Margaret O'Donnell talks with Eric Kropiwnicki CEO of Broken Gear

Monday, December 19, 2016

Margaret O’Donnell - What was it like to plan and organize a part 2016 America’s Parade?

Eric Kropiwnicki - My company, Broken Gear Inc., was chosen to be the exclusive provider of apparel for America’s Parade 2016. The Parade had never done this before; for the first time this year it was going to expand the brand of America's Parade beyond New York City.  America's Parade’s vision is to be in 10 large cities by 2019.  It will truly become America's largest celebration of service in the United States.

Negotiations began last February.  United War Veteran's Council (UWVC), the producer of America's Parade, was cautious as this was a first for them and they wanted to make sure the company they partnered with would be a good fit.  A contract was signed with us in August of this year.

The months before the Parade were unchartered territory; other NYC parades had no data and business consultants hadn't encountered this scenario before either, they asked that I share my findings with them so they could learn this model.  The task at hand reminded me of my time in the military; a mission to achieve, little intelligence to go on, and a need for timely execution - Broken Gear dove right in.

In the two short months before Nov. 11 my company went through the full gambit of project execution; legal, web development, ecommerce platform creation, marketing to include social media, sales, HR with additional hiring, etc...  and PR.  PR was tricky this year because America's Parade couldn't show any political bias, especially during a Presidential election year and in the prominent, high profile cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.  Translation - We had to say no to a lot of big names wearing our apparel so no political endorsement would be perceived.

O’Donnell – What was the day of the event like?

Kropiwnicki - Veteran's Day came quickly enough and I arrived in the CEO uniform - a suit.  My company had 20 people on the ground to man 4 sales points and 2 mobile sales units to support the parade, in addition to our other support assets such as photographers, drivers, etc.  The parade had 40,000 people marching and more than 500,000 watching on the world renowned 5th Avenue, passing in front of the NYC Library heading south toward Times Square.  After a bit of networking with other executives on behalf of Broken Gear, I joined UWVC executives and assisted in operations.  We worked well together and I could see a trust forming between my staff and theirs.  The Broken Gear team that day worked extremely hard and I can't give them enough praise for their flexibility and positive attitude.

O’Donnell – How did this exciting day end for you?

Kropiwnicki - By the end of that day, somewhere along the way, I had finally changed into something more casual.  At the final Unity Reception, I ran into Stephanie Dawson, one of the parade Grand Marshals who also has a connection to Rutgers Business School’s (RBS) military and veteran outreach efforts (I am an alum of the Mini-MBA: Business Management for Military and Veterans program; Stephanie is a member of the RBS Military and Veteran Board of Advisors to the Dean).  We instantly recognized one another.  We chatted for a bit and someone snapped this photo of us. 

O’Donnell - What now for you and Broken Gear?

Kropiwnicki - The parades were a success for us in all three cities, LA, Philly, and NYC.  UWVC was extremely impressed by Broken Gear and have already expressed their desire for us to remain as their exclusive apparel and merchandise provider.  America's Parade is setting its sights on three more large cities to join in our vision for 2017.  Chicago?  Dallas?  Who knows; another area of uncertainty.  I do know this though, if you trust in yourself and always remain a student of life, you will always keep learning and growing.

O’Donnell – For those who are hearing about Broken Gear for the first time and want more information, please tell us a little bit more about your company.

Kropiwnicki - Broken Gear Inc. is an athletic apparel line and an advertising and promotional products company.  This service-disabled veteran-owned company puts vets to work.  Companies and organizations that need apparel made or any other type of product logoed can reach out to Broken Gear for quotes or bids.  We are able to take on any size project.  As our participation in the America’s Parades proves, we can clearly take on projects even if they’ve never been done before.  / 401.552.7950 /

TAGS: Broken Gear Business Management for Military and Veterans Erik Kropiwnicki Executive Education Mini-MBA Stephanie Dawson