Reflections on 3 Years of Fireforce Ventures

Posted by Fireforce Ventures Crew Member on 7/7/2019 to News

Hopefully it's somewhat forgivable that we don't post here very often, given the events that have transpired since the chaos of November 2018. After the initial roughness, things have at last started to stabilize as I write this on behalf of the Fireforce Ventures crew on the eve of the company's third anniversary. Fireforce Ventures began as a experiment by three friends back in 2016, inside the dingy basement of one of their parents. What it is now, is radically bigger and crazier, having attracted it's share of trouble along the way.

Fireforce Ventures has braved project failures, "sperg-lords", international sanctions, media spats and controversy. We've survived it all, still monetizing off what we're doing, giving our local crew solid wages, and ever growing.

July 7th is a big day for us, and we'd like you to reflect with us by telling the story so far. It’s a story in several chapters, that we are compiling here for everyone to see.

"Dingy Basement"

It was not exaggeration that we started in a dingy basement, of one of our original partners' parents house. There was not a whole lot of business planning when we first conceptualized the idea of "Fireforce Ventures". We were kids with a simple desire to own some Rhodesian Brushstroke shirts and pants. We fell in love with the pattern as we read into a little bit deeper, seeing right away how effective it could be in the boonies of Alberta, Canada. Whether we were working, shooting or hiking, Rhodesian Brushstroke would fit quite well with the Canadian Rocky Mountain backdrop. We were further influenced by a gentleman (who shall remain nameless) who did his share of time in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, and had remarked to us the effectiveness of the pattern.

We weren't even fully aware of what this "Rhodesian Light Infantry" was at the time. We knew only that it had something to do with internet memes, and short-shorts. However, getting Rhodesian Brushstroke in 2016 was easier said than done. There were a few less than reputatable dealers at the time, lurking on ancient HTML webpages and eBay, peddling what they claimed to be Rhodesian Brushstroke. Pretty quickly, we recognized it as off-spec South African reproductions, or Pakistani “Brushstroke”. We weren’t impressed.

Even after hundreds of hours searching forums, websites and eBay listing, it seemed our best bet would be to buy a ratty original issue uniform for hundreds of dollars. There had to be a better way to do this!

We figured that starting a registered company would be the quickest way to access camouflage uniform suppliers, and get them to produce our own. We knew absolutely nothing about the sporting goods and uniform industry, but it was worth a shot 7 July 2016 that the idea was first proposed in a dingy basement. Within an hour of deliberating, we were convinced and the paperwork as quickly shot off. Fireforce Ventures was born.

Rhodesia

Over that summer, we did some more reading and we were hooked. Some of the books that greatly affected us were Chris Cocks’ riveting Fireforce, Andrew Balaam’s recollections in Bush War Operator and Dennis Croukamp’s The Bush War in Rhodesia.

We were absolutely captivated by the stories of these men. Their exploits, when you look at the superficial statistics and results of their civil war seemed other worldly. Wild haired, short-short clad operators standing alone, not only against terrorism in their homeland, but the entire Eastern bloc. Looking deeper into the stories of these men were the same themes of duty, grit and innocence lost. It mirrored other stories of the forgotten warriors of Korea and Vietnam. They had fought totalitarianism much like their fathers and grandfathers before them, but received very little credit for doing so.

At no point did we get any hints that the Rhodesian story could be conflated with “white supremacy”, after reading accounts of the young men who sacrificed their youth for the cause. Instead, we found stories like that of Ian Smith, the Rhodesian Prime Minister who fought Nazism in the Second World War. We also read in Balaam’s Bush War Operator of his intimate relationship with black Africans. The Rhodesian Bush War was their own war against communism, as it was for white and coloured Rhodesians. 80% of the Rhodesian Security Forces were black Africans, and not a single one of them conscripted. The works of Peter Godwin (Mukiwa) and Cocks (Fireforce) show that this enthusiasm to “join up” was not always reciprocated by white Rhodesians. It was also the black Rhodesians who suffered the most under the ZANU regime.

There’s a lot more to the story and plenty more reading out there. However, as far as the history went, we felt were good to go. It was riveting history, a cool pattern, and there seemed to be big demand for the stuff online. Who would be mad enough to defend ZANU, or defame us for selling a camoflauge pattern? What could go wrong?

The First Runs

If Fireforce Ventures was ever going to make any money at all, we couldn’t really be a one trick pony. This realization came to us pretty quickly, after “Fireforce Ventures” became legally registered in the 14th of July that same summer. We actually had to think about this.

Following the latest trends in all things precision, laser-cut, CNC machined, waterproofed and MOLLE’d up knick-knacks isn’t exactly the easiest. Not everyone is a fan of change either. We figured, we’d keep it simple incorporate the feel of the traditional neighbourhood military surplus shop alongside an offering of some Rhodesian Brushstroke.

Those days are Francis Bannerman are long gone, even a generation ago, our dads could pick up Second World War bayonets for pennies and use them as tent pegs. But we knew milsurp still held a place in people’s hearts, it certainly did for us. We launched with one simple morale patch offering in Rhodesian Brushstroke, a few simple pieces of relatively weirder milsurp including pieces from Luxembourg and Transkei. Knowing nothing, we sold for far cheaper than what they were actually worth!

By December of that year, we had slowly racked up enough cash to talk to a uniform producer in China and produce us 50 sets of Rhodesian Brushstroke. The pattern was damn close to the originals, but the fabric composition, build and fading made it less than functional. To make things worse, some English to Chinese miscommunications resulted in the interior of the uniforms being produced in a hideous bright white. We were forced to sell our first run, as defects and at nearly wholesale prices to recoup our losses.

To our surprise they sold rather quickly, and put us on the map. Our customers were observed to do their own reworking. There jumpsuit conversions, dying, and restitch attempts. It showed us how dedicated the “true believers” really were for Rhodesian Brushstroke, but we still needed to do better. Working with Chinese manufacturers with a poor understanding of English was clearly not a good idea. We couldn’t physically be in China every other week to check on manufacturing either, since Fireforce Ventures was still a side gig. We had the pattern down, but a subpar product that wasn’t actually that hard wearing was a bit embarrassing. It was a start, but we needed to do better. The answer, came from a pretty unlikely source.

The Real Deal

At the beginning of 2017, were contacted by one of the “true believers” looking to do business with us. He informed us that we needed to meet up, specifically at a restaurant with “good natural lighting”. It was an odd request, but we went for it. What we saw when we showed up blew us away.

He had several large bolts of original fabric, including original Rhodesian Brushstroke manufactured by David Whitehead Textiles, Zimbabwe National Army Bolts, and even several off-spec South African reproduction examples. Not surprisingly, some of the ZNA and South African reproductions are still out there, marketed as “Rhodesian”.

All the bolts of fabric were laid out on the table, to the relative confusion of the waitresses. This bloke bought us lunch and gave us quite the history lesson, and business pitch. Since our pattern had been the closest he’d seen yet, the contact wanted to work with us exclusively. We’d be producing a top notch series of products in the original Rhodesian Brushstroke pattern out of the Kingdom of Thailand’s army contract factory.

It was a hefty investment for our little company, barely 6 months old at this point. However, having the physical fabric, and seeing several prototypes quickly swayed us. The original prototype BDU shirt still survives in the Fireforce Ventures “Camo Museum”, even after seeing a few years of hard field use. This was some good stuff, so we proclaimed right then and there “Damn the torpedos, full steam ahead”.

Pretty soon, we had a full lineup of new BDUs, hats, and scarves launched. This was followed up by our top-selling short-shorts and t-shirts. The investment paid off, and things kept rolling along quite smoothly. Despite the money starting to slowly roll in, Fireforce Ventures was still very much a side gig, with the original partners taking at most, a day a week to pack orders. The only help we had were a few buddies, who’d volunteer their services after being bribed with cases of Castle Lager.

We had the “real deal” and things were looking up for Fireforce Ventures as we completed our first year of operations. However, all good things must come to an end.

New York

We were riding the wave initial success shortly after launching our short-shorts, when we received a bizarre call from a California phone number. On the other end was an individual identifying himself as John Ismay. He lobbed a series of politically charged leading questions, in a clear effort to defame and entrap our company.

Questions asked were along the lines of “Why do you cater to white supremacists? What would happen if a white supremacist wore your Rhodesian Brushstroke to a mass shooting?”

These were not questions we entertained answering. Our attempts at explaining our affiliation with Rhodesian veterans, and facts about the Bush War conflict were rebuffed with a perpetual whine we were “anonymous cowards” and “scoundrels”. With the “interview” turning into an unprofessional yelling match at the instigation of Ismay (a fact he is welcome to dispute, since he has the recording of the full interview), we had nothing more to add. Within a few weeks, a hit piece of businesses associating themselves with Rhodesian history appeared in the New York Times.

The piece fired a scattershot at an array of business and individuals, attempting to desperately link the Rhodesian story to modern extremism. Fireforce Ventures, was among the companies named – and our website’s private domain registration leaked after a “terms and conditions violation” complaint exactly 24 hours before Ismay’s “interview”.

Quite interestingly, a New York Times “fact-checker” attempted to contact us to get some facts straight about the story, since Ismay’s interview was more of a politically charged argument than anything resembling journalism. We did not respond, and they went ahead to publish the story anyway – without even their own standards adhered to. The story slandered among others, the now defunct Selous Armoury, and firearms expert and icon Larry Vickers.

Despite Ismay’s claim he beared no malice towards Fireforce Ventures, he immediately contacted the Canadian Armed Forces for commentary on why there were three white supremacists in their ranks. Based the scant mentions of our company and weak association to anything that could be remotely considered “white supremacist”, a quick investigation was briefly wrapped up by the Canadian Armed Forces with no finding of wrong doing. However, Ismay’s investigation had triggered interest in actors, more nefarious and far more partisan.

Ricochet v. Fireforce

To say November 2018 was a shock to the system, was an understatement. We were still on a slowly declining wave of support in the aftermath of the New York Times hit piece.

Fireforce Ventures was starting to become a well-known name to those “in the know” about all things Rhodesia, including those interested in it’s political history. Unfortunately, it caught the attention of some less than reputable characters, including a podcast proprietor who shall remain unnamed.

Prior to the New York Times interview, an individual contacted us seeking to do an interview with the proprietors of Fireforce Ventures, claiming that his heavy metal focused podcast had a following of several thousand people. Seeing as we were a small business about to do a Black Friday sale, we readily agreed, with one proprietor appearing under a pseudonym to “shoot the shit”.

Right away after the podcast was recorded, we noticed something was wrong. These seemed to be something off about the line of questioning, and upon further research, we determined the podcast proprietor to hold open bigoted views than verged on incitation of violence. He had effectively misidentified himself, his background, and political intent to us. We wanted no part in it, and requested to be have any mention of Fireforce Ventures removed immediately. It appeared to be removed from his main page immediately at the time within 24 hours, but had been distributed to a wider network of extremists without our knowledge or consent.

Truth be told, we forgot this ugly affair and kept it quiet for everyone’s sake. However, the “professional journalists” at Ricochet Media seemed to have a lot of time to burn. For those unaware, Ricochet Media is an active, government funded news website with strong affiliations to Antifa groups in Canada.

They dredged up the podcast audio, nearly a year old at this point, and as a follow up to the New York Times interview, emailed and phoned us in October 2018 on several occasions. Again, we saw a series of leading questions attempting to associate us to white supremacy. The kicker, were the many out of context quotes taken from the podcast transcription.

There was no point in talking to them, as they released their article at the end of the month – a full on hit piece of Fireforce Ventures. This was followed by what some have termed “trading up the chain”, when larger mainstream outlets get smaller outlets like Ricochet Media to do the dirty work.

There was story after story of the “white supremacist webstore” being “exposed”. Most of the staff at Fireforce Ventures at the time weren’t even “white.” Additionally, none of the journalists seemed to recognize the irony of the so called “right wing extremists” at Fireforce Ventures, also stocking communist apparel and memorabilia. It didn’t matter, and we faced a torrent of harassment. The other journalists didn’t even bother asking anything beyond “Why are you white supremacists?”

In the span of 2 months, nearly all original partners and employees at Fireforce Ventures had contracts terminated, or left voluntarily. This was still very much a side gig, but a full on mainstream doxx of nearly all staff, primary careers were threatened. Fights to save some careers, remain ongoing battles.

When the full damage of Ricochet Media’s attack on Fireforce Ventures became apparent, we had dropped from a staff of 10 people to 3. Operations were at a virtual standstill. However, just when all seemed lost, a Rhodesian Bush War veteran rang us up.

Rhodesians Never Die

“Well I’ll just tell them to fuck off!”

Those are the words of our Shamwari, and now a Fireforce Ventures legend F.M, aka “Mr. Bushman”. He proclaimed that in his thick distinctive Rhodesian accent, in reference to Ricochet Media. We called him in the immediate aftermath of what happened, as he had been a longtime friend and follower of the company. His no non-sense attitude put us at ease, and we wasn’t prepared to see the reputation of his fellow Rhodesians slandered. After so many years, the fighting spirit of those who actually served in Rhodesia still endured. For their sake, those of us still lingering needed to keep going. Mr. Bushman got behind us, and openly challenge Ricochet Media in the public forum – a challenge they’ve yet to accept.

Pretty soon, it seemed like the entire community of Rhodesian ex-patriates were contacting us to offer their support. Veterans from nearly every Rhodesian Army Regiment voiced their support, and we received additional support from the African Soldier’s Association of Zimbabwe and Rhodesia. Special mention must be made especially of Mr. Bushman (RLI, Selous Scout attache), Larry Jenkins (RR, BSAP), Dave Hughes (RACR), Nick Carter (RR, RhSAS), and “Madala” (RAR, Selous Scout, 1Para ZNA). Their support and wisdom was invaluable, as they had survived far worse slanders during their time in the service.

Our customers chimed in with their wallets, on a wave of support for us that has yet to end. Our order numbers went through the roof. It gave us hope in raising additional money and taking Ricochet to court for defamation. We attempted this many times, only to get demonetized at each turn. Thousands in donations were lost, with Ricochet continuing their slander campaign by claiming we instigated violence against them. Given the intricate nature of the law, compounded with many former partners and employees leaving Fireforce Ventures, the prospect of a lawsuit remains near impossible for now.

However, in the words of John Edmond, “Troopie boy, you won”. Even without a lawsuit against Ricochet materializing, we’ve already beat them.

Despite the straight up “fake news” Ricochet continued to put out, no members associated with Fireforce Ventures were ever charged or disciplined by the Canadian military. There was literally nothing wrong with the operation of Fireforce Ventures, or how the podcast incident was handled. Their mentions of other occupations being stripped from former partners and employees were at best, embellishments. None of their commentary therefore, had been even remotely truthful.

For their many half-truths and blatant lies, Ricochet Media received a laughable award from the Canadian Association of Journalists for their exposé on the “failed white supremacist” company. Despite the attention the story, Ricochet still subsists on a “panhandling” business model, surviving off donations and government grants. They still sit in dingy Montreal apartments, eating pizza, drinking wine, and “smashing the fash” behind computer screens.

Funny enough, we’ll be projecting record profits this year, and our team is now larger and stronger than before their attempt to destroy us. The stressful weeks turned into productive months, and Fireforce Ventures continued to thrive with orders rolling in from around the world. Our facilities are bigger, our standards are higher, and our selection is wilder. Through our continuance, support from the real men and women who lived through the Rhodesian Bush War (both black and white), our thousands of customers, and you, dear reader, we’ve already won.

We won, because “Rhodesians Never Die”.

Back in the Saddle

It’s been a pretty wild week, but it’s safe to say that we’re “back in the saddle”.

We’d like to thank all of you outstanding people, who’ve helped keep our little business alive. Beyond all the political non-sense, we literally just wanted some interesting historical knick-knacks, and cool camouflage uniforms.

A special shout out to our Buyer’s Club crew, who are keeping us on point when it comes to all things R&D. Your advice and support is invaluable, and we’re more than happy to give you a tour if you ever swing around our neck of the woods. Beer’s on us.

We’d also like to extend particular thanks to those at the “sharp end”, deployed to the most dangerous places on Earth for our benefit. Among them are snipers, SF operators, intel officers, EOD techs, and many others still “over there” – we’re humbled to serve the best in the world, and keep your thighs tanned. Closer to home, we’d also like to thank the boys (and girls) in blue, all law enforcement and first responders that we’ve outfitted. Stay safe, stay frosty.

Above all, we’d like to thank all those who served the green and white in Rhodesia. You were, and remain Africa’s greatest generation. We are indebted to your stories of tragedy and triumph, in one of Africa’s forgotten conflicts. Your wisdom and spirit inspiring every single team member at Fireforce Ventures to crack on.

Finally, to “true believers” like you reading the deepest “Fireforce Ventures Lore” available on the internet. – thank you Stay lekker.


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