CLN Exclusive with Rob Figueroa, Owner of Forrest Tool Company
This week, we are excited to feature a CLN Exclusive with Rob Figueroa, Owner of Forrest Tool Company. We sat down to chat about the ins and outs of the company and what his plans for the future are. Catch the full interview below!
Krysta: Can you give our audience a brief introduction to yourself?
Rob: My name is Rob Figueroa. I am originally from Puerto Rico, and I went to college at the United States Air Force Academy, then served in the Air Force for five years. After the Air Force, I went into finance as a financial broker for a couple of years. Then I transitioned into syndications, sales, leasing, and setting up lines of credit for larger companies. That led to me becoming a consultant in the aerospace industry, helping the Air Force buy satellite systems. I realized I could do it better, so I started my own company. In 2010, I started Figueroa Associates supporting the Air Force and now the Space Force in purchasing satellite and ground support systems for space applications. At that time, I wanted to do something a little bit different, so I started looking for companies to acquire within the military space. Because of my background and understanding of how to deal with military contracts, I ran across Forrest Tool Company. At the time, Forrest Tool Company was an exclusive provider of the MAX Tool Kit for military HMMWVs. I was immediately drawn to the company based on the fact that they were offering a tool kit with immense possibilities in addition to the contracts they had with the military. So I went ahead and purchased the company from the owner two years ago, and here we are. Since then, we have been working on extending the Tool Kit to be available to the public and making sure we have the systems in place to handle that.
Krysta: Can you tell me a little more about the early days of Forrest Tool Company and what the mission was when you started?
Rob: The MAX Tool Kit was developed in the late 80s, and it was around 1989 that the patent process started, then Forrest Tool Company was created in 1993. The idea was to provide a multipurpose ax-based toolkit to help the National Forest Service contain and manage small fires. A lot of times, Forest Rangers were on patrol in these small pickup trucks, and they didn’t want to haul a rake, shovel, pick, and all these different tools to take up space. Some of the original designers created a toolkit that can easily stow in the cab, so if you’re in a pinch and need something to control a small fire, you have something right there for you. So it all started with the Forest Service and their crews needing a tool that was a little more versatile than carrying around eight different tools in their truck.
When I took over the company, I saw the versatility and utility of this tool, especially since I have property in Montana and spend a lot of time outdoors. When my family and I go camping, I always bring a shovel, an ax, and all these different things, but I constantly fought for space in my truck. When I saw this neat, little package that the MAX Tool Kit comes in, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is awesome.” Then when I found out the toolkit is made in the US, with quality steel and a high standard of construction, it was a no-brainer for me. I figured if this is something I want, I’m sure there’s a market out there that would want to have a US-Made Tool Kit with so much history that is also portable and extremely versatile.
Krysta: What is the most rewarding thing to come out of starting Forrest Tool Company?
Rob: For me, it had a lot to do with wanting to learn something new even though I was familiar with the military market, I really only knew the Air Force and Space market. Recently, we have taken part in different conferences and trade shows, so when attending these events, I’ve had veterans come up to me and say, “Oh my gosh, I remember this kit from when I was deployed. I loved this thing!” For me, that’s been the most rewarding thing to hear. It’s been amazing to hear those anecdotes and stories of people who have used the Tool Kit, loved it, then become repeat customers. It’s been great to be part of a company that has created a tool that makes an impact on people’s lives and has a place in history.
Krysta: In your opinion, what makes the MAX Tool so unique?
Rob: What makes this Tool Kit so unique is how surprisingly portable it is. When people open the kit and they feel it for the first time, they’re amazed at how heavy-duty it really is. There’s a misconception that because the tool kit is light and portable, it must not be heavy duty and high quality when in reality, it’s made out of hardened, 1060 steel. It has been made to military specs to last a long time and hold up against tough situations. When space is at a premium, this tool kit is something you can have in each of your cars, whether you have an SUV, a minivan, or a pickup truck, this kit will fit anywhere that’s out of the way until you need it. That’s what makes this product so exceptional.
Krysta: Even as the company grows, what does it mean to be able to advertise that the Max Tool Kit is made in America?
Rob: The truth is that it means everything. While we know that there’s a high price point for our toolkit, and we understand that. It’s not something at this point in time that I’m willing to compromise. Between the quality control and construction we have in place and the vendors we have on board, it’s truly a team effort. The people who make the metal parts of the tool kit are based out of North Carolina, and it’s a fifth-generation small company with a lot of history in ax making, so it’s not something that they take lightly. There’s definitely pride in that craftsmanship, and you can’t put a price tag on that. I’m happy with how we’re doing things right now. We’re able to monitor the quality of our tool and go back to any of our vendors with a part that has an issue, and they immediately replace it. That’s also how I treat our customers. If something isn’t working properly, they can send me the part, and I’ll replace it without question.
Krysta: What does the future hold for Forrest Tool Company?
Rob: We are working into new markets, which is one of the reasons we are here right now. We want to make sure that this tool is available not only to general outdoor enthusiasts but also to make it available for ranchers and cowboys. I’m a true believer that everything happens when it should, in terms of timing and pace. We also have to manage the product demand, while still being able to control the quality and make sure that the customer and vendors are taken care of. We’re looking for growth, but it’s a measured approach within the markets that we want to be in. Thankfully, we have the luxury, because of our government contracts, to choose the markets we want to be in and not compromise on quality to get there. Eventually, I would love for everyone who owns a pickup truck to have a Forrest Tool in their back seat. The goal is for every truck in America to have a MAX multipurpose toolkit under the backseat.
Do you have any closing thoughts about you or your business that you’d like our audience to know?
The company was founded by a veteran and has now been transitioned to another veteran and out of respect for all veterans and first responders, we provide a year-round discount to active duty military, veterans, reservists, and first responders of 25% off. That’s our way of saying thank you and giving back. We’re very grateful to those who have served in any capacity and continue to serve and provide safety both domestically and abroad.
To learn more and shop the MAX Tool by Forrest Tool Company, make sure to visit their website for more information!