Why One Man Quit His Engineering Job to Make Flowers Out of Bullets
Daniel Xu 04.16.15
Until earlier this month, Anthony Zambai was a software engineer in Colorado. Along with being a husband and just recently, a new father, Anthony had job security, a steady paycheck, and bosses he had to answer to. That changed, however, when he decided to quit his job and instead spend his days shooting thousands of hollow-point rounds into polypropylene drums filled with water.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds.
For the past five weeks, Anthony has been running a small business that makes tiny, lead flowers from expanded hollowpoint bullets. He calls it Bullet Bouquets. The bullets are coated in a protective layer to make them safe to handle and attached to copper wires in the form of stems. As an interesting bonus, Anthony beds each “bullet flower” in a handful of empty .22 casings, which imitate soil. The process of making bullet flowers has been circulated online for quite some time now, and many gun owners have already heard about these neat little household decorations, but did it make sense to actually form a business around the idea? Understandably, many people mused that Anthony should have kept his day job.
“As crazy as it sounds, it was a calculated risk,” Anthony told me over the phone. “I feel like I have enough business experience at this point that I could make it work, and also I have enough money saved up that even if this thing completely fails, my family won’t be out on the street.”
Over the years, Anthony has been involved in numerous startup ventures, giving him a bit of entrepreneurial experience.
“I figured if I didn’t hop on it, somebody else would. I’m a bit of a risk taker and I just always wanted to own my own business,” he said.
Like many others, Anthony learned how to make bullet flowers by following a process he found online. An avid shooter and tinkerer, it didn’t take long for him to improve upon the design he found. Not long after first learning how the flowers could be made, Anthony said he spent an entire weekend doing research, making prototypes, buying a website domain, and planning a marketing campaign.
“It was just one of those rare occasions where you realize you already know everything about the product, and you say ‘I can start a business like this,'” he shared. “[…] I went out and bought a lot of ammunition and at some point I found a big enough container that I could fill with water and shoot into. There was a bit of land that my wife’s grandparents owned, and we just shot into the water and retrieved the bullets. I was actually quite surprised how they well ended up. We took the bullets back to the house and we started right away on the prototypes. That whole weekend was a blur.”
That was five weeks ago, and now Anthony already has three part-time employees—and two Glocks—working for him. He still works out of his garage and home, but production has ramped up to a point where he can no longer split his attention between two jobs. Anthony recently decided to quit his software engineer position so he could grow the business faster, and maybe even train full-time employees down the road. As for demand, Anthony said he is always busy with something.
“I have people beating down my door for these flowers, and that includes brick and mortar gun stores,” he explained. “I don’t know if it’s a fad or not, if it will last six months from now, but there’s definitely some immediate demand.”
Anthony admitted that he does have concerns about the long term prospects for the business. For now, he says that sales can waver depending on internet trends. When he did a Q&A session on reddit, for example, he experienced a staggering boost in interest and sales. But there are also days when demand slackens. Anthony anticipates that he won’t be making as much money as he is used to in his previous job, but it is not a decision that he regrets.
“If you’re the entrepreneurial type, you’re just never happy working for someone else,” he said.
Plus, being able to shoot guns and tinker with ammunition all day is pretty close to a dream job for Anthony. Although it may attract a niche market, building these flowers also appealed to the artist in him, along with the satisfaction of finally running his own business.
That said, Anthony said he’s still a bit nervous.
“I’ve been a software engineer ever since leaving college 13 years ago. Steady paychecks (with plenty of money in them) are great, but you get addicted to the security,” he wrote on reddit in response to a question.
For now, the business is doing well enough for him to be optimistic. Anthony has ideas of expanding beyond just bullet flowers if demand remains high, and he said he has enough ideas to keep the business going for years. When asked whether he was concerned about other entrepreneurs latching onto the idea, he said simply that the process was harder than it looks. Although his most recent job involved software, Anthony said that he got his degree in mechanical engineering, and therefore probably made his process far “geekier” than most people may imagine.
It’s also a big market, Anthony remarked. And a free one.
“There are millions of gun owners in this country and if I can get just a tiny fraction of them to buy my product, then that’s already good enough for me,” he said.
Anthony said he is currently working on new designs, a better clear coat, and another way of building bullet traps to catch the expanded hollow-points.
Bullet Bouquets currently offers a number products made using .380 ACP, 9mm Luger, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP hollowpoints. They’re priced from $7.95 all the way up to $274.95. If you’ve got a firearm-inclined lady in your family, it might just be the perfect gift for Mother’s Day. You can find them here.