Episode 64: Wildlings, Wells, Wilderness Waters
Sometimes God uproots us out of our comfort zones to not only grow us, but to minister and meet the needs of those around us. Richard Rhett shares how God has led him and his family to make a difference, and how his company is helping better the lives of those not just here at home, but also in Central America.
Intro and Welcome | Tim Peabody
- Guest is the founder of Sierra Madre Research, an outdoor gear company that specializes in hammocks and hammock shelters.
- Appeared on Shark Tank. Richard Branson invested in his company.
- My brother-in-law, Richard Rhett.
Guest Spot Highlight | Richard Rhett Jr., CEO – Sierra Madre Research
- Past month have uprooted from Chattanooga and on our way to Puerto Rico. House sold in twelve hours so we are transitioning. Here to see Tim and Stephanie.
- Tim: Tell us the story of Sierra Madre Research.
- Richard: Started in 2013 with wife Julie, also Stephanie’s sister. Julie was my first employee, and we got married 2013. Launched on Kick Starter. First public sales point. Worked another full time job as well. Facility in Nicaragua that started in 2011. Created to make products for the company. Sabbatical from job as product manager with ERDC (Waterways Experiment Station). Got to blow stuff up. Moved to Nicaragua to get business started.
- Tim: Why Nicaragua?
- Richard: That is a great question. When I was first introduced to Central America in 2009, I went to Honduras first and learned about the water crisis. Met someone over a ministry who taught people how to sew. Dominoes fell through prayer and persistent. Partnered with them. Hired on those people after they graduated from the ministry and training. Took a year to make the entity and get legalized. Ministry then collapsed. Julie and I, along with four other Americans, moved down to start working. In eighteen months grew from seven employees to forty-five and ran our business there for three years. Closed it then.
- Tim: So while in Nicaragua you launched the new bay, the hammock shelter that is your keystone product?
- Richard: Yes. Flagship product. Strong product for us.
- Tim: I love it! Camp in it all the time.
- Richard: Sierra Madre is designed to create outdoor camping equipment for what we call “wildlings.” People who love to go outside. Believe in creating comfort. Sleeping just like you would in your bed. Goal is to have no difference from sleeping in your bed for eight hours versus sleeping outside for eight hours.
- Tim: Love the products and what you guys do. Been really fun to see how you have impacted the world. What’s it been like to be a Christian business leader?
- Richard: Very challenging. Look for men who have gone before me. Would love to talk with someone. No mentor, but have mentored. Ambitious to grow the business, but counter intuitive to how I grew up. Money seen as evil, and you only make just enough. Learned money is a tool. Can be used for good or evil. Desperately trying to grow so it will be profitable for the business so it is sustainable so that we can give jobs to people in the states and around the world. Use a portion of our profits to drill clean water wells in Central America. Believe business is an instrumental piece in changing landscape of culture and developing countries. Problems entrepreneurs solve are incredible. Would love to talk to you in if you are running a hundred million dollar company and follow Christ.
- Tim: You grew up in Vicksburg and attended First Baptist Vicksburg. Really fun to see someone from around here do something big.
- Richard: Grew up in MS. Vicksburg our home. Wonderfully planted mom and dad who’ve been here thirty-eight years. Attend same church. Seen as goofy when pick up and move to Nicaragua.
- Tim: How’s the pandemic been for you guys?
- Richard: Weird time. E-commerce business so everything kept going. Thought our fulfillment center might shut down but didn’t happen. Team went remote. Facing some supply chain issues. Made it through very well compared to a lot of businesses I’ve talked too. Many are re-imagining how they do business.
- Tim: Children not yet school age. Twins. Schedule too disrupted.
- Richard: Only change was staying in the house a lot more. Julie would usually take them to gym class, YMCA, rock climbing and then things got weird and everyone closed in. Cabin fever. No sickness for four months straight. It’s great!
Devotional | Richard Rhett
- Verse that burned a fire in my spirit right when getting started. Isaiah 43: 18 – 20. My mantra.
- Huge impact. Stuck with doing what was very comfortable for me. No risk. Seeing Christ saying He would do something new in my life, and in the way I serve others.
- He will provide water for those in desert. Struck a chord. Saw need in Central America living without clean drinking water so created something that allowed people to enjoy the outdoors, and allows people to support change in the world.
Prayer | Tim Peabody
- Rebekah Morris, hospital.
- Connie Coleman, mom had a stroke.
- Carrie Rowden, recovering from surgery.
- Tim: Any sneak peeks into upcoming products?
- Richard: Hot Pocket and Ember, warmer products launching.
- Tim: What product has the best name?
- Richard: Spork Chop. Credit given to Tim Peabody!
- We love our family!
Host & Guest
Richard Rhett Jr., CEO – Sierra Madre Research
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