Written by Robert Leitch.
Police are called to respond to crime scenes 24 hours-a-day, in any location. Sometimes light is limited, and the inability to see their surroundings can create dangerous situations. T&M Tactical in Zanesville, Ohio, creates gloves with built-in LED lights, making the illumination of a dark area as easy as moving your hands.
T&M Tactical gloves have a plastic casing on the back that contains six LED lights. They give officers hands-free capabilities if they have to pursue a suspect or make an arrest. As a former law enforcement officer himself, co-founder Tim Matheny has worked with other police lighting solutions and has experienced first-hand their pitfalls. For example, helmet lights require the person wearing it to face a certain way to direct the light, while flashlights require a free hand. T&M Tactical’s gloves can get into tight spaces and illuminate anything your hands can reach.
“I remember a time during SWAT team operations when we were completing a drug-related search warrant and someone dropped their flashlight. That left us completely vulnerable and unaware of our surroundings,” said Matheny. “My business partner Justin Thompson and I came up with the idea for the gloves to have light available at all times while also offering hand protection.”
After recognizing the market for lighted gloves, Matheny and Thompson weren’t sure how to create a business around their idea. They knew the product would satisfy the needs of police officers, but had no experience as entrepreneurs. They turned to the Muskingum County Business Incubator, a southeast Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier, for help. The organization directed the pair to a patent attorney and a team of sales and marketing professionals. After receiving a patent for the gloves in 2010, T&M Tactical was awarded a grant from TechGROWTH Ohio, another southeast partner of Ohio Third Frontier, that allowed the company to create a prototype and begin to build a customer base.
“The Muskingum County Business Incubator helped us get into that business mindset,” said Matheny. “It’s a very different world than being a police officer, and we learned how to network and build the relationships and skills we needed to be business owners, including how to raise funding and market our products to customers.”
After testing the gloves in the field with SWAT teams, Matheny and Thompson realized they could also be useful for activities like camping and auto repair. The company sold about 5,000 pairs of the gloves and is now licensing other companies to manufacture and sell them.
“We recently signed a contract with a corporation in Canada that will get our gloves into 2,700 retail locations, mostly outdoor and sporting goods stores,” said Matheny.
T&M Tactical now has about 10 employees and is continuing to sell licenses for their gloves. Matheny says the next step for the company is developing new products, with several currently in the research and development stage. As a police officer in Zanesville, Matheny was immersed in the community before starting T&M Tactical but says he was not aware of what a great place it is to start a business.
“I can make one phone call and be in touch with someone who can help me,” said Matheny. “We owe a lot to the Muskingum County Business Incubator. They directed us on the right path and nourished the company from the early stages. I planned to retire as a police officer, but now I’m a business owner creating products with the potential to save lives.”