During IMTS in Chicago, machine tool builder Hurco sponsored an entrepreneur seminar on Wednesday, Sept. 12, by Eli Crane, a former U.S. Navy SEAL and owner of Bottle Breacher, located in Tucson, Ariz. Bottle Breacher is one of the fastest growing veteran owned and operated businesses in Arizona.
Crane shared with attendees his experiences as a Navy SEAL, contestant on “Shark Tank” and business owner, and how these experiences have helped him build a business and life mission.
Before Crane became an entrepreneur, he was a Navy SEAL. In response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he decided to leave college life at University of Arizona (he just began his senior year of studies in sociology) and enlisted in the Navy.
“I left everything I knew and was headed to where I really wanted to be—to serve this country,” said Crane. “I joined the Navy and it took me five years to become a SEAL. I usually take a longer time to figure things out than most others, and I didn’t make it through training the first time, but when I did make it, my time was on the SEAL Team 3; I did five deployments, three combat tours, plus instructor duty. During my instructor duty is when my wife and I started Bottle Breacher—I decided it was time to turn the page, and I wanted a new challenge, which is why I chose entrepreneurship.”
After Crane got a deal on the TV show “Shark Tank,” sales tripled for Bottle Breacher—the bottle openers are made out of spent ammunition casings. Sales went from $7,500 per month to $22,500 per month. Crane knew he needed control of manufacturing to keep up with the demand and delivery deadlines to keep the business growing and profitable.
He researched CNC machines and evaluated many different brands. “I noticed when guys talked about the Hurco, they always said they were solid, hardworking, workhorse machines that were easy to use.” Crane contacted a distributor in Arizona, D&R Machinery, and that’s how Hurco and Bottle Breacher got connected.
Steps to Success
“People always ask me if I was scared going on ‘Shark Tank,’ ” said Crane. “I believe you only get one reputation, and my motto in life is to go big and swing for the fences—my wife and I were a bit scared, but more excited to be on the show.”
Crane attributes his success in entrepreneurship to his military training and mental stamina—to view failure as a learning process.
“A lot of the knowledge and strategy I use for business comes from being a Navy SEAL,” said Crane. “I don’t let my fears own me. Everyone gets scared, but I notice that people who are successful charge through their fears and figure it out. They don’t let their fears own them.”
According to Crane, mental toughness can be taught. “You need to be in an environment where you are being pushed outside your comfort zone all the time. And where you can practice and work at this.”
Beside owning Bottle Breacher, Crane and his wife give back and are veteran advocates. They have donated to more than 200 non-profits in the last year alone, providing Bottle Breacher the opportunity to support military veterans, active military personnel, first responders, children’s foundations and various other non-profits.
“We support countless veteran non-profits,” said Crane. “I am on the advisory committee for veteran business affairs in Washington. This is so important because veteran transition is very difficult. Even for SEALs it’s a tough transition—I watched friends get out before me and take 15 to 18 months to land a good job in which they could sink their teeth into.”
Seeing his friends have a tough time transition back to civilian life scared Crane, and he knew he needed to figure things out.
“The fear drove me to stay up late at night working on the business,” said Crane. “Jen and I started Bottle Breacher while I was an instructor during the day for the military, so I would come home and fill orders, making Bottle Breachers late at night into the morning. We were hitting the business hard every single day. When you get lasered focused on one thing you may not have time for anything else. We handled this as well as possible with grace and class.”
During the seminar, Crane also spoke to attendees about a purposeful life and having a legacy.
“Here we are at IMTS and it’s Hurco’s 50th anniversary—the company has a very cool legacy,” said Crane. “But for people, it’s typical for the first couple of decades of your life to focus on being successful and not a looser. This is like the SEAL teams using night vision goggles—all you can see is what is in front of you, not around you. You don’t have peripheral vision until you think about legacy—you cannot see from a 30,000-foot view. You are probably focused on finances, fitness, family, but you need to ask questions about how your life is impacting others in a positive way. Are you living a purpose-driven life? What will people say at your funeral? These questions are very important.