New Hope's Sealed Mindset aims to grow

  • Article by: TODD NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 9:53 AM

Retired Navy SEAL Larry Yatch is on a mission to expand Sealed Mindset, which offers personal safety and defensive firearms training in New Hope.

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Sealed Mindset’s president and CEO, Larry Yatch, and his wife, Anne, director of operations, stood on a firing range where they teach shooting techniques.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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Larry Yatch has translated a decade of U.S. Navy SEAL experience into personal protection, defensive firearms and self-defense programs offered at Sealed Mindset, the training facility he co-founded in 2011.

Now Yatch is setting his sights on expansion, formulating plans to open new locations in the Twin Cities and other metro areas, perhaps 10 over the next five years, and to offer online training, possibly through two-way webinars or recorded sessions.

In planning for growth, Yatch, the company’s CEO, is applying the methodical intensity he honed in multiple combat deployments before an injury forced his medical retirement in 2008. He’s documenting every aspect of the Sealed Mindset’s New Hope facility, its operations, technology, training programs and corporate events the company offers to be able to replicate them at each new location.

Yatch took a similar approach in the two years of research that went into developing the company’s membership-based business model. The facility, from classrooms to firing ranges, was designed to accommodate Sealed Mindset’s “learn-practice-experience’’ training philosophy.

That attention to detail also has gone into the selection and design of the “signature series” of high-end firearms, knives and defensive flashlights that Sealed Mindset sells.

The company, which has 13 employees, will surpass $1 million in revenue this year, Yatch said. Many of its 300-plus members are business owners and team managers, some of whom turn to Sealed Mindset for workplace safety assessments or corporate events that may combine aspects of personal safety with entertainment. Private “edutainment” events include spy date nights and a Navy SEAL adventure re-enacting the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

The goal: to impart the skills, knowledge and experience people need to keep themselves and their families safe. Yatch credits his wife, Anne, who has a master’s degree in international security from Georgetown University, with the idea of launching Sealed Mindset.

“A lot of the lessons that I learned were very applicable for what would eventually become Sealed Mindset,” Yatch, 37, said of his SEAL deployments. “With my drive to protect people, knowledge and experience … and her intelligence background, that would allow us to have the same effect of protecting the country but to do it one family at a time through education.”

Yatch and his wife were so committed to that idea that they left San Diego, their home for 14 years, to move to Minnesota, where they had never set foot. The move came about after Yatch was introduced to Rick Green, president of Range Systems, a New Hope company that makes advanced, tactical firing ranges.

The couple decided to pair their programming and product expertise with the business know-how and infrastructure provided by Green and Range Systems, which wanted to move into the growing market for commercial firing ranges. Yatch and his wife are partners in Sealed Mindset with Range Systems and Green, who also serves as chief development officer of Sealed Mindset.

Green said Sealed Mindset’s headquarters is serving as a “test store” for future expansion. “The foundation of the learning and principles come from his SEAL experience,’’ Green said. “But we have to be able to repeat this business, so we do everything in a standardized way and focus a lot of energy on process.”

Sealed Mindset member Josh Ralph, a distribution company owner who joined in 2012, said he has taken pistol and rifle training, martial arts and hand-to-hand combat training.

“If you want true gun safety and true personal safety, I haven’t found anybody who teaches it as well as these people do,” Ralph said.

Memberships range from $110 a month for defensive fitness and martial arts classes only to $295-plus for full studio access, including the fitness classes, professional-led firearms instruction and free range time.

The expert says: Dileep Rao, president of InterFinance Corp. in Golden Valley, said taking time to perfect a business model can reduce the risk when adding new locations.

“The best time to test your model is before you are in the swamp with alligators nipping at various parts of your anatomy,” Rao said. Other smart moves by Yatch, Rao said, include “marriage to someone who complements his expertise and the right partnership with an entrepreneur who had the expertise to help him take off.”

 

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.

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