Finding your niche Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2009
Consumer Products

Like many teens, Dan Costa started working as a dishwasher when he was 14 years old, but it wasn’t to earn money for a car or for baseball cards. Instead, he was working out of necessity, for food and for his survival.

He learned the industry, and by the age of 21, he owned his own restaurant, eventually expanding to more than 30 restaurants and then into the food distribution and processing industry. Then, at age 47, he sold his business to Tyson Foods.

After taking a shot at retirement, two years later, in 1999, he bought Royal Robbins Outdoor and Travel Clothing, a company on the verge of collapsing. There, he found an underserved customer — the FBI — and in 2003, sold off most of Royal Robbins and spun off 5.11 Tactical Series to meet that need. Costa, the CEO of 5.11, found that while law enforcement personnel at the FBI training center in Quantico, Va., liked the 5.11 brand pants, they were looking for something more. No one was meeting the very specific needs that law enforcement had for daily tactical apparel and uniforms, so Costa leaped into the void. He and his designers began working with law enforcement agents to identify their needs and to create the products to meet them, building relationships along the way.

Today, the company’s product line goes beyond pants into headwear, footwear, watches and duty knives, which enhance the safety, accuracy, speed and performance of law enforcement, military and firefighting professionals through their use.

Getting to where he is today meant taking a lot of risks, but Costa believes you have to take risks — and occasionally fail — in order to succeed. He says that making mistakes is part of doing business, and the important thing is to learn from them and to keep moving forward.

How to reach: 5.11 Tactical Series, (209) 527-4511 or