It's not too good to be true.
We love supporting veteran-owned businesses, especially when they give back to the community. Yesterday, Redline Steel founder and owner Colin Wayne took to Instagram with superstar Megan Fox to announce that this Memorial Day, they'll be donating $2M worth of products to the military community. Keep reading to find how to claim yours.
Colin Wayne on Instagram: “@meganfox / @redlinesteel and I partnered up to create a Memorial Piece and plan to donate over $2M in product
While this offer sounds extreme, serving the military community is embedded in who Wayne is. WATM sat down with Colin to talk about everything from his military career, his close encounter with death in Afghanistan, his pivot to creating home decor, lessons in entrepreneurship and what this community means to him.
WATM: Alright man. First question: Tell us how your military career started. Like the early stuff.
Wayne: It started with JROTC. And you know, most people would say it's kind of nerdy, my brother -- even he was a nerdy guy -- but I loved, I did the Raider team because it was the Army side and I genuinely enjoyed it. I gave up sports to do all of that and a lot of my friends. I was criticized to a degree on that, but it was a tight knit bond. It was a good culture. We had a solid program. We had Colonel Walker, he was the O6 and then we had a first Sergeant Jones. Great examples, great leadership and that was kind of the early adaptive days of joining the military was through that.
I actually dropped out of high school and got my GED. I got held back in first grade, so I did first grade twice. I was already kind of older in my class. And then I got kicked out of my mom's house. I wasn't a bad kid, but I didn't listen. I was stubborn by nature. And so she'd ground me and I'd just walk out the front door and be like, 'Okay, mom,' and just do whatever I wanted. The first thing that I ever had as a kid was, "I'll do it myself." And that's was literally my first sentence ever that I put together is what my mom says was, "I'll do it myself." And so I've always had that mentality of that exact statement.
WATM: You dropped out of high school?
Wayne: I got kicked out of my mom's, moved in with my dad. I was mid-junior year and I ended up going from block schedule to seven periods and it was going to hold me back an entire year. We didn't find that out until midway through the semester. And at this point, I was just about to be 17. I didn't want to be 19 years old and graduate high school. That sounds horrible. I didn't like school as it was. And so I convinced my parents to emancipate me and ended up getting my GED and joining the military a few days after my 17th birthday.
Wayne: I enlisted as Military Police in 2006. When I graduated from AIT, for the military police school, OSUT training, I came back to my unit and I remember the first thing, me and my brother were both in the same unit. It was 128 Military Police Company. And we had a unit that was deployed to Iraq at that time. And this was in '07 and there they were there from '07 to '08, but they needed a backfill -- they had to backfill 10 slots. They needed 10 MPs and five medics. He was a medic. I was an MP. We both volunteered to go backfill, basically people that were severely wounded and injured.
That's one of the first things that I remember as kind of an early private, volunteering to go to that. They ended up, I don't know, maybe they pulled from another battalion to make up that info strength, but we ended up not going. And I ended up transitioning to another battalion and going to Egypt for Operation Brightstar about six months later.
That was an incredible deployment to Cairo, West Egypt. Civilian clothes the whole time. And I did a cruise on the Nile River, got to see the Sphinx, got to see the pyramids. We went shopping in some of the plazas there. We had to have Egyptian police escorts. And there's a platoon of those guys, but we definitely stood out like a sore thumb. We still had to wear high and tights and shades. We definitely looked like we did not belong there.
WATM: Hilarious. Not to jump ahead here, but I do want to get to the Redline stuff. Was Afghanistan your next deployment?
Wayne: No, Iraq. Iraq in '09 and '10. And then Afghanistan 2012.
WATM: And you were wounded in Combat? Can you tell us a a little bit more about your injury, recovery, some of the struggles that you had and how that changed you.
Wayne: Yes. It was May 3, 2012 and I was in the Paktika province, which is right near Pakistan. And it was, I would say it's another traditional day. Spring fighting had just started a couple of months before that March. At that point, I was at a base called FOB Boris, which has been shut down. Our base got overran twice, to kind of paint a picture, with Taliban, literally on the inside of our base. We got rocketed. May 3 in particular, we had at least three or four IDF attacks prior to this point, so it was kind of just happening throughout the entire day.
I was in the gym and I heard the IDF alarm siren going off. And my thinking was, 'I'm in a concrete structure,' and you don't have long -- you've got seconds to make a decision. 'Okay. I'm not outside. I'm in somewhat of a secured location.' It's a small gym. It's literally the size of half of a single wide trailer, to kind of give you perspective. You could easily throw a tennis ball and hit the other wall with very little effort. And so I started running to the middle of the gym because there was two big open wood doors and so I just went to the middle. There was concrete on all sides, except the roof. The roof was just a normal structured roof, no concrete. My thinking really, really quick was, 'Hey, if this explodes, shrapnel is going to come, I've got to get away from the weakest points, which are the doors.' And so I ran and it was essentially a direct impact on me. I ran right where the rocket exploded and it was like three and a half feet from me.
WATM: Oh %&*#.
Wayne: Right. So you know how big the concrete cylinders that they have, those concrete blocks, like a traditional one. They're not wide, but it was a direct impact on the corner of that building, right in the middle, dead center. And it was right under that corner structure. It took out a quarter of the wall, right at the very top corner and you can see shrapnel and the roof was caved in. And if it would have been a couple of inches lower, because you've got to think, the concrete barrier's only like 15 inches.
If it wouldn't have hit that, it would have been literally a direct impact right where I was running to. And so I just say it's through the grace of God I survived and was shielded. And I sustained nerve damage at L1 through L3. And my back had to have lumbar block fusion surgery for it. I had shrapnel that went all the way through my leg and had to have six months of physical therapy for it. I have permanent tinnitus in my left ear and then treated for TBI. And then I was medevaced twice. The first time we were still under fire. And then we were also a fire support team as well. There's about 85 people on the entire base. It's pretty small. And we were returning fire as incoming rounds were coming in and two Black Hawks, just like you'd see on a movie, flew in while rounds are coming in, we're shooting back at them.
And you know, obviously, I don't know what the hell is going on. They ended up flying me through a Black Hawk, with priority to Bagram and then they did full CT scans and x-rays and all kinds of different testing there, to figure out what was going on. Come to find out the, I guess the, whoever the, what do they call them? Crew chiefs? Or the medics on the helicopter? They gave me too much morphine. And obviously I don't remember any of that, but it depletes your white blood cell count and restricts your oxygen flow. And that's what ended up happening. It took three days for that to recover back to normal rates without oxygen. And I had to do breathing treatments from all the dust and debris. To kind of paint a more vivid picture of the incident, I remember that I blacked out -- I remember regaining consciousness. I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. I knew I was hit, but I didn't know the impact. I could feel something dripping from my leg, but I couldn't see it. It's pitch black; we're a blackout FOB. And I was yelling for a medic, but nobody would come.
And I think mentally what hurt the most is I was working out with a couple of battle buddies and they left. I was there by myself and it felt like, I would say realistically, like 20, 30 minutes, it definitely was not that long. But you know, when you're going through that, it felt like eternity. I'm sitting in pain. I don't know what's going on. My ears are ringing. It's just a crazy scenario. And you know, I remember yelling for a medic and 'I'm hit,' and I just kept saying it, 'Medic, medic!'
And I couldn't -- I tried to stand up, but I couldn't see anything. I literally couldn't see anything. And then they came in, they had flashlights and I actually have the raid tower footage. One of those Raytheon towers that go up 107 feet, we have the actual footage of them carrying me out of the gym, so it's kind of cool. They sent me the CD. They mailed it to me when I got home.
WATM: That's kind of hilarious.
Wayne: And it says 'Superman returns.'
WATM: It's good that you can watch it.
Wayne: Yeah, I love it.
WATM: You pull that out at the parties?
Wayne: I think that helps mental fortitude to get past something like that. It's one of those pivoting moments that you can either adapt and overcome it, or you're going to let that absorb you. And that really defines you as a person, is how you adapt to that comfortability. Even openly talking about it. It doesn't bother me. It's just a chapter and we're past it and I can block it off and keep going.
WATM: Did that end your Army career, at that moment?
Wayne: No, I came back and transitioned into recruiting and I really enjoyed my time in recruiting. I did a photoshoot with a local photographer, right when I got done doing my physical therapy. Started a Facebook page and it started to go viral, so I had over a hundred thousand followers in the first 30 days of having the page. And you know, I'm just a guy from Alabama. I didn't know what the hell I was doing. I got a change of lifestyle discharge.
WATM: And at that point, had you considered bodybuilding and modeling?
Wayne: I didn't know what to expect. I'll be honest, but I was making about three times more than the Army was paying me. And I was just like, 'Man.' I didn't know if it was going to be a career, but it was working and I was like, 'Why not focus on this? This is really cool.' Within the first six months, I had over a million followers across social media and I just kept leveraging that and growing it and then what a lot of people don't know is I actually own five other pages within the fitness space on Facebook and have over 4.2 million followers on it.
And so I leveraged it to grow my personal brand. And so I started to understand the power of social media. If I could go back, I would have done things a little bit different. I would have put more of a focus into YouTube. But you know, it is what it is. Grew those pages and that helped leverage pretty much everything that I wanted from landing over 50 plus magazine covers. Covers with Iron Man, Muscle & Fitness, Men's Fitness, Men's Muscle & Health. I mean, even fashion magazines, like Vanity. Hype, in Europe. And for that, I did kind of a Gary Vaynerchuk approach of give, give, give, take.
WATM: I'm just curious. What'd your Army buddies say about all this? Were they like, 'Bro, what are you doing?'
Wayne: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. That's exactly what it was at the beginning until they saw, you get half a million followers within a few months and then a million, and then you start working with Under Armor and Nike and they're like, 'Oh my God.' Everybody questioned it. Everybody questioned, 'What the hell are you doing? How are you going to model in Alabama? That's not a thing.' And I'm like, 'Well, I don't really know, but it's working, I'm doing the social media thing and I'm able to reach out, I can kind of cold call. I can establish a rapport.' And I just kind of instinctively knew the inner workings of how to market and brand myself. And that's without a coach and the highest level of education a GED. Just kind of started to understand the power of value and leveraged my value to get whatever it is that I wanted.
WATM: How was your physical journey into bodybuilding and modeling? Did you have issues with that? How did your combat injuries help you in that regard or make it even more challenging to find success?
Wayne: I would say 100% made it more challenging. I can't do compression style training. And so a lot of it is adaptive, just HIIT style, high intensity interval, they call it, it's like an 80s style. It's like cut training, time under tension. I wanted to get lean, but also gain lean muscle at the same time. And so I just had to adapt and pivot my work training to kind of sustain the injuries and I didn't want to make it worse than what it was. And so I've kind of just found my own routine and adapted and not put limitations with what I can and can't do. There's always a workaround.
WATM: Awesome. So how did you get into the steel business? And when did it occur to you that you thought I can add value to Red Line and start working on that front?
Wayne: I started Red Line in January of 2016, that's officially when we started the LLC. Initially I just wanted to be a customer. I have a son, his name's Carsyn. At the time, he was about four years old, loved baseball. He's in T-ball, but absolutely loved baseball. And I reached out to a local shop and wanted to have a piece made and he reached back out and said 'I'm backlogged about 10 to 12 weeks, but when we get caught up, I'll let you know.' And I said, 'Okay, no worries.' Ten minutes later, swear to God, 10 minutes later, he reached back out and says, 'Holy shit, it's Colin Wayne. I can't believe it's you!' He said, 'I can do this for you and have it done this week. And just let me know anything you want. I got you.'
And I pivoted the entire thing from, I said, without hesitation, 'Maybe I can help you. And I do consulting, would love to kind of look at your business plan.' And I spit out some information that kind of was like, 'Look, man, I wanted to be a consumer. You didn't have a followup sequence. You're missing the mark. This is obviously an incredible product. I was willing to pay a premium for it for myself. You're backlogged 10 to 12 weeks. There's no way for very next day, and so that shifted the entire paradigm of my business plan. The plan for me was he already has the product, he has a preexisting business. He knows how to manufacture. He knows how to do CAD work. He already has the basics. I just need to come in here, create an infrastructure and help on the marketing backend. And so now, I had to figure out how in the hell to even run this machine. I didn't have a clue and I still don't really know, which is ironic because we have the largest customized steel manufacturing plant in the United States. And that was within three and a half years of an E-com business.
June 15th will be our four year anniversary of the website. We've shipped over four million products. We just hit our one millionth order about three weeks ago. And we're about to hit 1.1 million projected probably Friday of this week. We have over 215,000 verified customer reviews on our website. And we've got over a billion, with a B, impressions for our business Redline Steel through paid ads.
WATM: That's impressive. And you met the President?
Wayne: We attended the White House for Made in America week, which was really cool. Got a selfie with the president, which you probably saw on Fox News. And what was awesome, what I really, really appreciated a lot and it was kind of like an overwhelming feeling, just like when we hit our one millionth order, that was an overwhelming feeling, was President Trump, I tried to give him a flag and he wouldn't take it. He wanted to buy one. And so that to me, yeah, that to me meant a lot because this was exactly what he said was, 'If you donate the flag, it stays within the White House. But if I buy one, I can actually bring it with me.' And so I don't know, a month or two after the event, his administration reached out and said, 'President Trump wanted to purchase a flag.' And so we invoiced him, he paid it and we mailed him a flag. Then he actually wrote a letter. I asked him for a photo; he wrote us a letter that's hanging up on my wall and he's thanking me for the flag that he bought. That was a few months after the event. That was really cool. And what's weird is as an entrepreneur, I'm always looking ahead. So it's hard to reflect on what we've done and accomplished. Especially given the amount of time. Time is very valuable, but it almost becomes irrelevant because I'm so forward thinking that when I hit a hundred thousand orders, it was an overwhelming feeling. And that never took place again until three weeks ago, when we hit our one millionth. Even at 999,000, it didn't sink in.
I'm a pretty, I would say a pretty dominant, strong-willed character, kind of an alpha, but I teared up, bro. I'm not going to lie. It was such an overwhelming, like, 'Oh my God.' Because I wanted this so bad. So I set, I'm really, really big on goal orientation and like setting something and you follow through with it. And so last year my goal was to hit that one million benchmark and I didn't. Mentally, it really messed with me, man. I was upset at myself. I felt like a let down. I told my customers, I was kind of prophesying it. I was telling employees, man, we're going to hit this and we didn't hit it. I think that I have to kind of what I call being from Alabama, that fixated mentality of I don't care if we're up a hundred to zero, we missed the field goal. We missed this tackle. We missed these core principles, this KPI, what can we do to improve and sustain that growth? If we mess up, what can we do to not have that again? It's kind of that AAR that goes into effect on a mass scale.
When you think about it, a million orders within that three year benchmark as an online business is very, very, very rare. You're at that one of one tenth of a percent, but to me, it's so realistic that it should have happened a while back. And so I lose track of that time and you don't really appreciate what it is until you finally hit it.
WATM: How did you move past that? Improved comms? Leadership? Something different?
Wayne: We hired a recruiting firm, and I know that that was a pivoting moment for us when we actually invested into very, very solid leadership. My goal is to step down as the CEO within the next 18 to 24 months. I've never really publicly talked about it, but I'm big on passion and what's in the best interest of the business. And so I would rather be the dumbest guy in the room and have other people very strong at what they do in those positions. And so hiring a recruiting firm to bring on talent that are very, very vetted has definitely played a significant role.
The challenge for me, most of the time has been, I can oversell and we can't manufacture and produce product fast enough. I guess you could call it a rich man's problem.
It's been a challenge because I don't want a bad customer journey experience, but at the same time, you want cashflow to keep up with the fixed and variable expenses. And so it's a very thin line of balance between the two and running a lot of different departments at a business that's scaling 30, 40 times year over year. We have an incredible team that's been able to implement what is actually needed and applying an ERP system and looking at ways to advance our business so much further than what it currently is. So that the next four to five years we transition to that billion dollar valuation at that three, 400 million EBITDA. I think investing in the right leadership and then from the military stance, I would say, I was a Staff Sergeant, so I was kind of rounded for leaders. I liked the leaders that led from the front. I was fortunate enough to have compadre leaders that you can learn from and some great leaders, ones that you would genuinely walk into battle with and feel very comfortable that they have your sticks.
Applying that to my business in the sense that I'm not going to step on their toes, I trust their judgment calls. So I've allowed them to run those departments and essentially there's a chain of command and they work through that. And that's how we operate here. I'm not here to tell your department how you do it, go to your department head. And from there, you'll follow the chain.
With COVID, we had to pivot our business model. So mid-March, I think it was actually exactly March 15. It was on a Sunday, somewhere right around there. I was driving to work. I had something on my heart to give back to the medical staff. My step-mom passed away earlier in the year and she did 35 years as a registered nurse. And we had a nurse piece, a stethoscope with the shape of a heart and it said, 'Nurse life,' in it. And so that was our first product and it kind of evolved from there. I did a live stream on Redline's page and I said, 'I want to give a thousand of these away for free.' The response was incredible. Within about 30 to 45 minutes, we were completely sold out and started to see a massive demand and just requests for other items. So we pivoted to an entire give back collection.
That was on Sunday. I came in Monday when my team was here and I said, 'Look, every day this week, we're going to create a product category and we're going to launch it.' The first day, we launched, we ended up launching 19 products in total from military and all first responders to even mail carriers, even airline. And then we went into more recently with teacher appreciation day. We launched a teacher apple and now with Memorial Day, we have a fallen soldier Memorial piece that we're going to release.
WATM: What's the why behind that?
Wayne: One, I'm a humanitarian. I love to give back. I really do. I genuinely do. But from a business side that allowed free cashflow to sustain the business so that I didn't have to furlough any of my employees. And then to take it a step further, we ended up putting in a purchase order of over 250,000 units through a local company and source them to cut the pieces for us. And that ended up giving them over 1400 working hours for their employees that would have gotten furloughed. So it's not just the impact within Redline. We also helped hundreds of families across North Alabama sustain a job and working hours.
WATM: You're doing amazing things, Colin. Thanks for your time.
Wayne: It's been an incredible journey, man. I'm excited for what happens next. Thank you.
As for the Memorial Day partnership, both Wayne and Megan Fox are excited. "What Colin went through overseas to then create his company now to be able to do this type of give-back is extraordinary," the actress told Us Weekly exclusively on Wednesday, May 20. actress told Us Weekly exclusively on Wednesday, May 20. "It was a no-brainer to be a part of this Memorial Day promotion and give back to those who knew and are related to ones who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country."
To get your free product, visit Redline's website and use the code "SOLDIER" at check out.