Two guys in the field were disappointed their gear wasn’t up to the hardworking standards their dangerous jobs demanded. Frustration begat inspiration and they decided to try their own hand in business. The lifelong friends and former soldiers knew they could — and would — do better.
Aberdeen-based Spiritus Systems creates nylon tactical gear primarily for law enforcement and military clients across the country, the brainchild of partners Zane Vogel, Adam Holroyd and his wife, Nichole Holroyd. Their best seller is the micro fight chest rig, a completely modular system that can be adjusted for right or left-hand users, with or without body armor underneath.
“Adam had a vision where he thought the chest rig market needed to go. Traditionally they were sewn so each pouch would only hold one piece of equipment and the rigs are large,” Vogel said. “We went the other way. People like our rigs because they offer better fit and flexibility. We are known for having the most user-configurable modular system on the market.”
So popular are their products that Spiritus is in the process of doubling its work space after less than a year at its present location off N.C. 5. In December, the Aberdeen Town Board unanimously approved a permit to allow the company to expand its operations to a separate adjoining parcel. The combined space means the company can hire more staff and stock more inventory.
“Anytime a business is expanding in Aberdeen and hiring is a good thing,” Aberdeen Mayor Robbie Farrell said. “It is an asset to Aberdeen to have a business like this here.”
North Carolina has a rich history in the textile industry but the economic recession and global competition hurt many businesses. However, Vogel sees plenty of promise and possibility for the future.
“The textile industry that is still in this country, and especially in this state, is very impressive. That is one of the reasons we chose to locate here,” he said.
Importantly, everything Spiritus produces is compliant with the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the Department of Defense from buying clothing, fabrics, fibers and yarns that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the United States. Together with the Kissell Amendment and the Buy American Act, which requires the federal government to buy domestic articles, materials and supplies, primarily to protect American workers and manufacturing jobs, the Berry Amendment protects the viability of the American textile industry.
“The thread, the fabric, everything we use is produced in the U.S., and we source from the highest quality mills,” said Vogel. “And we believe strongly in vertical integration. We try to bring everything in-house: design, cutting, sewing, assembly, marketing, fulfillment and distribution. All of that is here and we are able to spin things out as fast as they come off the production line. If the industry flexes or changes, we can give our clients that content immediately.”
Vogel also points to the company’s investment in state-of-the-art technology to create efficiency and maintain consistency. Automated cutting machines offer precision, and Spiritus is one of the first manufacturers in the state to utilize the Juki line of intelligent sewing machines.
“Getting a machine like that in the hands of a professional, that makes them that much more dangerous. Then they can focus on things that are important and the stitches to be that much more beautiful,” he said. “Our quality is right every time and that is not a tag line: it matters. What we are doing matters and the jobs that our buyers are doing matters. It is a big deal to use and we take this very seriously.”
Vogel said the business was founded on frustration. He and Holroyd had grown up together, knowing each since grade school, and as adults both experienced equipment failure during their military service. From chest rigs to duffle bags that were issued or purchased individually, they had problems with the quality of their gear.
“You should not have catastrophic equipment failure when you are in an austere environment,” Vogel said.
They dreamed up Spiritus Systems in 2014 — a name inspired by Holroyd’s call sign — while they were both deployed in Afghanistan. Once the friends left active duty in 2016, Vogel said they finally had time “to turn up the volume” on their manufacturing efforts. Now with the recent expansion into the adjoining space, Vogel said they will be adding staff and are particularly interested in hiring experienced sewers.
“It is nice to have that affirmation that there is a demand for these products and, within the sewing industry itself, that you are able to succeed in it,” he said. “When we left the military, we contemplated going back to South Dakota where we are all from. We also looked at a number of other states for the business. But here we are in close proximity to Fort Bragg and the textile world is still a big part of North Carolina.”
“We knew the work force was here and we have several mills we buy fabric from within two hours’ drive. It is nice to have that support system,” said Vogel. “We are very happy about being in North Carolina. It was definitely the right choice. We are continuing to grow and sink in deeper roots as we grow.”
Spiritus plans to launch several new products next year and Vogel said they are pleased to be part of the new manufacturing revitalization that is underway in the state.
“A lot of the manufacturing industry is coming back to the American South. That is something we see very clearly,” he said.
Unlike days past, he said manufacturing jobs no longer mean working in a dark, dank factory. Instead he said companies, like Spiritus, provide workers with a climate-controlled environment working with modern machines and new technologies.
“We are excited to see more young people going into manufacturing businesses and manufacturing jobs. If they have the interest and foresight to buy into an industry that is on the rise, it is a very smart thing to do right now,” Vogel said. “This is the right place at the right time to be in manufacturing — on both sides — for us and for people looking to get into the profession.”