When Lyman Bishop launched Hoplite Armor in 2015, he had a few investors to help him fund ceramic shoulder plates for both the military and civilians, making roughly $500,000 in annual gross sales in his first year.
Fast forward to 2021 and he now has a business partner and chief operating officer, Hunter Coppock, and two other full-time employees. He has expanded Hoplite’s product line to add femoral plates, armor carriers and more, bringing in $4 million in gross sales in 2020 alone.
“We started in 2015 but we didn’t gain traction until later in the year,” Bishop said. “There’s been a lot of ramping up.”
Despite never serving in the military, Bishop wanted to help save the lives of those in combat.
“All my life I was sort of planning on going into the military, but I got married early and my life took a different course,” Bishop said. “But I’m glad I did this because I feel like I can make a much greater impact this way by putting my skills toward this sort of thing and saving lives.”
With a background in mechanical engineering, Bishop designs ceramic and polymer body armor using SolidWorks software and now chooses to exclusively sell to civilians.
“With the civilian market, it is so much more innovative and it is so much more demanding,” Coppock said.
The ceramic breaker plate is designed to break apart or fragment a round from a firearm, and multiple plies of polymer armor on top of that form a cohesive plate for protection, Bishop said.
After Bishop designs the armor, the products are primarily manufactured at Leading Technology Composites (LTC), an aerospace and defense manufacturer in Wichita, Kansas, and Hoplite recently started partnering with T3 out of San Diego. The products are then shipped to Bishop and Coppock, who package and ship the armor out to customers.
All of Hoplite’s products go through a series of FIT tests, which prove the product’s functionality.
“Everything I sell is top-tier and LTC has proven that time and time again,” Bishop said. “They tend to always pass their FIT tests and they go above and beyond.”
Bishop first started designing only the shoulder plates, which protect vital organs against lateral impacts, back when he launched Hoplite, but now his femoral plate, which protects the femoral artery, is gaining popularity, too.
“I would say this business grew by four or five times,” Bishop said.
While much the product’s popularity has grown over the years, Bishop and Coppock say sales have spiked in the last year and half along with ammunition sales.
Hoplite also gained more attention when Bishop ran for governor in the 2020 election, running on a $15,000 budget.
“I think a lot of the attention came about from running for governor and making a strict stance and running on a pro-constitutional platform,” Bishop said.
In addition to body armor, Bishop has also done some custom work for ballistic vehicles. Bishop and Coppock also hope to one day bring manufacturing to Montana, where they would have nearly every stage of production in Kalispell.
Bishop says using e-commerce has significantly helped Hoplite’s growth, and the company has continued to surprise him since it launched.
“I never in a million years expected it to get to this level,” Bishop said. “It does show you that you can set up a business here and be successful.”
For more information, visit www.hoplitearmor.com.
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