Matthew Stansberry--Surveyor, Entrepreneur

X-Sections has a conversation with Matthew Stansberry, a full-time chainman in the Pacific Northwest and part-time entrepreneur. Matthew is the founder of Safety Apparel, LLC and creator/developer of the "Party Chief" surveyor's safety vest.

We wanted to find out more about Matthew and what compelled him to take the extraordinary step of designing and selling his own safety vest.  John

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Did you choose land surveying or did it choose you? Talk about how you got started in the profession.

A friend of the family, Mitch Evans, was a project surveyor and eventually more and more of my friends became surveyors back in early 2000. After I was laid off from a granite installation company, my buddy Rizzo said: "Hey man, come survey with me in the woods, I'll give you a machete." I was sold!

What compelled you to create a better field surveyor's safety vest? 

After about a year of surveying in the streets, I figured out that the company-supplied vests weren't that great. They weren't HiViz, didn't have any ANSI certs and they were missing crucial pockets that carry all our daily gear. Born out of necessity, the Party Chief vest was my answer to my safety and utility problems. The design has been tweaked many times with the help of other surveyors and trade personnel and is still evolving to be lighter, stronger and have a better layout of pockets etc.

Tell us about how you designed and made your first vest: Did you sew it yourself?

I started Frankensteining designs together. One old vest had the right heavy duty materials, another had the hiviz colors, and then I added all the bells and whistles: hammer hangers, straps, eyelets, shoulder pads, fuzzy hand pockets, gussets, bartacks, etc. Coupled with high-end materials like YKK zippers and 3M Scotchlite reflective striping, I had a vest good enough to pass the tests and last more than a year unlike my other vests.

Tell us about the challenges of creating, growing and operating a business while working full-time as a land surveyor.

Starting a company was not that hard--paper work mostly. Now dealing with ANSI, third-party testing facilities and sewing machines was a different game all together. I knew that I needed to find the right people and local distributors to get off the ground. Some Social Media helped too which I fought for the first few years since I didn't have any accounts open yet. At this point it's mostly about finding new contacts, customer service, expanding to bigger distributors, and finding the time after surveying all day to process the vests and get them in the mail.

What are your long term goals for Safety Apparel? For you?

I'd love to survey as long as I can, being in the field is what makes me happy. As for Safety Apparel and the Party Chief surveyor vest designs, I'm pushing to expand into other countries with major distribution hubs to help get a quality safety vest out to the masses that need them.