Manufacturing a Healthier Dog Treat – Live at Alaska MEP

If you want to hear the story of someone who is, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success episode to hear Kevin Thompson, Owner, Mountain Dog LLC, share how he went from being a military veteran and commercial helicopter pilot to founding a dog treat manufacturing company.

Are you interested in building a product manufacturing company?

If you want to hear the story of someone who is, join us for this MFG eCommerce Success episode to hear Kevin Thompson, Owner, Mountain Dog LLC, share how he went from being a military veteran and commercial helicopter pilot to founding a dog treat manufacturing company.

Kevin founded Mountain Dog LLC, fueled by his situation and desire to create a healthier dog treat and a market gap.

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Kevin was “given” this entrepreneurial opportunity after a 32-day hospitalization and yearlong COVID recovery stalled his helicopter pilot career. Kevin and his family believe God does not close one door without opening another. Before Kevin was sick, his wife had purchased a freeze dryer to produce healthy backpacking meals for the family. One thing led to another, and the Thompson family created the dog treats behind Mountain Dog.

Kevin is a US Army veteran who served in Iraq. After leaving the military due to injuries sustained in combat, he worked as an advisor with various companies working for the Department of Defense.

Kevin wants to set an example for other veterans that “it’s always too soon to quit” and how holding onto the discipline learned in the military will help you be successful.

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Damon opens today’s Livestream straight from MEP facility in Anchorage, Alaska. He introduces Kevin, Dr. Alyssa, and Kassim to the audience. After exchanging pleasantries, Dr. Alyssa begins to talk about Alaska MEP’s mission to support manufacturers in their growth. She expresses excitement about the variety of products manufactured in Alaska and emphasizes the ongoing need for assistance, even among well-established manufacturers with ambitious goals.

Curt appreciates MEPs (Manufacturing Extension Partnerships) and calls them “dream support” for entrepreneurs. He mentions the daunting and challenging nature of pursuing entrepreneurial dreams. He humorously asks Kassim how he has kept his hair for 20 years as an entrepreneur, contrasting it with his own experience.

“Fortunately, I had my dad with me. So, I had a great support structure,” replies Kassim.

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Appreciating Kassim’s better genes, Curt then shifts the conversation toward the concept of “Dream supporters,” asking Dr. Alyssa how it feels to have a career.

Dr. Alyssa reveals that her career as a dream supporter evolved from her background as a research economist. She desired to do more than analyze data objectively and instead wanted to help individuals achieve their goals actively. She has pursued various roles until finding her current position, which brings her immense joy. Witnessing manufacturers’ accomplishments and knowing she contributed to their success is incredibly fulfilling for her.

Curt mentions meeting with Lynn Peterson, a female entrepreneur who sells undergarments. He then expresses his eagerness to hear about “Mountain Dog” and immediately dives into discussing it with Kevin.

Kevin humorously describes himself as a constant irritation to his wife. He served in Iraq, got injured, and pursued a career as a helicopter pilot. He met his wife, a teacher, and his complete opposite regarding behavior and academic achievements.

Similarly, Kevin shares his journey, starting with his marriage and the decision to move to Alaska. He transitioned from being a helicopter pilot to pursuing fixed-wing flying after the helicopter industry faced challenges.

However, COVID-19 disrupted his plans, and he faced difficulties. He then embarked on a house-flipping project, and his wife bought a freeze-dryer. Kevin contracted COVID-19 and experienced severe health complications, including bacterial pneumonia and lung blood clots. Despite the grim prognosis, with the support of his wife, faith, and determination, he overcame the obstacles and survived. Although initially told he might never fly again and would require permanent oxygen use, Kevin defied expectations.

Kevin embarked on a recovery journey, gradually increasing his exercise capacity, including “walking a consecutive 17-minute mile.” He started his company from the basement and moved through various locations. He eventually established his business in its final location.

Curt finds Kevin’s account “really cool.”

Kevin discusses how the idea for his business came about when his wife’s German Shepherd Facebook group inspired them to use their freeze dryer to freeze dog food. Encouraged by a friend in the industry, Kevin decided to create a high-quality dog treat that would offer consistency and address the lack of healthy options in the market.

They solved the problem of providing nutritious treats that appeal to every dog using specific ingredients and processing methods. Additionally, they address concerns about overfeeding unhealthy treats on the market. They shaped the treat like a fish, adding a playful element to their product.

Curt shows interest in understanding the process behind Kevin’s branding and how it relates to manufacturers who may be inspired to create their brand.

Kevin explains that branding is essential in conveying who you are without being too overwhelming. He shares that Mountain Dog represents his love for running in the mountains with his family and their dog. Kevin suggests seeking professional help for branding.

Damon expresses his love for Kevin’s success story.

Curt turns his attention to Dr. Alyssa and asks about her observations regarding clients getting caught up in perfectionism and how often she encounters such situations.

Alyssa shares that she advises her clients not to get caught up in perfectionism. Besides, she encourages them to take action and make progress. She mentions that clients often start with one approach and later realize the need for adjustments or changes as they grow.

As the Livestream progresses, Kevin highlights the advantage of working with fellow veterans who are resourceful and adaptable. He emphasizes the importance of benchmarking off successful companies like Black Rifle Coffee Company and learning from their strategies while maintaining one’s unique approach. Kevin mentions the shift towards B2B engagement, recognizing that social media has become more challenging and expensive for small companies. He mentions platforms like LinkedIn and RangeMe as viable alternatives. Kevin acknowledges the image problem of entrepreneurship, with the perception of luxury and success, but emphasizes the initial struggles and perseverance required to succeed.

Curt asks Kevin for his definition of manufacturing.

Kevin asserts, “Entrepreneurship is a knife fight in a ditch.”

Meanwhile, Curt questions the guest about the flip side of manufacturing.

Kevin reflects on the complexities of manufacturing in Alaska, a small market with a limited population. He acknowledges their challenges and unexpected obstacles, such as financing difficulties and navigating partnerships. Kevin sides with having a well-drafted operating agreement, comparing partnerships to marriages, and emphasizing the need for legal protection.

Despite setbacks, Kevin maintains a positive attitude, acknowledging that while some days may be challenging, he remains determined to succeed in the future.

Curt invites Kevin’s comments on the support he drew from his friends, family, and the overall network in launching his business.

Kevin acknowledges the support from his wife, friends, and team members in building his company. He mentions the resources available through organizations called SBA, MEP, and Warrior Rising, which provide valuable networking opportunities and assistance to veterans in entrepreneurship.

Kevin also admires individuals like Dr. Alyssa and Sammy, who are enthusiastic about working with entrepreneurs.

Curt desires to learn from Kevin about his company’s dreams, goals, and aspirations.

The guest discloses that “we’re on a good trajectory.” This year, Mountain Dog is expanding into the Northwest region and focusing on controlled growth. They invest in new machines to give impetus to their production and have a strong team.

Curt commends Kevin for his insightful and impactful comments, comparing them to “noisy goose,” a delicious home-cooked meal at a restaurant in Palmer, Alaska.

Curt asks the guests for any final thoughts, words of wisdom, or takeaways they want to share.

Dr. Alyssa takes the mic, admires Kevin as a data-driven manufacturer, and appreciates his comfort with processes and regulations, especially as a veteran. She highlights his ability to overcome hurdles and make progress. Alyssa mentions Kevin’s passion for data and commitment to ensuring Mountain Dog becomes a well-known nationwide brand.

As the session draws near to its conclusion, Kevin shares a story about visiting the Santa Claus house in Alaska with his kids and expresses gratitude. He mentions that Mountain Dog hires veterans and invites people to check out their products in major retailers and local shops. Contact information is available on their website.

Damon and Curt express gratitude to Kevin, Kassim, and Alyssa. Similarly, they thank the Alaska MEP, concluding positively about the day and week.

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55:08

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

alaska, kevin, mep, entrepreneur, dog, entrepreneurship, mountain, manufacturers, wife, give, veterans, cool, love, anchorage, good, treats, called, business, fly, company

SPEAKERS

Curt Anderson, Kevin Thompson, Kassim Kurani, Damon Pistulka, Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.

 

Damon Pistulka  00:00

There you go. All right, everyone. We’re getting things set up. And it’s we’re a couple minutes late today. But happy to be here today because Kurt Anderson is going to join me. He’s off camera right now, but he’s getting on and just shortly. I’m so excited because we’re hearing from the Alaska MEP today, we’ve had an awesome week out visiting Alaska manufacturers, talking to so many great entrepreneurs that are just out there creating their dreams and building their businesses. So let’s get started here because we’ve got constant Gorani here with us from the Alaska MEP, the Associate Director of the MVP in Alaska. How you doing today? Customer?

 

Kassim Kurani  00:39

We’re doing good. We’re figuring it out as we go today. So it’s been a bit of a morning I had the joy of you know, family life, children decided to throw a curveball at me because I had a button up on this morning and walking out the door my little one besides needed a hug and coffee everywhere. So we’re running late and getting it sorted.

 

Damon Pistulka  01:03

Yeah, but it’s awesome that because, you know, Kurt, I’m gonna I’m gonna put you back in the camera, dude. We’re gonna get getting back in the in the screen at least.

 

Curt Anderson  01:12

There’s a shiny head, right? Yeah. So all right. Hey, happy Friday. How’s everybody doing today? Damon? Once you tell everybody what’s been going on this week, man.

 

Damon Pistulka  01:22

Man, it’s just been something current. I was trying to think of this because we, I mean, how many manufacturers that we talked to this week? I don’t it’s a lot. Yeah. And how many places that we’ve been we were in Kenai we’re here in Anchorage, where Palmer we’re all around here. And and just driving around. We’ve talked about this many times. It’s there. And people think, oh, it’s fish processing or something like that? Well, we talked yesterday, or the day before, I don’t know you and I were talking about how much mining is going on on the other natural resources. And then just cool stuff that people are building because we’re in a place this week where they make Nordic ice skates, which I didn’t even know existed yet. But it really cool machining place. And he’s setting it up super high tech and just so much stuff going on. Yeah,

 

Curt Anderson  02:13

just, you know, food, or the food products that were that were different, you know, and that’s, of course, that’s your

 

Kassim Kurani  02:18

wheelhouse. That’s where I come from his restaurant industry, obviously. Absolutely.

 

Curt Anderson  02:21

So let’s, let’s, let’s dig right into foods. Like, you know, we had a couple of folks yesterday that were food manufacturers at the program. And you know, just you know, from your perspective, you know, longtime 20 year career really kind of, you know, grew up in it, you know, your since you’re five years old, but you know, longtime food career, you know, talk about, like your perspective of food manufacturing here in Alaska? Well,

 

Kassim Kurani  02:42

first thing is, I think it’s fantastic that they’re up here because the cost of a finalized good, the number one issue Alaska has in general is is shipping costs. And when you ship a finalized, good, the end of the day, you’re shipping water, which is just heavy. So having all of the manufacturers up here that we have plenty of water as a natural resource available here. But then to be able to bring and then create here so that really Alaskans have not only a sustainable food source, but a affordable food source. So we’re getting information on somebody coming in so you computer so now I’m seeing so you had over here and I went to school, so he’s supported by all the water and I’m happy now.

 

Damon Pistulka  03:30

Yeah, yeah, we’re getting

 

Kassim Kurani  03:34

set up and doing some

 

Damon Pistulka  03:35

other things today but Kurt, you’re gonna send the link to our other guests. They’re gonna join from their location and and get get things ready to go. And we’ve also got here just locked in the room. Dr. Elissa director of the lab be around comments tell us a little bit about the Alaska MEP and just why you’re excited about manufacturing in Alaska.

 

Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.  04:09

So forgive me for happening in the middle, but will the Alaska MEP we’ve been this one’s been around since July of 2018. And we exist to advance manufacturers we help them grow their sales, we help them cut costs become more efficient, help manage their supply chain if they’re really having struggles, you know, getting things in out, etc. And I am excited about manufacturing. And you know, I will I’ll spare you the whole journey there. But I I did not realize how much we manufacture here and the really fun variety of things that we manufacture. And so once I started to realize just how much we manufactured and and it’s not just you know, it’s not just stuff that people are making in their basements and garages like yeah, these are full blown, have existed for you know, years, maybe even decades manufacturers that we have manufactured works in Alaska. It’s not that people couldn’t use some help. I heard the other day said, you know, I have dreams so big. I could use some help. And I really liked that. Even if they’ve been around for decades. You know, they’ve got goals so big they could use some help.

 

Damon Pistulka  05:20

Let’s get let’s get curtain.

 

Curt Anderson  05:24

Dr. Elissa. Hey, Whitney Houston is here today with a good morning. I guess it’s after No, she’s in such as she’s in Houston. So

 

Damon Pistulka  05:32

it’s almost myocytes bad. So I’ve got to look into this. So we got we got Amos. We got Whitney. We got Maddie and towels here. Megan is thanks so much for being here.

 

Curt Anderson  05:44

So yeah, happy Friday, guys. But yeah, let’s, let’s dig into that. Okay, so I love you know, the thing I love about the MEPS is I call them dream support. Like every entrepreneur is basically pursuing a dream. It’s daunting, it’s challenging. Kasam I do, how did you keep your hair for 20 years? Because look what happened to me as an entrepreneur? How did you?

 

Kassim Kurani  06:06

Well, fortunately, I had my dad with me. So I had a great support structure. Yeah. I don’t know, maybe it’s just, maybe it’s just a blessing that yeah,

 

Curt Anderson  06:15

better jeans or something? I don’t know. But it is challenging going through that journey on your own and not having resources, you know, and you’re just you’re down head in the grindstone, and just, you know, grinding, but let’s talk about like, you know, Dream supporters, right. I mean, every you know, so yesterday, we had a wonderful little jam session. Thank you guys for inviting manufacturers from Alaska into Tina. And I put on a little workshop. And just each and every single one of them talked about there was a problem for themselves. They couldn’t find the product couldn’t find a solution. So what do they do? Cool, they invent their own product. And like, you know, they’re innovative, they’re creative, they’re just so inspiring. You know, so just as helping people support those dreams, and look at some of the testimonials we got yesterday, right? How do you feel like, you know, for a career being a drink? So yeah,

 

Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.  07:00

I mean, it really is one of the best things and that’s, you know, to not give you the whole journey, but that is how I found my way this direction, you know, started out as a research economist, love the data, still love the data. But we, you know, we give a presentation, or, you know, write an article about it. So it’d be like, Oh, this is awesome. What do I do with this? Where do I go? This is what my time looks like, how can I make it look like this. And that was just that was outside our scope, we really can’t speak to that we’re very objective. And I didn’t want to didn’t want to be subject anyone want to really be able to help and, you know, see what people want it to do and where they want it to go. Want it to be able to help. And so yeah, just kind of moved here and there until I got here. And it is absolutely, to see what people are able to do. And to know that you know, maybe you had some sort of small part in being able to help them get there. There’s nothing better.

 

Curt Anderson  07:54

Yeah, so yeah. So we’re out with a manufacturer of female undergarments yesterday day. And so talk a little bit about Lynne and what’s going on in the scoop and what are her What is she doing with her sales?

 

Damon Pistulka  08:08

Yeah, you know, it’s really cool because Lin Lin Hannah Lin had a challenge. She couldn’t find comfortable bras at work and she’s a nurse and she she made one for herself and the next thing you know she’s making up for friends and then more people that she doesn’t know that’s right and then she goes well maybe this could be a business right and now she’s seeing her business doubling every year and she’s gonna be a seven figure business before long right? And it’s really fun to talk to her and see and she’s she’s challenged the challenge is with how do I find seeing sources to do this how do I contemplate offshore manufacturing, inventory and logistics and all that stuff? Yeah, it’s really cool and watching her girl

 

Curt Anderson  08:50

right and I

 

Damon Pistulka  08:51

just say to that we found out yesterday too with when that Kurt may be a little bit hiking to go there bring it bring it was gracious Yeah, we also professional class.

 

Curt Anderson  09:17

Yeah, so we’re on a mountain yesterday no mind you you know I don’t know. Hey, how about this demon How about this comment here from Whitney Houston. I will always look right back at you my friend. You know you got me right here but first week and so So let’s dig into the situation with Lynn and so so to cover on Damon so we go on his big mountain hike yesterday and we’re like climbing this mountain and like Lynn and be like her walking down the sidewalk or parking lots like you know what, you know, walk in the park I’m like, Man, I don’t know I’m where I was like sneakers on. I’m like sliding all over it. It’s snowing up here June 1 and in Alaska. So So I’d like guys I don’t know about that. So anyway, so Damon next time we’re going to make it to the top but but but we did a consult we did a consulting session outdoors

 

Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.  10:09

on the mountain

 

Curt Anderson  10:13

I’ve done that and so Ryan live I don’t have mountains like this guys, if you could see the view that we might have to show the camera out there. But yeah, so you know what, during COVID I’ve started doing more, you know, when when there were opportunities. So, my I have a business partner, Nicole, and she ate here’s our guest.

 

10:34

So sorry about miscommunication guys.

 

Damon Pistulka  10:39

No worries. No worries.

 

Curt Anderson  10:41

Very Oh, very. Okay, Kevin’s in the house. Okay, so we were talking about Lynn, we’re going to come back to that. But we’ll segue segue into Kevin Yeah, just kind of finish that point. What we were talking about with Lynn yesterday is a small you know, solopreneur who now has employees getting off the runway, inventory management challenges HR, she needs a higher costume you’re coming you know you like this guy knows everybody here in Anchorage. So like he’s connecting her with other subject matter experts, but it’s just wonderful for you guys to come in and help you know, seeing what you guys have done in the testimonials like they’re almost in tears of like, how you felt these manufacturers moving the needle. So with that as our intro we’ve got Kevin, Kevin, how are you doing Happy Friday to you, man,

 

Kevin Thompson  11:25

man, it’s it is Friday. It is Friday. It’s the end of the end of the fires until Saturday.

 

Curt Anderson  11:36

Right there, right. We’re right there. So hey, that’s I’m we’re dying to hear about mountain dog and just let’s let’s go there right away. Well, first off, you know what, before we go there, I’m gonna give you a huge shout out. Thank you for serving our country. Proudly. You’re a war hero. And just let’s give a little background let the folks know about who is Kevin.

 

Kevin Thompson  11:58

So who is Kevin a constant irritation to his wife? Yeah, yeah. So no, I so I served in I served in Iraq in oh three and Oh, four. I yeah, I was injured overseas. I wanted to stay in the military. The Army told me they don’t play with their broken toys. And so they sit at home. I use my educational benefits to become a pilot. I became a helicopter pilot and I flew multiple missions. One of the one of the funnest missions I had was flying in a CH 54, which is a sky crane. Virus we were talking fires I flew in everywhere from Arizona all the way up into Alaska. Then then left there and worked with a little known government contracting company called Evergreen. And out of McMinnville, Oregon, worked on some government contracting with them. And then ended up meeting my wife. And my wife was a teacher, she is my exact opposite. She is a goody two shoes straight A student never gotten in trouble.

 

Curt Anderson  13:28

I’m sorry, Kevin, was that were you describing you or I got mixed up by that was that you were misunderstood that one.

 

Kevin Thompson  13:39

So So when when when we were engaged, people would pull her aside and say Do you know this means following you? So yeah, no, we have we have two beautiful kids now. So I continued to fly after we were married. And we were kind of seeing that we wanted to start a family. So we moved to Alaska because she was a teacher and I was a pilot. And so we moved up here. The helicopter industry was a little soft, and so I surefire to, to get into fixed wing. And so I started, I use some more GI Bill benefits and finish off my fixed wing training. And COVID kicked off, literally, the COVID the whole shutdowns and everything happened. I took my last multiengine test. In December and January, everything started kicking off weird. And so I was so I was kind of up a creek there. And so I went to a friend of mine and said, Hey, will you loan me money so I can flip a house? And so he loaned me some money so I could flip a house. I went bought a, a horrible crack house. And in and we almost completely tore everything down that I think there’s only a couple of there’s foundation left, and then we rebuilt it. And in the process of that my wife had bought one of these freeze dryers. And so we’ve played around with a little bit. And then I contracted COVID. I, it started out with a buddy called me and you know, the first week, I was feeling under the weather. He called me, he said, How are you feeling? Kevin and my mom’s nurse practitioner. And I said, you know, I’ve had worst hangover. So let’s keep going. And then, in one evening, my wife looked at me and she’s like, you don’t look right. And I, you know, in being a pilot, you learned about things like hypoxia, and, and when what the body does when it’s losing oxygen. And so I started checking what we call our capillary refill. And it just wasn’t looking right. So I said, Well, okay, I’ll go down to the ER, and I went down to the ER, within a couple hours, they had me on high flow oxygen, I spent a week on High flow oxygen. And I actually cleared that cleared of the COVID. But due to the medical protocol protocols, they were giving me they, they reduced my immune system, and I contracted an extremely aggressive bacterial pneumonia and developed PE, blood clot my lungs, which was very dangerous. So they pulled me in, they put me on a ventilator, they pulled my wife and and said, he’s not gonna make it. They will give him less than 40% chance. And so if I was there, I would have said, well, she was seeing my flip house. But But, yeah, so we’re, we’re, she’s sitting there. And I have an amazing life who just said, well, let’s continue going. And we’ll see where it goes. Let’s see what Kevin does. And so through a lot of prayer and faith and everything we got through that. I apparently, and I don’t remember this, but I apparently yanked my ventilator out, started screaming at nurses. And, and they, they rushed my wife back in to calm me down. And my wife is apparently this is what we were told by the doctors is the first spouse who was given 24 access to the hospital because it it was better when she was there when when she was not. And so apparently, I’m just I’m a horrible patient. Which is, yeah. So, yeah. So then we, we got out of there, we went to the pulmonologist pulmonologist said, hey, you know what, you’re probably never gonna fly again. And, and I don’t know if you know very many pilots, but like, man, it gets in your blood, and you want to fly. It’s a passion. Yeah. And so we, we looked at it and, and he said, and the doctor said, you know, you probably never be off of oxygen again, you’re gonna need to go home and sit and relax and rest and see if you can recover. I don’t sit. It’s just not something I do. So, to my wife’s horror, she found out she woke up to the sound of the treadmill turning on and, and we had an entry wreck downstairs, and she says, What are you doing? And he said, Well, if I’m gonna die, I’m gonna die on my feet. Like, let’s do this. And so I she made me a deal that I had to wear a pulse oximeter, and when my oxygen levels dropped below 90, I had to get off and recover. Said deal. So the first day, I could do it for three minutes. And then my goal every day was to get another minute. And so we had good weeks, we had bad weeks. It’s not like it was a straight up trajectory. But we had setbacks. We had frustrations, but I’m obviously not on oxygen today. I got to the point where I’m walking a consecutive 17 minute mile. And my goal is 15 to 16. But, and we’re running a company. So, yeah. So it started in our basement, moved to our garage from our garage out to a shop and from a shop out to our final location.

 

Curt Anderson  20:15

Wow, man, how about that four story that we need to take a breath? Man I just who just feels like they’re on a roller coaster right there. So I so spoiler alert, you survived COVID. Right, because you’re here with us today. So obviously, so how about a round of applause? Thank you for serving our country. Thank you for being a war hero. And again, boy, what a tough and you know, the term COVID Yeah, this is a story. There’s a story of resiliency. So Kevin, let’s so you’re kind of the accidental entrepreneur, if you will, I don’t know is that a good term that you’re like, hey, let’s start doing this dog tree thing. Like What? What? Let’s take us take us there share, like, how does the company get started? And let’s get that party rollin.

 

Kevin Thompson  20:55

So I’ve got a German Shepherd and my wife, well, my wife has a German Shepherd, and she likes. And so she’s in this Facebook group with all these German Shepherd owners, and they’re all feeding raw diets, and they’re all doing this stuff. And I and I said, you know, we should use our freeze dryer just to freeze your their food because it would reduce their refrigerant costs, or their freezer costs. And so a couple of them that we started doing that on the side, and one of them who sell some really high end dogs was a friend said, you know, Kevin, you should turn this into a business, the and he said, the one thing the industry doesn’t have is a solid treat. Like there’s a lot of there’s a lot of mom and pops out there. There’s a lot of kind of smaller companies who will produce one off kind of treats, but it’s hard to get consistency. It’s hard to get quantity. It’s not an every person treat. Having a background in business, as well as being a pilot. They he said, you know, Kevin, you should do that. So reached out to some friends of mine who are veterinarians, we, we talked, one of them’s a former Army Ranger, and he runs a veteran veterinary hospital called tier one here in the Valley. And we just started talking and he said, you know, Kevin, this is an amazing idea. He said, he said, it has to be said it has to solve a problem. So we went through the the areas of business business has to solve a problem. So what problem am I solving? Well, there, there is not a single ingredient, Sam and treat that is healthy, healthier than mine on the market right now. With the amount of proteins and Omega fats, and using skin, bone and everything, the way we process it down to a specific size, so that it’s palatable for every single dog. There’s nobody who does what we do. So we solved the problem. We identified a need, we solved the problem. And now Now we’ve we’ve allowed a market to create itself. One of the things that within within dog training within some very serious dog circles, they’ll tell you do not feed treats. The reason they’re telling you not to feed treats is is because the amount of junk that is in a lot of these treats that’s on the market. People don’t want to just feed their dog one tree, the dog was happy so they want to make it happy again, so they feed it another tree. So this dog falling around wagging his tail all day getting shoved really bad things down its throat. Now if it was a once in a while thing, it probably wouldn’t matter. But because it’s their overfeeding traits so what we did is we took a salmon paste and we shaped it and molded it into the shape of a fish. So the the first when we were kind of developing it my wife came in and she’s like No, it’d be funny as if you made it like little goldfish. She goes everybody is their dog, their dog their kid she’s like I have goldfish in my center console make it into a fish shake. So we’re difficult

 

Curt Anderson  24:21

every nook and cranny of the car knows

 

Kevin Thompson  24:25

exactly goldfish and Cheerios I kid that’s what my wife

 

Damon Pistulka  24:28

exactly right.

 

Kevin Thompson  24:31

So we so we looked at it and we I didn’t want to run into any kind of issues with the with Nabisco and goldfish and all that. So we said you know what’s more, a little more Alaskan. So we’re shaped more or we’re shaped like a salmon. And so we created mountain dog we started to put it together. We did some proof of concept. Some prototyping, sent it out to farmers markets and as the information started coming back on what was selling what wasn’t we started to refine our process. And, and then we came up with and then I sat down and we kind of penciled out what I wanted for a logo. We had somebody put together the logo for us, and some of the bags and stuff like that. And then and then we just kind of took off from there.

 

Curt Anderson  25:27

Okay, and so I want you hit on something I want to dig into your website, please. At your website, they came out and Kate mountain dog is in first off, you’ve got a great story, your background and you know how you serve and everything. So you know, guys, I strongly encourage you to perfect about can you check that link? Yeah, check the link in the chat. So we’re going to drop your website in the chatbox for you. And so definitely check out Kevin’s website, you want to check out the branding, dig in, you have like super cool branding, you know, like, you know, you’re this army veteran guy, you’re flying helicopters all over, like, talk a little bit about like, how did you get into the the whole look and feel I just I think it looks fantastic. Everybody that we’ve shown just absolutely loves your website, you know, get into you know, so for a manufacturer out there is like, Hey, man, I’m really enjoying this story, I want to kind of get this going, like, go take us there, like how you got the branding going from that perspective.

 

Kevin Thompson  26:24

So, branding branding is. So I have a dad who’s an artist, and a former Army Ranger. And so I always grew up being able to see the difference between good art and bad art. Branding should tell who you are. without it being too in your face. And so So mountain dog mountain dog was born out of the, the term mountain dog was born out of the two things that I love is running through the mountains with my wife and my kids. And we love our dog. And, and it kind of came together, the branding portion, you know, if you can’t do it, hire it done. And so we sent out for four, we knew what we wanted it to look like. But you know, this goes down to a principle, if you’re going to do something, do something great. And do one thing, great. So it started with, okay, this is what we want our name to be, this is what we want our logo to be. And then this is the look and feel of the bags that we’re looking for. And so one of the agencies that came back and suggests made some suggestions. And the biggest thing about being an entrepreneur is is learning how to listen to suggestions. The To be honest, a bagging is the way we were going to go. But it wasn’t a bad thing. So it’s one of those things where you’re looking at it and you’re like, that’s not exactly where I was gonna go with it. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. So don’t don’t let perfect be the you know, don’t let perfect be the enemy of progress. So, so it was, it was equally good to what we were going to do. So it was something we could do.

 

Curt Anderson  28:21

Yeah. Okay. I think there were like three mic drop moments in there. Right? Did you catch? I know you guys catch them all. So let’s, let’s let’s unpack a couple things. Alright, so Done is better than perfect, right? Don’t let perfect hit progress. How often do you guys see like clients that you’re working with? I’ll start with you. Like, do you run into that? Or like what do you any advice when you see feel people are getting caught up on something?

 

Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.  28:43

Oh, wow, advice. And when they get I mean, I think is this going in the right direction, you know, you can always pivot you can always iterate on to the next version and that sort of thing. But, but and we actually do see that a lot. We see a lot of folks who started out with one package. And it is it is right for the moment and then as they grow Okay, well now I you know, now I can’t be slapping a label on every one of these I need to go to a different kind of so we do see that where like a lot of our manufacturers do understand that that you need to kind of make that progress every once in a while we find somebody gets hung up and try and remind them you can change later you’re not stuck. Yeah. You know, it’s best to be set up right when when you start but for some guys, it’s just too it’s too big a bite to take right now. So take the bite you can take and then and then iterate

 

Curt Anderson  29:27

right now. So that’s one of the demons superpowers don’t sweat the small stuff, right? No,

 

Damon Pistulka  29:31

I love what you’re saying, Kevin because you know, you gotta go. I don’t care if I don’t have the perfect jacket. It’s time to go outside. It’s you just got to go sometimes. And that’s cool. That’s cool. Right? You just said listen to somebody else do.

 

Kevin Thompson  29:48

Yeah. And that’s that’s the advantage of, you know, working with fellow veterans. Is is we were not always given all the tools that we need. Yeah. But we’re given the tools that we have. And we have to complete a mission. One of the reasons I in backing up a minute, like when I looked at this company, one of the things, and I’m adamant about this, and the way that I look at entrepreneurship and starting businesses is benchmark off of somebody else. So find somebody who’s doing something similar. Look at what worked, what look, what didn’t work, even make yourself a chart. And then and then say, Okay, how does this apply to us? So, my benchmark is black rifle Coffee Company. I looked at what Evan did, and what Matt and Evan and all of them did over there. They did an awesome job. They’ve got a cool company. Yep. But I don’t want to replicate what they did. But I want to use some of the things they did. So we that’s why we have a subscription network on our website. That’s why we went after some social media stuff and trying to but what I saw was, is I could shift fire, and change your position. And we went more to the b2b. So we started going after businesses right away. Because right now social media has kind of played itself out in a lot of different sectors. And so it’s a harder space to get into, it’s a more expensive space to get into, it was a right space for when Evan and Matt and those guys were doing it. Because it was mass exposure for a little about little amounts of money. Right now, I mean, Facebook, you’re gonna pay, on average, $4 a click. So that for a young company, that’s that’s not necessarily a good avenue, but LinkedIn and some of these other cursors Yeah, we could get through there. And we could do really well through there. There’s, there’s another platform called range mean, you have to pay for it. But it’s also a good platform that gives you an opening into buyers. So we, we were able to benchmark off of an existing company, and see what they were doing that we wanted to do. Obviously, we’re a little more family friendly than they are, they’re a little more, you know, veteran jokes, which they’re, they’re outrageous, but we being the dog market and more in the household with, you know, picket fence and Golden Retrievers we, we needed to skew a little more the other direction. But yeah, you know, I, I’ll tell you this, entrepreneurship has an image problem right now. It’s the guys on social media, driving fast cars and living in big houses. That’s that’s the, that’s the whole full potential end of entrepreneurship. The beginning of entrepreneurship is standing in the rain. When everybody’s told you you’re an idiot. And, and having the self awareness and self courage to continue to.

 

Curt Anderson  32:59

Kevin, could you please explain to the folks what is your definition of entrepreneurship? Hands down the best definition I’ve ever heard you please enlighten everybody.

 

Kevin Thompson  33:12

Well, it Trump. Entrepreneurship is a knife fight in the ditch. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. Worship is a knife fight in a ditch.

 

Curt Anderson  33:23

Entrepreneurship is a knife fight in a ditch. Dude, when you told me that. I found the floor the other day when you told me that is one of the foot. So first off, we got Hey, guys, thank you for joining us today. We’ve got Samuel on here today. We’ve got a veiled shot to a great line here. Best origin story. Her cats are jealous. Yeah. Hello for today. So guys, Kevin and no, we got Hello here from Kenya and Kenya. So guys, Kevin Thompson from grill from mountain dog. And, you know, Army Veteran war hero and just a resilient entrepreneur. Kevin, as you get this party started, you know, when you started your knife fight in the ditch? What were any expectations that you have that have been like that exceeded your expectations or other things that maybe that you didn’t see coming? Like what the there’s two questions in there. Were there things that you that exceeded your expectations? And on the flip side, were there things that you didn’t realize as an entrepreneur what you’re getting into

 

Kevin Thompson  34:30

so it’s things that we didn’t realize? We just the complexities of doing manufacturing in Alaska and in trying in new banking environments where you’re trying to raise money. You’re nobody you’re trying to raise money. You we’ve here in Alaska, people don’t realize that Alaska only has about 750,000 people. So we’re The size of a small, small to medium sized town anywhere in the rest of the United States. And we’re half the size of the United States. So if you if you delineate it down further to Anchorage in the valley where we live, you’re only talking maybe three 350,000 people. So, so we’re a small town, and I’m running around a small town trying to create a business. It’s a nationwide business. So that that that offers some complexity. But But given that, you know, you hear all these cliches in business, but there’s some truth to it is is where where a problem is, there’s also an opportunity. And so things that we didn’t see coming was the difficulty in in financing the operation, the difficulty in putting everything together, honestly, the difficulty of dealing with partners, when they come in when they go. I can’t stress this enough to anybody out there starting a business. Partnerships are like marriages. The only difference is, is it well, in some people do it marriage too, but the only difference is, is have a good contract. Have a lawyer, the cheapest document you will ever write is your operating agreement.

 

Damon Pistulka  36:21

Yeah, yeah.

 

Kevin Thompson  36:23

And so you know, it’s a, you’re going along, you’re trying to do your best you don’t, you don’t know what you don’t know. And part of being an entrepreneur. And the reason I say it’s a knife fight in a ditch, is because you just have to stay on your feet. And you have to keep fighting, no matter what happens. And, and there’s times where you’re, you come home and you’re just like, Man, I lost beg today. But tomorrow, I’m gonna win.

 

Curt Anderson  36:55

Yeah, yeah. I love that. So again, hey, we got some great comments. Yes, the cool state. So you know, entrepreneurship is a knife fight in that ditch. Say your knife, I dance into the weekend. So that’s absolutely awesome. Leno from New Jersey in the House, John may connect with Kevin on LinkedIn. And so we’re having a great chat, guys, drop us a note, let us know that you’re out there. So entrepreneurship, you know, new to you, you know, again, Army Veteran and entrepreneurship was not really on your radar per se. We were talking right before you popped in we were talking about how you know folks like the Alaskan VP there’s a so many resources for entrepreneurs out there that they just don’t fully realize, you know, guys, some lifelong entrepreneur, you didn’t realize there’s you know, that the MVP network, you know, we talked about it constantly. How important is events you have like, you know, it takes a village to raise a child it takes a really strong village to raise a bit of business. How important has been to for like resources, your network, you know, our dream, supporting friends here at Alaska, BP just talking about like, how friends family, what’s it look like to get this thing off the ground for you?

 

Kevin Thompson  38:01

So, you know, it’s it. First of all, the most important thing you’ve learned as an entrepreneur is not to point your finger at yourself, point your finger around. So I don’t I didn’t build this company. My my wife supported me. My friends stood next to me. They worked when nobody else when it couldn’t pay anybody else. People like Alyssa Rodriguez who we love to death. Yeah, she she came in to ball of energy, and just said, Hey, guys, let’s start working. And so there’s a we have our my CEO who handles all my operations. He’s here today. But he, we Yeah, he’s a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant. And he just knows one speed and that’s full speed ahead. So we win when we get after things we just get after him. And so the thing is, is there’s a lot of resources between SBA, MEP, all these different resources, there’s a great program called warrior rising, that you can link that other veterans can link up through. They have a CEO accelerator course you sit there and for two hours every week, you hear from other veterans who’ve made it in entrepreneurship and CEOs and those and you you can you can go through those things. So it’s, it’s networking within the resources that are out there, MEP is a wealth of information. When it comes to I mean, there’s there’s times where I’m, I call Melissa and I’m like, hey, does this fit in your box like does this do I give this information to you or I have a proposal for something cool does that make And most of us, like that’s awesome here, give it to these people like, Oh, thank you. So so like, that’s the thing is, is developing open lines of communication with all these agencies and finding those people that and I don’t see Sammy in the room but CMEs the other person was and Sammys energy. She is just so excited to work with entrepreneurs. She’s awesome.

 

Curt Anderson  40:26

Yeah, but we certainly agree. And we were as a matter of fact, Daymond I had dinner with Sammy Joe last night and Palmer what a breathtaking community Palmer izvor I believe you’re at and so kudos to you. We didn’t want to leave but is absolutely stunning. But I want to dig into like your resources. And Kevin, I think you’re hitting on ahead and do and when united spoke. You made a really profound point. And I’m going to tell you, I was right there with your brother. You know, whenever he heard something government related, I hate to admit it, you know, like skepticism. I’m an entrepreneur. I don’t need help, man. anybody listening? That’s an entrepreneur. I couldn’t encourage you invite you welcome you to dispel that myth. In Reach out. You mentioned SBDC SBDC. Here is right down the break down the hall here from the MEP. If you guys if you’re just joining us, I just want to do quick introductions for friends that are joining us again, drop us a note let us know that you’re here. But we have Dr. Lissa Rodriguez, we’re here at the Alaska last MEP in Anchorage we’ve got Kasam Kumari karate karate man I was I’ve been practicing all week and I was hoping to get that right so lifetime entrepreneur who just joined the Alaska me P team. It just brings a wealth of experience and and I think you guys know that guy over there. So how about Gail Johnson? No. Great. So I got an issue. Whoa, curtain Damon in the same room as Wow. Wow, seven

 

Damon Pistulka  41:47

honestly, this? You don’t know this. But this is I think this is the first damn time we’ve been in the same room doing this, isn’t it?

 

Curt Anderson  41:55

Well, Monday, well, this week, for Friday, so Kevin, just so you know, like I don’t I’m not sure we’re on like episode 200. And something. Yeah. And so this week, thanks to our dear friend, Dr. Elissa Rodriguez, we Damon. I’ve been in Alaska all week. We’ve been doing lives all week, we’ve been doing e commerce workshops. And it’s just been such a gift, a blessing, I probably get choked up. We’ve been talking about like how much we appreciate you guys so much. And just you know, you took us to your networking meeting this week, we got to go out to dinner with their, with their spouses this week. So I’d say guys, you know, COVID really changed. You know, you kind of took these things for granted during COVID. It was just like, oh, what I did this to that. But now like I like I’m 54 I have like a whole new, profound appreciation for like doing this. And here we are, I don’t know how many 1000s of miles away I am from home, but to do all this stuff in person. And you know, what a gift to like, spend a week with you. And we’ve been doing live. So we’ve been doing these virtually for, you know, three years now. 200 episodes, and we finally got to do these in person. So,

 

Damon Pistulka  42:59

but I tell you what, Kevin, we’re back here next time. We got to go hang out. Yeah. I was, oh, it’s gonna be good.

 

Curt Anderson  43:06

We got a solid cabinet. I was telling David. I’m like, Man, wait to meet Kevin. On Friday. So I know we’re coming into time. I want to I don’t want to keep everybody. Kevin just any words of man, I want to recap a couple of things. You know, listen, get resources, get the get the support system in place. Where where is your company, your dream, your goal? What are your aspirations? Just hear like, where’s mountain dog going this year?

 

Kevin Thompson  43:33

So this year mountain dog is expanding into the Northwest. So we were making moves to be in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and potentially Utah. We’re, we’re managing control growth. That is that is I can’t state that enough as is no one to say no. So managing control growth and and pushing on through there. So we’re hoping we’re hoping to see a fairly large growth this year. We’re buying new machines we have new machines coming in to increases our capacity. So overall, yeah, we’re we’re on a good trajectory. We’re we’re we’ve got growth and we’ve got the right team in place it in that’s I can’t stress that enough is the right team. Making sure that we have the right guy in operations, the right guy and finance the right guy in the in business development. All of those things to make sure that we have the cohesive team that’s moving forward in one movement. Yeah.

 

Damon Pistulka  44:55

Are at it. Tell you what, Kevin, you are. You’re at are down in the Washington area. I haven’t seen it north to Seattle. You got to get together. Yeah.

 

45:05

So

 

Damon Pistulka  45:07

this Kevin, I want to see

 

Curt Anderson  45:09

Hey, Kevin, do you ever go to dinner at that noisy goose by any chance and Palmer ever eaten dinner?

 

Kevin Thompson  45:15

So we usually get breakfast there. So we’re running out. We were using running all different directions. Morning. So noisy goose is a is a favorite.

 

Curt Anderson  45:27

So the call if you’re still out there, so we know. So Kevin, on the show, we had like, we do lot of like, dude, you’ve had tons of mic drop out here. You know, got it in a number of one liners. You just just heard the queers hanging over Lessard. So this is just awesome. A lot of awesomeness that you just dropped. So what we’d like to say is like, you know, when somebody just drops, like just a golden nugget. It’s like, remember when you go to grandma’s for Sunday dinner, just like nobody made dinner better than grandma. Like you just kind of savor whatever she made. Well, man, a noisy goose is like a restaurant in Palmer, Alaska, if you ever have a chance, and it’s like, great. It’s like going to Grandma’s and Sunday dinners, and oh, my goodness, it was so good. Like, dude, your comments, it was like hanging out at the noisy, gooey, savory, just a good home cooked meal at the noisy goose in Palmer, Alaska. So let’s do this costume. Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom that you have or just any takeaways from Kevin here? Well,

 

Kassim Kurani  46:24

I enjoyed when I got to go out and tour his facility, the setup that they have the mentality for growth was fantastic. And I will tell you, so my wife is in nutrition. Her family bred and raised police dogs for years. Yeah. And it has been impossible to get her to find something Kevin gave us a sample of his treats. We’re now lifelong customers. It was just amazing. The fact that she just and she’s going off telling everybody about it. So there’s an extent to which the treat you know, the product done right. for the right reasons. The way Kevin is approached, it almost sells itself. Yeah, I know, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes there. But it’s just it’s a ton of fun to be able to be a part of and right there along.

 

Curt Anderson  47:10

So Kevin, I don’t know if you’ve picked up on that. So we’re not necessarily providing awesome dog treats. You’re you’re providing marriage counseling, because happy wife. Right? So you’re just you’re really bringing the home. And for the record, I can affirm that because we were out to dinner with Constantine and his wife, Tiffany. And she shared that she is a customer for life. She loves your product. And she’s a dog fanatic. And we really bonded over that. So thank you. Any other any other comments from the tour? Anything else you want to share for Kevin?

 

Kassim Kurani  47:38

Oh, no, I think that he’s got, you know, he was out in front of me just about everything, I’d start bringing up something and he just take it to the next step. So it’s fun to see somebody who’s done, done his research continuously doing his homework. And we had a conversation about that don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. We were talking about. What was the line that small daily progress leads to staggering long term results. We had a long conversation about that. And yeah, so I just love the mentality that they’re working with.

 

Curt Anderson  48:12

Awesome. What man what an inspiration. And you know what, and I hate to say like, I have little like jealousy right now, like I I’ve been a lifelong entrepreneur, I wish I had half of the wisdom in the you have and you’ve been going at it for eight months. So I changed my career. But any any comments, parting thoughts, words of wisdom for our show here?

 

Alyssa Rodrigues, Ph.D.  48:33

Yeah, I mean, Kevin’s just been so fantastic to work with and, and, you know, he and I were having a conversation the other day, and I think that he is the most, you know, data driven manufacturer that that I’ve had the pleasure of working with thus far. And and we were kind of talking about how not not only that, but in being a veteran, the comfort with process and regulations and that sort of thing and just how important that’s been in terms of being able to keep making progress. You’re not intimidated by needing to kind of overcome this hurdle and that sort of thing. You you know that you can do it, you’re just going to find your way through it with whatever tools you’ve got. But man at being like a data lover at heart, yeah. And someone with numerous math driven tattoos like to be so aware of where you are and where you’re going and have that be so data driven, I think is just, it is and you really, it’s, it’s all part of, I think what’s going to just drive mountain dog to being a nationwide well known brand.

 

Curt Anderson  49:46

So just do look at who you’re inspiring where you know, up here in Alaska, you know, we’ve heard this week there’s a lot of challenges. You know, I hate to say disadvantages, but there are logistical challenges being in the great state of Alaska and you’re just defining Those ads so, boy if anybody out there everybody out there has been sitting here when Nicole says your resiliency is amazing. Let’s greet this video. We’ve got great show. How about Thumbs up for Kevin? Dude, you’re getting all sorts of love here in the chat box. So again guys connect with Kevin on LinkedIn Do yourself a favor for your favorite furry friend in your life stop by his website make that purchase member happy life happy wife. Is that how that goes? So go that route. If you guys have been sitting down for the past however many minutes we are going at it. It’s a great time if you guys want to stand up and stretch and how about give a huge standing ovation for Kevin Thompson from Mountain Dog, fearless entrepreneur and Damon, any takeaways, what are your thoughts here?

 

Damon Pistulka  50:47

You know, I just want to first of all, thanks for being here today. Kevin, man, I just if we should have stopped by his place. We shouldn’t come to him. But yeah, no doubt. But thanks for being here today. And I also want to thank the Alaska MEP for for you guys hosting us as we write, it has been an incredible experience to be able to go out and see the entrepreneurs and it’s think about the manufacturing and see the manufacturing going on in Alaska, right? So many cool things up here. And you guys are making it happen and helping helping entrepreneurs like Kevin, you know, get the pieces in place, do the things I have and you know, it just it’s incredible. Thank you so much. Right apps and

 

Curt Anderson  51:31

ai f1. So hey, I gotta give her a big screen. So this has been and guys, you know, for those of us on LinkedIn, like an ICU, I don’t know if you ever heard me saying this relationship, this relationship, this relationship that really all of you guys out there is because of LinkedIn. So tell friends, family, boy, you want to be you know, I wouldn’t be here in Alaska if it weren’t for this wonderful, beautiful woman right here. And so, okay, Kevin, parting thoughts, words of wisdom, my friend.

 

Kevin Thompson  52:00

So I’m on our way back from a show in Fairbanks just last weekend. There is a place in Alaska called the North Pole. And at the North Pole, there is Santa Claus his house. And of course my kids said Hey, Dad, we want to go give Santa some dog treats. They were thrilled to death when Santa called the company and gave his report zit, his dog Otis loves our salmon. No, just a thank you to the Santa Claus house in North Pole for making my kids day. And yeah, check us out. We’re, you know, we’re a bunch of crazy veterans. I tell everybody, you know, we we hire veterans because we all speak a different language. It is. It’s a village. It’s a dysfunctional village. But it’s our village. So, so yeah, check us out. We’re, we’re in in a bunch of major retailers in Alaska and Hawaii. We’re in Fred Myers. We’re at local shops all around Alaska. And if you ever have any questions, jump on the website, shoot us an email, give us a call. And we’ll be great.

 

Damon Pistulka  53:19

Oh, yeah.

 

Curt Anderson  53:22

You know, thanks for this event in Vail just dropped the mic for us Sansa Oh, approved now. So absolutely. I have we’re getting more prayers and so for Santa Santa Santa Cruz to get that right on the packaging. So Kevin, thank you, my friend we miss we wish you just massive success. We know that you are super super busy. I appreciate you taking the time to hang out with us on our show. Thank you for you know what you’re doing with the Alaska MEP and inspiring other you know, can be should be will be entrepreneurs around the great State of Alaska. So, guys, we’re gonna wind down and, boy. What a great show, man. What a great week. Thank you guys. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Kevin. out there. So we’ll catch you Daymond man, it’s gonna be kind of a letdown. We’re back on Rebecca. I’m back in my basement. Hanging out my pajamas. Okay, all right, guys, guys. God bless everybody. Kevin hanging out with us for one second.

 

Damon Pistulka  54:23

Take it away, dude. All right. Well, then I’m gonna drop the mic on here. Thanks, everyone for being here today. Thanks so much, Kevin from Mountain dock. Wow. Love when I see veterans doing what they do. And and just love it that we get the people back every week. Those people that are popping comments, thank you for that people that are listening right in their car, do whatever the things you got to do, but just thanks so much for being here. And I’ll say it once again. Thanks so much for the awesome people, the Alaska MEP, and Mr. Kurt Anderson. Great day great week. I just

 

Curt Anderson  55:00

speechless I agree Have a great week weekend see you

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