Milifidel (www.milifidel.com) is a ground-breaking new company focused on giving back and going above and beyond the corporate call of duty. Founder Andrew J. Yurcich came up with the concept when he began to notice how popular military-themed clothing was and decided he could promote his own line with a worthy cause behind it.
"I worked for a non-profit about a year before I started this, and that kind of got me involved as far as doing non-profit work. Unfortunately, we lost our funding," Yurcich explained. "About a year later, I was at dinner with my girlfriend and her best friend, and I was in a restaurant, and I look over and see a young Asian kid wearing a camouflage hat, and the hat actually had pink air assault wings on it. Anyone who has any military background or knows about the military, air assault is one of the units in the military. So I thought to myself, if young kids like this and people in general think military stuff is cool and trendy, if we could come up with a brand that could pay respect to our troops, raise awareness to what they've done and what they've been doing for years, then why couldn't we have something?"
Yurcich wanted to separate his operation from other companies out there "who basically stand for nothing, just about looking cool." As a United States Army (Air Defense Artillery) veteran himself and someone who comes from a family full of individuals who also served their country in the military,
Yurcich focused on running his company as a tribute to soldiers. "It's time to have something that honors what we've been doing," he added. Two other partners in the business require anonymity because of the nature of their ongoing covert service. One of them is an Army Ranger sniper while the other is 82nd Airborne scout.
James Rice joined the company more recently and is the other public face and voice behind the brand. "I've been involved with the company for about a year now. I met them at a local event. The company was a phenomenal idea and a phenomenal cause, and they had a great start," said Rice. "They had world class artists and they had their production, their distributors, and their product was set. I loved what they were doing."
Rice also explained that 2012 is a year focused more on getting the company's gear sold while the first two years of the company were more like a research and development phase. "What I brought to the table was, we needed to increase our distribution. We needed to start moving some shirts," Rice said.
Three out of four of the company's executives are either current United States servicemen or military veterans. "So the brand brings a lot of integrity and authenticity to the table also. That was the original idea," said Rice.
"We wanted something that paid respect to the men and women that serve, but that you could wear on the street. So, our designs aren't necessarily in your face, bombs blowing up and guns and knives, and so on and so forth. We've taken symbols from the military and infused those into the artwork, so we've got some pieces of clothing you can wear out at night with a jacket or during the daytime when you're out shopping, and you're carrying that message to pay respect, to pay homage to the military without something that's so drastically in your face. We wanted something that was infused with fashion versus just down and dirty symbols and in your face."
One of the company's more unique items is a shirt commemorating the May 1, 2011 operation that killed Terrorist Osama Bin Laden (http://www.milifidel.com/In-Stock-5-1-Limited-_p_82.html), a mission that recently celebrated an anniversary.
"We definitely saw a spike in it," said Yurcich about the shirt's sales around May 1, 2012. "It wasn't probably as much as we wanted to see, but if we sell one more shirt to me it's worth it, because that's one more person knowing what we're trying to do and knowing the overall spectrum of what Milifidel is all about."
The company founder has high hopes for his vision and looks forward to a day when he can help do even more with the proceeds for U.S. Servicemen in need.
"Everybody wants to start something to make money. That isn't why I started this," Yurcich explained. "I started this because I wanted to touch people's lives. I wanted to create something that brought awareness to my brothers in arms."
The proceeds generated by sales of Milifidel products benefit the Los Angeles Fisher House.
"The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald House for veterans and their families. So, if a soldier was hurt and his parents or his wife needed to be close to him while he was at the hospital, they stay in these houses. The one we help out here in LA, in the Wilshire district, sleeps 60 people, and it's like a four-star hotel, but the other side about it, you know it's not that cold, dreary feeling of being in a hotel. You're around people going through the same thing you're going through. And they've got libraries and gazebos and all that good stuff. So, it's a nice place to relax with other people who are going through the same scenario you're going through, and you're close to your soldier family member at the same time."
Yurcich is concerned about the troops coming back from combat overseas and the "horrible" realities that confront the physically and mentally damaged servicemen and women.
"The sacrifices that they're making, and the way they're getting treated when they come back, it's un-American," he adds.
"Someone said to me a few weeks ago: 'They're over there risking their lives for people they don't even know.' And to me that's the ultimate sacrifice, whether they're there 6 months, a year, or they don't even make it back. They're over there giving up their lives, their livelihood, their day-to-day stuff that they do back at home for people they don't even know. So, for them to come back and not get the hundred percent treatment that they should get, that should should be one of our first priorities."
Rice pointed out that just about everyone knows someone impacted by the military in one way or another, whether it's personal service or that of a family member or friend.
"One of the interesting things about the military and the people we're meeting that I love, you know, I use the word transcends. It doesn't care what color you are. It doesn't care what socio-economic background you come from, what your ethnicity is. The military has someone from every walk of life, and someone from every walk of life has been affected by a family member that has either gone and served and come back injured or lost their lives. There's just nowhere we can go or not a store that we can be in, that is not gonna have somebody walk through that door that can relate to it. It's a niche like no other niche. It's broader than almost anything you can imagine. It's amazing."
Milifidel is also starting to generate a bit of a dedicated following of devoted supporters.
Yurcich explained that Kim Delaney, a star of the Lifetime show Army Wives, was the first big name to work with the company. "She's on the board at the Fisher House here in West LA," he added.
Milifidel's also worked with some MMA stars and boxers like John Molina, Junior. Molina recently did a photo shoot for the brand and Yurcich was thrilled to be able to connect with such a well-known and talented boxer.
"We're really honored to work with him," said Yurcich. "I can't wait to see him back in the ring again. We're really excited to see him back in there."
"The mixed martial arts really jumped on us," said Rice. "You can imagine, many of the guys, the fighters, with their military background, once they heard about Milifidel and the fact that Milifidel means military loyalty and that everything we're doing is about paying respect, paying homage to the men and women that serve, or have served, they jumped on board. So, it was really quite frankly it was just a natural trail for us to go down."
A recent addition to the Milifidel team is a 9-year-old boy named Cody dubbed "One Boy USO." (site address) Cody travels around the country to airports to meet soldiers when they are returning or deploying.
"He gives them a piece of candy and says, 'Thank you for protecting me,'" Yurcich said. "And for a 9-year-old kid to do that, to be selfless enough to respect these soldiers that he doesn't know once again, is incredible."
Cody is a shoe-in for military service himself in the future, and he's already made it known he'd like to be a Sniper. Yurcich and the folks at Milifidel helped further cement his career choice by introducing him to his idol, a sniper named Jim Gillian.
"They had a blast. Cody's still talking about it, and Jim had a blast meeting him as well," said Yurcich.
Another star in the Milifidel stable, and perhaps the biggest one (both literally and figuratively) is Bill Goldberg of WWE fame.
"We've been real fortunate with him because he's a huge military supporter, and he really believes in the product and what we're trying to do with it," said Yurcich. "He didn't serve, but his family did." Yurcich went on to explain that Goldberg's pledged to do whatever he can to make life better for soldiers who are serving and their families at home.
"He's definitely the most genuine person," he added.
Rice went on to mention that prospects are always materializing lately to interact with new people who can really help promote the brand with their notoriety. One of the bigger names to enter into discussions with the company recently was Former World Heavyweight Boxing Champion Evander Holyfield.
"We reached out and had a couple other major fighters contact us, and so we'll see where those leads go. We did some work with Shark Fights on the mixed martial arts side, and it's been interesting to see how our web and our network is changing. It is reaching more and more people every single day," Rice explained.
"The cool thing about us, we don't take anything off the rack. All our shirts are custom dyed, they're all custom designs, they're all original pieces of art. There's nothing that we take from something else and throw it on the shirt," said Yurcich. "It's enzyme washed. We try to give the customer the finest quality t-shirt they can get for their money."
"Every one of our shirts comes to us white, and then they're dyed the color," added Rice. "It's definitely a fashion piece. You can wear it out at night. It's definitely combining the message with the fashion. This is gonna be your go to shirt, it's not going to be your oil changing shirt." There's also plans to go into selling boots, shoes, and hats. The company took their time finding the right artist to bring the shirts to life with fresh designs and illustrations.
"I didn't want to look like every other brand out there and do the same things everyone else is doing," Yurcich stated.
"From an apparel standpoint, we want to dress people head to toe. We're adding pieces slowly but surely," said Rice. He also illustrated the plan to expand on the "La Femme" line of female clothing Milifidel currently offers, hoping someday to compete with some of the larger ladies brands in the marketplace.
By marketing the real meaning behind the company, they will inspire more people to make a purchase out of their inventory rather than buy an item that isn't purpose-driven. Additionally, the company would also like to offer help to veterans as far as other services beyond what The Fisher House can offer their families.
"Military inspired clothing really transcends all generations," explained Rice. "Unfortunately we've been battling since this country was first founded. So there's been people involved in the military and veterans since day one. We've got people from 9 years old to 90 years old wanting to wear our apparel."
Yurcich dreams of one day providing the son or daughter of a fallen soldier free schooling as part of a Milifidel Scholarship Fund.
"James hit it right on the head," Yurcich added. "Soldiers have various needs when they come back. Getting them back into society and getting them acclimated back in is a huge adjustment, and if we could in the future help with that as well, that's another thing we'd like to do. The clothing brand is just the first thing of what Milifidel can be and what it will be one day."
"One thing you're taught when you first come in, you're taught to protect your brother, you're taught to be there for them. They're supposed to be there for you. That's why when you go in the military when you're in basic training the person next to you is your battle buddy. And what does that mean? That means you take care of him, you die for him, and he does the same for you. And that's what we want to do for all soldiers eventually. Milifidel wants to be their battle buddy," Yurcich illustrated. "If they need something, and it's in our power, and we can get it done for them, that's what we want to do eventually. Right now it's just clothing and helping with that, but eventually we want to go into all different types of things that we can do to help our soldiers."
"I think it's all about changing lives and making miracles happen," said Rice about the future of Milifidel.
"I see Milifidel on everybody in every country, because it's not US Military loyalty, it's military loyalty. I think when you do that, then it gives you the tools to change a lot of lives. So, put a lot of clothes on people that they want to wear, and then put that money back into the system and change some lives, pay respect, pay homage to the men and women who have served by providing services for them."