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Rising Stars: Meet Travis Gardner and Tucker Burns

Today we’d like to introduce you to Travis Gardner and Tucker Burns.

Hi Travis and Tucker, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
We (Travis and Tucker) met back in 2012 while members of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University. While in the Corps of Cadets, we were both members of Parsons’ Mounted Cavalry(PMC), the last remaining horse-mounted ROTC unit in the country. Our senior year Travis served as the commanding officer, and Tucker served as the executive officer; affording us some operational experience together planning various events PMC takes part in over the course of the year.

Upon graduation in 2014, Travis entered the Air Force where he served for about six years, and Tucker entered the Army where he served for about four years. After getting out, we both found ourselves in Austin, Texas, where we began to reconnect. After a couple of months of getting together, and brainstorming ideas for a secondary business together, we had come up with three that we were eager to run with. We met with a business mentor to gain some insight on the direction we should take, and he greatly encouraged us to pursue the apparel idea, as he could see the enthusiasm we had, and the ability to give back to others through this avenue.

As two recent Veterans, we had zero knowledge of the domestic fashion industry but knew that we were determined to figure it out together and seek out the experts with the know-how to do so. After a few months of research, and a national search for an American manufacturer, we found ourselves in Los Angeles, the heart of the American fashion industry. We showed up a little out of place as two guys from Texas wearing boots and jeans – and a few people we met were sure to point that out! However, after several meetings where we shared our vision, mission, and purpose of the company, we were able to get connected with the right companies and establish a solid foundation for creating a high-quality apparel brand focused on American production.

Since launching the LLC in July of 2021, we have had the opportunity to pivot several times. The military taught us that flexibility and adaptability are the keys to success, and we have embraced that fluidity through all facets of our start-up. One of the biggest turning points already was deciding to quit our jobs and both go full time in October of ’21, months before we had any cash flow with very little start-up capital between us. We realized that if we wanted to succeed, this company couldn’t be a “side project.” We needed to go all in and run as fast as we could, for as long as we could. This is much easier said than done, as we have self-funded the business since inception, and have worked hard to retain our ownership stake in order to run the company on the morals we hold so dear. That said, full ownership has allowed us to pivot quickly when we find greater success in certain areas. We originally set out to create an American-made polo that the active-duty/ veteran community would enjoy, and quickly realized that we could expand this idea into the collegiate, golf, business casual, and everyday wear realms.

The Charge officially launched for online sales on April 11th, 2022. Since our launch a couple of months ago we developed the ability to provide custom embroidery, which enabled us to successfully expand our products into collegiate bookstores, golf pro shops, and several corporate businesses. We’ve realized there are a lot more people outside of just the Veteran community that want a high-quality, US-made garment, which supports our call to give back to organizations that support Veterans and mental health initiatives.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. However, choosing this path has been more fulfilling and life-giving than anything else we’ve ever done. Sure, it’s more comfortable to be sitting in your air-conditioned car as you fly down the highway on cruise control, as opposed to trekking up the side of a mountain in 100-degree weather when you don’t have a great map and are low on water, but the views we’ve already been able to see on our journey up the mountain far exceed that of any freeway with a bunch of other cars – and we’re not even close to the summit yet.

The biggest struggles we’ve faced have been battling our own fears, as well as others’ doubts. We didn’t fully realize the emotional maturity it takes to succeed when you set out to accomplish something great. It’s interesting how people like to project their fears onto you and how so much of our society bases their decisions on fears, instead of potential and possibilities. Sure, we’ve faced typical new business struggles as well. Since we self-funded this company and have fought off investors, our operating budget has not been high. We’ve found out that banks are not keen on remotely trying to help start-ups and we’ve had difficulties expanding our credit without 2 years of operating history. Then there’s the difficulty of spreading the word of our company on a limited budget. That is a real struggle. We’re fighting against major brands that have budgets of millions of dollars in marketing expenses. We know we have a better product, we’re spending more money to manufacture our goods because we want to sew into the US economy and know the conditions of the workplace where our apparel is made, and we’re giving back a major portion of our total sales to help people….but other companies have drastically more money to market their products to consumers. That’s tough to combat. Still, the toughest battle remains; the one that takes place between our ears.

We wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Through this process, God has spoken to us more than ever before. Aside from encouragement, God has provided for us financially in some bizarre ways and has continued to make connections to get our brand out there – one of which being connected with Voyage Austin. They say that the key to a good story is having a hero that faces adversity and overcomes multiple obstacles. In that regard, we don’t mind the struggles because we know our story is going to be one worth telling when it’s all said and done with.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As a brand new business, the two of us are “wearing all of the hats.” Day to day, we are constantly jumping between roles; developing new styles and patterns, sourcing fabric, communicating with suppliers and manufacturers, creating marketing content, reconciling finances, packing boxes, networking and meeting with leaders in almost every realm as our apparel has a wide range of users, but most importantly keeping each other accountable while remembering to have fun between putting out the fires along the way. The experience of “burning the ships” (in reference to leaving our previous 9-5s) has facilitated personal growth for each of us as well, as we’ve had to learn (on the fly much of the time) the ins and outs of these parts of the business that were foreign to us only a year ago; affording us a fresh outlook on an industry that has been dominated by large conglomerates in recent years. Lastly, we spend a lot of time continuing to cast vision and create a successful structure for a brand that isn’t laser-focused on quarterly profit margins but honed in on creating quality products, encouraging others, and creating a better quality of life for those who have sacrificed in service to protect our country.

Our bread and butter, the primary item which we specialize in, is our performance polo. We looked around at the polos on the racks in most retail stores and realized that most of them are boxy, ill-fitting, foreign-made pieces that are marked up an incredible amount in comparison to what the companies paid to make them overseas. We were scratching our heads as to why these large companies had become complacent, many of which were tied to forced labor overseas as little as two years ago, with operating pictures that were concurrent with gouging the American consumer.

With this traditional production framework in mind, we’ve gone against the grain and decided to manufacture our polos in the US. Choosing to manufacture our main item here promotes the creation of domestic jobs, helps to reshore the American supply chain, and strengthens the state of US production as a whole. Additionally, we set out to make a better-fitting shirt. Our polos are slightly more tailored, cutting out the excess fabric in the arms and chest, while leaving enough room in the midsection to fit most body types that can be worn in a myriad of settings. They accentuate the good parts of a man’s body, allowing everyone to look their very best.

Alright, so to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Behind the name: The Charge We met while in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M and became friends as members of Parsons’ Mounted Cavalry, the last remaining horse-mounted ROTC unit in the country. We want our brand to be personally symbolic, but to also contain a meaning with which others can resonate.

Throughout history, a cavalry charge was iconically an army’s most feared and revered battle tactic. It could quickly win a battle but was difficult to execute and also considered a very risky maneuver. When a commanding officer (CO) gave the order, it wasn’t done lightly; the complexity and risks were understood by all. As a result, CO’s who called for a charge have been remembered still for heroism and bravery regardless of the battle’s outcome.

We love that symbolism.

We believe that everyone has a charge be it personal, professional, or relational.

However, most people are too scared to pursue it. They see only risks, meditate on doubt and fear, never running toward what they are called to do. But we’re here to tell you there are worse things in life than pursuing something and failing. Unlike the CO’s that called for a cavalry charge, if we fail, we’re probably still alive. We can dust ourselves off and try again. At least we don’t have to live with the regret, sitting in mediocrity, years down the road asking ourselves “what if?” All the while, feeling like victims of our current situation, instead of accepting the fact that we’ve become victims of our own choices.

The goal of this company is to make superior quality polos and shirts while inspiring others to achieve their full potential. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you succeed or fail; all that matters is that you passionately pursue what is important to you.

Symbolism behind our logo
We initially received inspiration for our logo from the George Washington battle flag, which is composed of 13 six-pointed stars, representing the 13 original colonies. This flag was flown whenever Washington was on the battlefield so that everyone knew he, the authority figure, was present. Most commanders in that era did not want to stand out. Even to this day, officers wear subdued rank in the deployed environment, so that they are less of a target to enemy forces.

We love the confidence and symbolism that Washington embodied by flying this flag, which is what led us to use six-pointed stars in our logo. We incorporated 6 of these stars because Washington is only one of two US military leaders ever awarded the 6 star rank.

When people wear our brand, we want them to walk in the confidence and boldness that Washington displayed on the battlefield. We want their presence to be known, not just because they’re wearing high-quality apparel, but also by the way they carry themselves. We want them to bring the mindset from the battlefield to the boardroom, and beyond.

We chose to utilize a classic guidon-shaped field as the base for our logo. This type of flag shape has historically rich ties both to the military in general, as well as individual cavalry units, which is where the flag originated in 1834.

The guidon is a symbol used to represent a specific unit and the commander in charge of the unit. It is identified as a rallying point for troops to gather around, as they fall into formation and receive orders. Most units have significant pride for their guidon, as it symbolizes the character and identity of the members which comprise the unit.

As we grow our brand, we hope to become a rallying point for individuals who strive to be and look their best in various arenas of influence (business, sports, military, etc).

We’ve experienced the realities that many service members face firsthand and through friends, whether on active duty, or upon separation from the military, and desire to have a positive impact on this community through The Charge. This is why we have committed to donating 12% of our total sales, not just our profits, to our non-profit partners; a noticeable percentage that could make a real difference.

Encountering the lack of care many service members face, which unfortunately continues after separation from the military, spurred us to center a main objective with the brand to partner with nonprofits that can, and continue to achieve a tangible difference in the lives of those service members. Currently, we are partnered with five veteran non-profit organizations (four of which are in Texas) and aim to expand that reach to the law enforcement and first responder communities nationwide.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Jason Risner Photography

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