Questions & Answers
Joe Macaluso of Preppers Asylum: Mary and I got the idea of starting the business when we started to put our prep’s together. We found it near impossible to go to one place and shop for your readiness needs. So, we said, “Screw it.” We decided to retire and start our own business to make it easier for people like us to have one-stop-shopping.
PBN: The name Preppers Asylum, combined with the logo, might be off-putting to people who don’t know you or the company. How did you come up with the name? What inspired it and logo?
JM: When we were thinking of the name for our shop, we tossed around a lot of different names around. We wanted it to be unique. It should represent preparedness and safety. We decided on Preppers Asylum. “Preppers” for the preparedness part, and “Asylum” is the synonym for safety. We have had people question our logo saying it looks like a zombie, but we explain to them that if they go to our Facebook page and read the story of Penelope it will make more sense. We also tell them that the picture represents what someone looks like when they are not prepared after a SHTF situation should occur.
As for the logo, the person happens to be Penelope. (A fictional character created for a future book.) Penelope was a middle-class, 15-year-old girl. She got good grades, was a cheerleader, even played soccer. Her and her family were popular in the subdivision. They had cookouts and lots of friends. But this kooky guy up the street would ask Penelope, “Are you prepared?” One day, Penelope saw the kooky guy loading his van. He turned to Penelope and said, “It’s time to bug out. Are you prepared?” So, after the SHTF, you now see Penelope peeking through the blinds.
We have written 17 chapters on Penelope. All are posted on the Preppers Asylum Facebook page. (Readers will have to search for the Aug 31, 2016 post to find the opening chapter of Penelope’s story.)
PBN: When did you launch the business?
JM: Even though we became self-reliant back in 2006, the idea of a preparedness outfitter still haunted us. We had jobs, but we continued to talk about opening a shop that could offer prepper supplies under one roof. So, the day came when we said it was time. We retired and opened up Preppers Asylum in 2015.
PBN: What was your mission at the outset? Has it changed since you launched?
JM: Our mission is simple: educate and encourage all people to prepare for any type of emergency, keeping people safe and reducing their reliance on government assistance. We try to always educate people who come to our booth at expos. If they have questions about the gear we sell, we are happy to demo and train them on the use of it, to better get them prepared and into a self-reliance mindset whether or not they decide to buy something.
PBN: How many employees do you have? And what are their positions?
JM: It is only the three of us. Mary, me and Dora, our dog, who comes with us to shows only to get all the free petting she can get! She is also featured in the Penelope story.
PBN: What services and products do you offer?
JM: Apparel, backpacks and bags, Bug Out Kit, camp and field equipment, communications, cookware, First Aid, food, gas masks, knives and machetes, lighting (lanterns, flashlights, etc.), personal hygiene, personal protection and self defense, sleeping bags and blankets, stoves and fuels, and water purification.
I have been a hunter, camper, rock climber, and backpacker for years. Living outdoors; bathing in a cold stream; and starting a fire is nothing new to me. Mary also enjoys camping. She is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. She teaches Basic Survival First-Aid at shows. We both work with each piece of equipment that we sell to become familiar with its use. Thus, we see any “ease of use” issues first and can help our clients through those issues to help them make an informed decision on their purchases.
PBN: How do you advertise your business? And your products and services?
JM: We found out that advertising in magazines and on the radio does not work for us. We tried banners on websites. The list is long. So we just have our preppersasylum.com web store and a Google search engine. We are increasing our presence on social media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumbler, where all the Penelope chapters have been posted.
PBN: Is this your full-time job?
JM: Yes it is, if you don’t count the restoration of our home built in 1910. We are working constantly on that when we are not working Preppers Asylum.
PBN: How many hours a week do you work on this business?
JM: The amount we put in depends on whether it is show (expo) oriented or not. Up to 40 hours a week or more.
PBN: To what do you attribute your success?
JM: First, our customers. Second, all of our hard work to get the business up and running. It takes a lot of self-learning to create and manage a website, and a lot of travel to shows to maintain a presence. And third, all the mentors we have met along the way, who lend us their support and offer suggestions. Our son Gary has been a big help with marketing, It’s a family affair!
PBN: What have been the greatest challenges to launching the business and keeping it moving forward?
JM: Trying to find the right media outlet to let others know we are here. Also picking the right products to sell, which is a trial and error business. You find something you think will sell, and it does not work out. So, we talk to our customers and find out what they want to see, and we find it for them.
PBN: How do you define your market? Who are your customers?
JM: Our customers are from every walk of life. Young and not so young. Military and ex-military. Police, moms and dads. Everyone who wants to be safe and secure. I think self -reliance is brought up a lot when people watch the news and see storms, floods, tornadoes, blizzards, that affect everyone. Our customers are everyone who does not want to be caught unawares should the worst happen to them and their family.
PBN: What are your plans for the future of the company?
JM: As the company grows, we will add more products and increase inventory levels.
Currently we have expanded the first-aid area. We have added products like surgical glue, skin staplers and staple removers, full suture kits, STOMP trauma kits, jackets, woobie’s, etc.
We have decided to have a greater presence at expos around the country.
PBN: Does your company give back to the community in any way?
JM: We donate to food banks to help feed the needy. We donate prizes at every show to thank the attendees.
PBN: If you had advice for others looking to start out in business, what would it be?
JM: Do your research. Hire people who know what they are doing for website design. Talk to others who are in the business and pick their brains about how to proceed.
And, always plan that it will cost a lot more than you thought it would!!
PBN: If you were King of the World, what are one or two things you would decree?
JM: World peace and economic freedom to all.
PBN: What are your hobbies?
JM: I am a model railroader and historical train enthusiast. Mary likes to knit, and quilt.
PBN: Name the last book you read, and the last movie you saw?
JM: “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” and “The Wizard of Oz.” Can you tell we have a Grandchild? HAHA!