Conservative Entrepreneurs Step Up to Serve Customers Alienated by Woke Corporations

Conservative Entrepreneurs Step Up to Serve Customers Alienated by Woke Corporations
The "Tuttle Twins" series teaches children about economics and liberty. (Courtesy of Connor Boyack)
Kevin Stocklin

As corporations increasingly take up progressive political causes such as racial equity and climate change, some watch with despair or disdain. Conservative entrepreneurs see a business opportunity.

“There’s a huge market for them,” Mark Meckler, president of Convention of States Action, told The Epoch Times. As a former CEO of Parler, he knows how brutal it can be to go up against dominant, established competitors. Success isn’t guaranteed.

But citing conservative companies such as Black Rifle Coffee and Patriot Mobile, Meckler said, “If you think about it, you’re talking half the country” as a potential market.

“Of the voting-age public, you’re probably talking 75 million to 80 million people that would like to partake in these kinds of products.”

“If I were not doing politics right now, that’s the space I would be in,” he said. “I would be looking at every market segment that I could and I would be starting every kind of conservative company that I could.”

Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute and writer and publisher of the “Tuttle Twins” children’s books, concurs.

“I believe we need way more entrepreneurs in this space,” Boyack told The Epoch Times, “providing products and services for families to learn about and act upon the ideas of a free society.”

Breaking Into Publishing

Like many well-known children’s authors, he wrote his first book in the “Tuttle Twins” series for his own kids. And like many well-known children’s authors, he took his books to the established publishing houses, which weren’t interested.

“So we just decided to launch the ‘Tuttle Twins’ as an independent project, published directly by our company,” he said. “In retrospect, that was exactly the right move for us because it afforded us creative control. We’re not at the mercy of anyone who can cancel us or undermine what we’re trying to do.”

While many schools are teaching kids about socialism and racial ideology, Boyack’s books touch on ideas such as preserving liberty, the Golden Rule, and how free markets work, topics that “help children develop critical thinking skills about real-world concepts.”

Between 2014 and 2019, they sold 750,000 books. In 2020, they sold 1.3 million, and in 2021, they sold 1.7 million.

“The freedom movement has been playing defense for decades. We have been letting our ideological adversaries educate our children, and waiting until they become adults before we communicate our ideas to them,” Boyack said. “By then, it’s already too late because they’ve already become firmly established in a worldview that they’ve developed as a result of their schooling, social media, and so forth.”

Building a Cell Phone Company

Patriot Mobile, a conservative phone service provider that covers all 50 states, has had similar success.

“There was a very liberal cell phone company that was funding some races in Florida and across the nation, and that’s where our founders got the idea: Wow, we could have our own cell phone company and do conservative things with the profits,” Leigh Wambsganss, chief communications officer at Patriot Mobile, told The Epoch Times. “Our mission is to protect our God-given rights.”

Patriot Mobile was able to build its cell phone service company by interfacing with towers owned by other cell phone companies. It has been a long road getting all the systems and access set up, but today “we’re growing by leaps and bounds,” she said. The company grew by 75 percent in 2020 and 110 percent in 2021.

“Every impediment, we stop and pray,” she says. “It helps us make really solid decisions. Because we’re a Christian company, our business exists to glorify God.”

A Gift Becomes a Business

For Egard Watches, it all started with the idea that founder and CEO Ilan Srulovicz had a decade ago to give his father a gift.

“My dad helped me smooth a lot of things in my life, and I wanted to find a way to honor him,” he said. “I thought it would be really nice to buy him a nice watch, but I couldn’t find one that really represented what I wanted.”

Instead, while working in 3D modeling at a visual-effects studio, he made one himself.

“It kind of went from there,” he said, with more and more people wanting to buy his designs.

“There are two types of customers who are attracted to the company,” Srulovicz said. “There’s the customer who wants something very unique from a kind of micro brand, and they’re getting a lot of value for their money.”

Others, he said, “connect to our brand story. People connect to the messages we put out.”

Heading into the COVID years, Egard Watches became known as a company that swam against the ideological tide. Srulovicz was vocal in pushing back against movements such as defunding the police, “toxic masculinity,” censorship of speech, and vaccine mandates.

“I’m a first-generation American, whose mother escaped Iraq,” Srulovicz said. “My dad’s family was killed off in the Holocaust.” This has given him an appreciation for “traditional, foundational American values,” he said.

“I believe in gender roles. I believe that the police have a very important value in society. And I believe in individual freedom. I’m very much pro- the right of people to speak, even if I disagree with them,” he said. “So I’m putting out these messages constantly in the hopes of inspiring other companies to do the same thing. We don’t need to just sit in the corner and be quiet and hope for the best.”

Red Firms, Blue Firms

These companies are part of a growing movement that also includes banks, apparel, news, and media companies that are stepping into the space vacated by corporations that have prioritized left-wing ideology in their products and services. Increasingly, Americans are seeing companies and markets divide themselves into red and blue camps.

“It seems like it’s kind of organically going in that direction, that there’s going to be two economies that coexist alongside each other,” Srulovicz said. “We’re just at that stage, maybe on some fundamental level, of: Do I want to support a company that goes out and says all cops are white supremacist? I don’t, and I will avoid them if I have another option.”

“I think that bifurcation is taking place,” Meckler said. His organization, and many others he’s acquainted with, are asking themselves, “Are there services that we could switch to that would allow us to get away from these woke companies?” That includes possibly changing their banking relationships to “a regional bank that supports our values, that wouldn’t cancel gun companies and the like.”

“I think Americans are moving more and more toward wanting their hard-earned money to go to companies that share their values,” Wambsganss said. “We state right there on our website what our four pillars are: the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, right to life, and we support the military and first responders.

“It’s very clear to us from our success and our growth that we have a large audience that is wanting to use us because we honor God in our business.”

Perhaps the most glaring example of this division is the growing movement by red states, including Florida, Texas, West Virginia, and Louisiana, to boycott banks and asset managers that push the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) agenda or discriminate against so-called brown industries such as fossil fuels or firearms. While these actions are taken to protect jobs and industries within the state, they often come at a cost.

A report by Daniel Garrett, a finance professor at the University of Pennsylvania, called “Gas, Guns, and Governments: Financial Costs of Anti-ESG Policies,” seeks to quantify the cost to the state of Texas of boycotting Wall Street banks. In 2021, Texas passed a law that prohibited state entities from contracting with banks that were found to discriminate against oil and gas companies, including five of the largest municipal bond underwriters in the state: Citigroup, JPMorgan, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Fidelity Capital Markets.

While Texas was the first state to adopt anti-ESG laws, 16 other states, including Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming, have either enacted or introduced such laws.

“What we see is, the municipal issuers in Texas are paying higher interest rates after they lose access to their regular underwriters,” Garrett told The Epoch Times. His report calculated that Texas issuers paid an additional $300 million–$500 million in additional interest in aggregate during the first eight months since the law went into effect.

“What our paper finds in Texas is that the competition [among banks] seems to be really important,” Garrett said. State bond issues after the law was passed “are a lot less competitive after these five banks leave Texas. The remaining banks in Texas just don’t have the capacity to underwrite everything.”

The banks that exited the Texas market represented about one-third of all underwriting for the state.

“It’s really just a massive shock to the market,” Garrett said. “Segmentation in financial markets doesn’t lead to good outcomes, it doesn’t lead to good risk sharing, it doesn’t lead to good diversification.”

In the longer term, it’s possible that new banks will enter Texas’s municipal market to fill the gap, that the Wall Street banks that exited Texas will find a way to comply with Texas laws and return, or, least likely, that Texas will change its anti-ESG laws. Meanwhile, a recent survey of CEOs by management consultancy KPMG found that 50 percent of corporate executives are reconsidering or pausing their ESG policies and refocusing their energy on financial criteria such as profits and share prices.
“I think what’s going to happen is that the existing companies that are being hyper-political are likely to receive sufficient backlash, so as to knock it off a little bit,” Boyack said. “I think the vast majority of the market is likely to rebalance itself after people say that they’re done with this nonsense.”

Setting Yourself Apart

For anyone contemplating stepping up to cater to consumers that progressive companies are leaving in their wake, the entrepreneurs who have gone before have some insights.

“It’s not hard to manufacture a product,” Srulovicz said. “What’s going to make you stand out is your authenticity, it’s how you connect to people. So you have a choice: Do you want to pretend to be something you’re not or do you want to be true to yourself and stand up for your values? Because if you believe in something, there are people out there who believe in it too, and they will connect with you. I think that’s a nicer way to go about developing something in today’s world.”

Boyack said, “We thought we were creating children’s books when we started ‘Tuttle Twins.’ What we later realized is that we have created family resources. What I mean by that is moms and dads constantly are telling us how much they themselves are learning for the first time as a result of our resources, things they never learned in school.

“The single best thing we’ve ever done is helping adults teach their kids, and the adults are teaching themselves in the process. Entire families are learning about the ideas of liberty.”

Wambsganss says, “We all need to stand up for our rights, and especially Christians. Christians seem to be the most attacked religion in America right now.”

Patriot Mobile’s beliefs extend to their employees as well; they don’t impose diversity, equity, and inclusion training, or mask or vaccine requirements, Wambsganss said.

“We don’t do any of that. We believe in freedom.”

Kevin Stocklin is an Epoch Times business reporter who covers the ESG industry, global governance, and the intersection of politics and business.
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