Mike Pfeiffer never planned to be an e-commerce entrepreneur. A web developer, he hopes to grow his YouTube channel, The Last Line of Defense, reviewing weapons and gadgets. Besides that, in 2015, he made some holsters.
He told me, “I’ve mentioned holsters a few times in my YouTube videos. My followers started asking if they could buy them.
Fast forward to 2022, and the last line of defense is more than a YouTube channel. It is a Drupal-powered direct selling e-commerce company that sells gun holsters, with an annual revenue of $500,000.
I was with Pfieffer recently, chatting about his trip. Transcript of our entire discussion below. This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about yourself.
Mike Pfeiffer: I am the founder and owner of Last Line of Defense, a small online business that makes and sells gun holsters. I’m best known for my YouTube channel, where I review outdoor and recreational items.
When I started the chain in 2015, I wanted to buy a case for my concealed carry, but there was nothing suitable in the market. I found out how to make cases and started producing them in a different house than anyone else.
I used something called Kydex, a type of plastic that is melted into a thin sheet that you heat up and heat up. At first, I used a type of foam press – a do-it-yourself type of hobby. I bought the materials and made some cases for my own use.
I’ve talked a few times in my YouTube videos. I will talk about it in the context of other reviews. My followers started asking if they could buy them. My first response was, “No, it’s just something I did for myself.” I never intended to sell them.
Bandholz: It’s almost a distraction.
Pfeiffer: Yes, it is. I have a background in back-end development. I am a web developer. I’m not trying to start an e-commerce business. I have the idea to do it on the side until it goes away.
But it hasn’t gone yet. I work full time as a developer while trying to start my YouTube channel and sell through email and PayPal. Finally, I decided to create an e-commerce site.
I am familiar with Drupal and its e-commerce component, Drupal Commerce. So I built my website on this platform, but it’s soft.
It needs a bunch of features. The customer can choose the gun, choose the color, and choose right or left hand – many details. Shopify and BigCommerce would have been easier. My goal is to make a website so I don’t have to send emails to customers.
So I started a site. I sell organically through my YouTube channel. So far, I have not broken down. I do not send cases for reviews or buy ads. In addition, products related to advertising guns are strong.
Bandholz: Why is it so difficult?
Pfeiffer: There are many difficulties in this image. I will show my weapons and holsters. If I were selling a Glock holster, I’d say it’s a Glock holster. But “Glock” can be an image or word with a banner that prevents the ad from showing. He is cheating.
Also, e-commerce platforms have restrictions. I haven’t built on Shopify, my product doesn’t violate the company’s rules, but it falls into a gray area.
However, the business has grown from $50,000 in the first year to $500,000 now. It continued to grow organically.
This year is the first year my income will be low. The content I create on YouTube is far more than it used to be. I am discussing my case because the videos are linked. But I have changed the focus of the channel to a wider external application.
Customers these days are mostly repeat business and people come from organic searches on Google.
Bandholz: What is your competitive advantage?
Pfeiffer: We should be important. The Glock 19 has been the go-to concealed carry pistol for years. I have a case for the most popular type. But many new weapons have appeared in the last two years. I am not creating a case for them.
I let the transaction pause. My YouTube channel is my main activity – testing equipment and beta testing products for developers. Also, I no longer judge myself. I recommend this service.
Bandholz: Have you considered selling to concentrate on YouTube?
Pfeiffer: It’s a choice. I thought about it. But I don’t want to leave the company. I enjoy the manufacturing process. I want to go over the holsters in the prep kit. I can design a medical kit or purse that works well in a Tacoma pickup, for example. I would like to make products for myself that others will want to buy.
The problem is time. I am the general contractor for our house being built. I manage a YouTube channel. I have a baby coming in January. I’ll keep the Holster company going, but probably won’t do anything new until next year. My brother, a CAD designer, wanted to help. It was like, “Hey, let’s make this case an empire.”