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WAKE FOREST – Startup Thin Gold Line is raising up to $2 million to set up manufacturing operations for the company’s first product, – the patent-pending 1041.Life shirt which is designed to encourage first responders to wear body armor and other protective gear by providing a layer of comfort.

Ccompany founder and CEO Sara Hall describes it as a solution to a universal problem in law enforcement: a tendency for officers to forego wearing their protective gear on duty due to discomfort.

According to an SEC filing, the company has raised $530,000 from two investors, and could raise up to $2 million.  Hall is actively raising capital through structured debt, she confirmed in an interview with WRAL TechWire.

Hall worked in telecommunications in a role that she calls “the first first responder,” where she would answer emergency calls and assist the caller navigate a crisis, while also relaying important information to law enforcement officers.  During her work, she observed a troubling: many times, officers returned without wearing their protective vests.

Hall, curious, sought an explanation for why protective gear, potentially life-saving, wasn’t being worn.  What she discovered was a major problem, and one of design: the gear did not fit well against a base layer, and often resulted in abrasions, wounds, or discomfort from wear and from use.

One evening, Hall attended an gala fundraiser event that required formal attire.  The next day, she’d realized that breathable, comfort-fitting, well-designed base layers might work just as well for law enforcement officers as they might for formalwear.

Thin Gold Line emerged from this realization: that the design and manufacture of the right garment could provide an affordable, effective, behavior-changing solution for law enforcement, ultimately resulting in greater adherence to policy, and a potential reduction of risk.

A few days later, Hall attended a lunch session for women interested in entrepreneurship, at which she shared her concept, after which the co-founder of a women-led incubator approached Hall and encouraged her to apply.

The company is in the process of finalizing a deal with a production facility, and Hall plans to do most of the company’s procurement of materials and labor within the Tar Heel state.  The capital will be used to set up production and begin the manufacturing process, and Hall hopes to close this seed round as soon as possible in order to begin producing the product.

Thin Gold Line photo

Sara Hall

“Ours is a proprietary fabric consisting of hemp fibers sourced and processed in North Carolina combined with a thread composed of virus-deactivating active zinc ions,” said Hall. The fabric is being produced in Concord, she said.  “The softness of polyamide fabrics and fibers combined with the hemp delivers unparalleled performance and antimicrobial efficacy.”

Her vision was that the gear not only be protective, but comfortable, and easy to don.  “The compression shirt wicks away sweat and attacks the bacteria that cause body odor in order to mitigate the stench that often lingers in body protective gear,” said Hall. “Customizable body comforming silicone spacers are attached to the shirt at key compression points designed to lift gear like ballistic vests, tactical gear, athletic gear, and outdoor backpacks, off the body, creating space for air to flow between the gear and the body, and to keep the gear from resting on or chafing the body such that it leaves sores and bruises.”

Hall formed the company nearly two years ago, and has completed in-depth customer validation, building relationships with businesses that already sell equipment to law enforcement organizations, as well as to organizations themselves.

“There isn’t a law enforcement officer among the thousands from whom we’ve solicited feedback who isn’t interested in this solution,” said Hall.  “Their spouses even more so.”

She’s also planning a direct-to-consumer channel, and indicated that there’s already clients waiting to place orders. “The market is in the tens of millions, and we’ve made concrete inroads already,” said Hall.

The public beta test of the product began earlier this month and include multiple uses and applications of the technology, including use during ballistics testing on a range to ascertain whether it might assist in absorbing shock.

Fundraising has been difficult, said Hall, “because I am female, and because I don’t have a tech product.”  In nearly every meeting with a potential investor, said Hall, she’s heard that the proposed return timeline would take too long, compared to other investments in technology companies that could be made with the same capital.

Hall has pushed back on this dynamic, despite understanding the rationale and perspective.

“I’m not a fan of the traditional venture capital model; investors wait too long to see a return, and I and any other investors would find diluted ownership unpalatable,” she said.  “But I want my investors to make a substantial and quick return on their money – debt allows us to do this.”

Hall noted that she is still raising capital, and is seeking anywhere from $500,000 to close to $1.5 million, and that investors could expect a 5–10x return.

Hall is already envisioning how she might smooth the pathway for others who, like her, choose to start a company that doesn’t make software products. “This company is so unique, the way that I have created it, I want to make sure that once we are successful, my intention is to create a nonprofit to help other physical product manufacturers, I want to set up a room of success,” she said.