style, Daniel Alarik.
I’m not a veteran (despite the convincing photo below). I’m not full of brave tales, which I’d be too humble to share watered-down versions of, as is the case with many of my friends who serve(d). The most shooting I’ve done is at targets I set up in the woods of Michigan, which were GI Joe’s and the heads of my sisters' Barbie dolls (whoops). The closest I’ve been to a firefight is paintball in high school, and I barely remember it, because that was the first time we finished a 30 rack of Coors Light. I learned some self-defense skills in Tae Kwon Do, but pretty much just used those for good ol’ fashioned brawls. Truth is, the younger version of me wasn’t selfless or mature enough to lend myself to the country. That said, I’m a big believer in listening to the universe and trusting that things play out a certain way for reasons beyond our control. It's a vibe and energy thing.
I’ve always had an affinity for the military (an admiration, not a fetish like some of the SoCal cougars I used to know). Perhaps it was the stories from my Navy/Marine grandfathers at a young age. Or the endless hours I would spend reading WWII books in the elementary school library (RIP libraries). I can still smell the damp cedar of those pages I would escape into for hours. My parents’ backyard was ideal for a boy who wanted to crawl around in the dirt. I envisioned myself being a soldier as I launched my indestructible young body over fallen tree trunks, firing off “rounds” from cap guns, bee-bee guns, and of course the cannon (it was a sling shot). I could truly see myself serving, and I wanted to.
As I grew into my teenage years, something shifted. I replaced the fake guns with a guitar and realized my cannon was the baseball bat I had been swinging since I was old enough to walk. I was obsessed with music and playing ball, which both went hand in hand with dip in high school (sorry, Mom!). I read like a beast at this time and must’ve gone through every military book our public library had to offer. I would balance those with books about meditation, optimism, and manifesting personal destiny through the power of positive energy. Early life lesson: hobbies don’t necessarily have to be the path you take. I still wanted to lend myself to something bigger than me; it was just going to be slightly more selfish with regard to my personal interests, and I’m cool with that.
Our calling is our calling, regardless of what it may be. I suppose that’s another reason I look up to those who serve, because what’s viewed as an awful journey by some is one that they often say was a privilege.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth” ~Muhammad Ali
I decided to be a kid and go do the college thing at DePaul in Chicago – no baseball, no military, just four years of figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with my life. Music runs through my blood and I had to chase it. I immersed myself in anything that had to do with music and/or the industry throughout college. Late nights in the studio led to frequent naps in class. I must've guessed every label executives' email address seeking opportunities in 2008, but the world was ending due to the financial crisis and the music industry was getting hit hard. Not my time, trust the process. Upon graduation, I packed up my stuff, and with my dog as my co-pilot, headed to California for a 9-5 that got me geographically closer to the epicenter of music. While I (net)/worked with record labels, artists, mentors, and venues in Los Angeles, I genuinely enjoyed serving others in executive recruiting and consulting in San Diego. We helped good people find careers that, in some cases, meant the world to them and us. Smoking cigars by the firepit, my military buddies and I would discuss/debate the idea of trading places, but the grass is always greener. The universe tells you which way to go if you simply listen to it.
That time I lost for highest ... hair.
After 5+ years of grinding in California, that same universe rewarded me with an opportunity to join a Coca-Cola backed music agency in Chicago. My chance to serve here was helping independent up and coming artists earn money for their work by strategizing with advertising agencies and brands on how to harness the power of music. We did some really cool stuff with clients that understood how emotionally valuable song choice could be in any type of media or event (TV commercials, movies, brand activation, etc.). Throughout my career, I've been very lucky to work with incredibly talented teams of cool people. I've learned from them, they've made me better, and I've loved them like family. I've also grown a lot thanks to mentors and partners who are smarter than me - shoutout my homie and Co-Founder, El Presidente, Marky Mark! Not all of my co-workers have loved the fact that I was dippin' all along (I swear it was just a coffee cup). That tradition started forever and a day ago on the baseball diamonds and kind of just traveled with me. Once I educated myself on the positive effects of nicotine in moderation (like caffeine), I grew more comfortable with the place dip had in my life ... not so much the tobacco.
All of these experiences were a natural segue into Black Buffalo, which is simply doing something that needs to be done. 11 million of us love the ritual of smokeless tobacco, but none of us want to get burned by it. We realized that no one is truly addressing the problem at hand (or in our lip), so we were going to have to do it for ourselves and the community of dippers and doers like us. To the Black Buffalo herd of supporters that are the lifeblood of this company, you have no idea how much we appreciate you. Thank you so much for being part of our movement.
My journey isn’t noble compared to the veterans I know. In fact, the only reason I’m able to be a free-spirited entrepreneur and build companies is because they protect my freedom to do so. It’s an interesting time right now in America and I don’t really pay attention to what other people think or where they stand politically. We’re all human and I generally feel that most everybody means well and has love to give, even if they’re misunderstood. I am, however, hell bent on the notion that every American should at least have an appreciation for our military. I guess that’s the whole point of this blog, really. Because of my personal journey, I refuse to let those who protect my freedoms be out of sight, out of mind. Had my life played out differently, I’d be on a mission to preserve that alone, which is why I’m grateful for my military homies and to be in business with some organizations that have powerful movements of their own.
Elite Meet is a non-profit dedicated to helping Special Operations Forces transition out of the military into the private sector. It’s been a privilege to sponsor and support them since both of our early days. Chairman Jordan Selleck, CEO/Navy SEAL John Allen, and their team are doing amazing work here, so reach out if you’re transitioning SOF, a top tier company/professional looking to hire elite candidates, or to simply donate.
Shoutout to John Allen for his best Vanna White.
We just rolled off sponsoring Grunt Fest 7 in San Antonio, Texas for our partners at Grunt Style, which is founded by Army Drill Sergeant and CEO, Daniel Alarik. It’s operated by an incredible group of people – many who served and many who simply love this country. Not only do they manufacture America’s most badass apparel, but our friends at Grunt Style Events throw parties you’d have to be a robot to not have fun at. San Antonio included several moments to honor veterans/America, country star Kane Brown did his thing, and people enjoyed booze paired with good ol’ fashioned patriotism. Hit this link to buy some Grunt Style gear or get tickets for Grunt Fest 8 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Ain’t no party like a Grunt Style Events party! The team that makes it happen.
Thank you to the men and women who serve our country. I appreciate the hell out of you and so does Black Buffalo. There’s a little rumor out there that our troops like dippin' as much as we do. Just a friendly reminder, we always have an active promo code, MILITARY, for anyone who has held it down for the country to get 15% off. This is honor system and we’re not asking for military IDs to use it, so don’t be “that guy” who steals valor to save a few bucks. We're pretty chill for the most part, but not cool with that.
You don’t have to serve the country to love America and be of service to it. You don’t have to be a veteran to appreciate them and give back. You don’t have to be of a certain political stance to show love, be optimistic, and put out positive energy. You don’t have to have fought a war to be at war with negative vibes, hatred, and bullying. You don’t have to take a path that’s not for you. Listen to the universe, be grateful, and Charge Ahead your own way.
JD, Co-Founder, Bio