Sonoran Desert Institute

All the Latest News, Reviews and Developments happening with the Sonoran Desert Institute!

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Getting your business in order for the holidays.

Yes, the holidays are here. The weather is cold and people are staying inside. So, how do you take advantage of the season to benefit your business, gain new customers, and stay on top of the potential increase in business? We have some suggestions for you!

Christmas and New Year’s bring out consumer spending in droves. According to the National Retail Federation, the holiday season represents nearly 20 percent of total yearly sales. While gunsmithing itself is more of a service industry, several gunsmithing businesses do have retail as a part of their business. Service industries, such as restaurants, can also be an indicator of an uptick in business for the overall service industry during the holidays (USA Today). So how do you use this to your advantage without going crazy during the process?

  1. Prepare

    Nothing can drown a business like not being prepared to take on new business. If your tools are not in order, your retail is not stocked, if you run out of paperwork, or if your filing system is not organized, you could find yourself swimming and overwhelmed. Get yourself together down to where your paperwork is filed. Do you have a stack of paperwork you haven’t filled out yet? Now would be a good time to take care of that. Clean your shop, stock any retail you wish to sell, and make sure you have effectively tracked your backlog for any outstanding work that should be completed before an influx of business.

  2. Get Congenial

    You are the face of your business. If Christmas gives you a case of the grumps, you should probably brush it off in lieu of a friendly, outgoing demeanor. It might seem unnecessary, but your primary duty as a business owner, especially in a business where you work on firearms that carry emotional attachment by your customers, is to make your customer feel at ease.

  3. Have a Sale

    In the spirit of Black Friday and post-Christmas, hold sales during the holidays. And the firearms industry is in a special position for the post-Christmas season. As a potential customer, after that special someone gives you a brand new holographic site or a new walnut stock, you’ve got to find someone to make sure it’s installed correctly. Try running a promotion as simple as giving a discount on service that provides a referral, or offer something a little more straightforward like discounted engraving, a deal on firearms seasonal maintenance, or maybe double down and discount all your services for a limited period. Make sure the sale inspires your audience to make a move by limiting the time your deal is offered.

  4. Update Your Website

    It’s 2017 and your website is as much of an indicator of the quality of your services as your experience itself. If you have a website that looks like it was designed in the 90’s by a teenage relative, you are most likely missing out on potential business. Consumers will take a hard pass on a service that looks like it does not care how it presents itself. People like bright and shiny, and your website should be able to provide it. Your website is also an excellent place to post your seasonal sale!

  5. Advertise

    Marketing can be daunting, but without getting the word out, nobody has any idea you exist. For those of you that can afford it, you can place ads in local publications and on local websites. Make sure they are high-traffic publications and do your research to make sure they target your consumer audience. For example, if your local gun club has a newsletter, it may be a good place for an ad. On the other hand, if your local gardening store has a newsletter, it may not be the best use of your advertising budget.

Let’s pretend you have absolutely zero budget for any kind of special holiday ads. You still have resources available. If you’ve performed your due diligence and gathered the email addresses of your past customers, you can send a bulk email to them advertising your service. Try to use a service like MailChimp or Hatchbuck to do this. If your past customers get annoyed, they may report your email as spam. If that goes back to your business email, it can affect future emails and potentially blacklist your email address. Using one of the services mentioned can prevent this from happening.

Or maybe you’re not tech savvy. You can accomplish advertising your business by sitting down and simply calling your past customers. This is where offering a discount on referrals can help. Finally, get social. Most of us have social media. Most small businesses maintain social media of some kind. This is the cheapest way to reach a large consumer audience.

Christmas time can be stressful for consumers and business owners. By using just one of these steps, you can eliminate some of it. Are these the only things you can do to help your business during the holidays? Absolutely not. There’s always the possibility of parachuting over your town while towing a banner with your sale on it. The key is to pick your pace, get the word out, and participate in the spirit of the season. Have any ideas for increasing business during the holidays? Post them on our Facebook page:

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SDI Webinar: Nick Koumalatsos, “Ok I found my passion. Now What?”

If you missed our webinar this month, have no fear. We have it all posted right here.

Guest speaker: Nick Koumalatsos

Topic: “Ok I found my passion. Now What?”

What does it take to “get out of your own way” and pursue your goals?
Nick explains what it takes to fulfill your dreams, free yourself from personal pain and self-sabotage and live your passion.

Nick Koumalatsos: Speaker Profile

Nick is a 12 year Special Operations Marine Corps veteran with Marine Reconnaissance and Marine Special Operations Command. He has deployed in support of OIF/OEF and other places all over the world. Has trained foreign police, military, and militia in several countries.

His military career prepared him for successful leadership and strategic operational planning. Nick is the founder and CEO of Alexander Industries as well as a successful adventure + informational YOUTUBE channel with his partner Alison Capra. From adventures to Iceland to concealed carry handgun tips, this channel is a peek into Nick’s daily life as a VLOG.

Nick has heart for his community first and foremost. It is his life mission to see his brother’s success. Nick started The Raider Project. His mission is to connect with MARSOC and other USMC combat veterans to help them transition smoothly, peacefully and successfully into the private sector. Nicholas also recently started Robin Hood Pictures. This is a project he is very passionate about. He set out to produce movies FOR THE PEOPLE. Without a religious or political agenda. Movies that set us apart for telling the stories of the men who have given everything for their country. Men who have altered the course of our history. To paint a picture of the struggle with a transition from the wages of war. His hopes that the movie he produces will be an eye-opening portrayal of what our modern day veterans are facing. These stories don’t always have happy endings, but they have significant ones. Nick hopes to inspire action for the veteran community and celebrate their successes.

A life of adventure and excitement. Nick resides in North Carolina with his girlfriend, Alison, his two daughters and their dog Leo. He spends his free time on the water or traveling to see his family in Greece.

For more information on Nick’s affiliations:

  1. USMC Prep 12 Week Marine Corps Recruit Training Prep Program
  2. YouTube – Nick’s Weekly Vlog (BE PREPARED SERIES)
  3. Spartan Carton – Nick fitness subscription box.
  4. The Raider Project – Veteran Non-Profit

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Finding Success in Online Education: By Mike Petronella

Taking online classes in the comfort of your own home can sound too good to be true. Too good to be true? Not so fast. This situation can be ideal, but there are some unique challenges to this format of learning.

The major benefit of online instruction is flexibility. You have the flexibility to do your assignments on your time, but this can also lead to problems. This flexibility can lead to procrastination, which can lead to late and or missing assignments. It takes exceptional discipline to be a successful online student. What does it mean to be a disciplined online student? One must have the determination to set aside the time required to absorb the material and complete the work each week.

I have been teaching for SDI for two years now, and I have found that successful students share some of the following traits or habits:

  1. They set aside a block of time each week for study. This block of time is always on the same day and time. Think of it as going to a brick and mortar “classroom,” but this classroom is just your own home or workspace. Make sure that this time is not the evening before the assignment is due. Nothing is perfect, so things can go wrong. I have seen computers crash, internet outages, power outages, or just plain old family emergencies create situations that the student can’t recover from if their class time is the evening before a paper is due.
  2. Set up a secure workspace. What I mean by secure is one that is isolated from interruptions. It is hard to absorb and retain information with constant distraction.
  3. Make sure that you are computer-literate. No, you don’t need to be an expert or a software developer, but you do need to be comfortable with email, message boards, word processing, and taking and sending digital photographs, as well as have basic operational knowledge of computers.
  4. Ask questions! You would be surprised how often students don’t ask questions. Ask questions ahead of time. Don’t wait until there is a problem. Avoid potential problems by asking questions.
  5. Be proactive as a student. All too often, a student will see an issue with their work, encounter an obligation that interferes with school, encounter financial trouble, or have trouble coordinating schedules to have a conversation with staff. These situations can be frustrating, but they can also easily be solved by being proactive and communicating clearly with instructors, academic advisors, or the school finance team. It’s important to understand that online schools are talking to hundreds of students per day, and unless you are proactive in communicating possible issues, it is hard for the staff to address your concerns.

All this might make online learning sound difficult, but just like any other type of school, you will get out of it what you put into it. Online education is a matter of convenience for the student and will require trade-offs, such as discipline on behalf of the student. By following steps such as setting aside time, securing a distraction-free workspace, getting comfortable with computers, asking questions, and being proactive, you can help yourself to have the best online education experience possible.

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SDI Attends Nashville Sporting Clays Tournament

It’s not every day that you have an opportunity to help a charity like the Ronald McDonald House. It’s also not every day that you get to spend a day shooting clays with great people, eating good food, enjoying perfect weather, and doing it all at a beautiful facility.

The day was overcast with slight sprinkles of rain in the morning, which cleared once the tournament started. There was also a slight chill in the air and a subtle breeze. In other words, it felt like perfect bird hunting weather—not too hot, not too cold, and perfect for a sweater. Competitors mostly consisted of Nashville locals, and Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) was happy to be one of the few out-of-state sponsors.

This was SDI’s first time as a sponsor for the Music City Sporting Clays Tournament, which is part of the Ronald McDonald House’s Kids & Clays fundraiser events. Nashville Gun Club hosted the tournament, and it did not fail to impress with its hospitality and the beautiful facility that they maintain next to the Cumberland River.
SDI has a vested interest in Ronald McDonald House. Their own Admissions Advisor, Christian Wilson, was a guest of Ronald McDonald House and is a cancer survivor. He now serves on the planning committee for the tournament and volunteers for the Ronald McDonald House in Tennessee. SDI saw this as a wonderful chance to support one of its own for a great cause.

Christian had this to say about the Nashville Ronald McDonald House, “The Ronald McDonald house was a tremendous blessing to my family and I during the time I was recovering from undergoing a bone marrow transplant. The house was able to not only provide my family and I a warm place to sleep and great food to eat, but it became our home during that time. The staff and families there going through similar situations became an extension of our family and it gave us great comfort having so many people we considered family there always ready to lend a helping ear or hand when we needed it. Since I have recovered and am in Remission living a healthy life I love going to speak about my families experience and help with events to bring awareness and raise money to aid the families who are there now, while those families are going through difficult times by bringing awareness and raising money for the house others are helping these families more than they will ever know!”

What does a day with the SDI team look like at a clay tournament? On this day it looked like eight people crammed into a golf cart, driving from station to station, and laughing the entire way through. If the etiquette of the Nashville Gun Club is to quietly go about your business on the course, SDI will have some apologies to make. The SDI team made the most of their time together. There is a definite comradery among the SDI staff, which is significant when taking into account that most of them had never met prior to the tournament. SDI’s culture of positive support was on display the entire day. Even if they didn’t shoot like clay experts, they stayed vigilant in supporting each other throughout the course. It was a unique situation for the SDI crew, since being knowledgeable in the assembly and maintenance of firearms does not a professional clay competitor make. But the team was just happy to be together and present at the tournament.

Shooting for the SDI team were Admissions Advisor Christian Wilson, Liaison Dustin Johnson, Marketing Content Specialist, Mac Christian, Professional Shooter KC Eusebio, and to everybody’s excitement, current student Thomas Hudson. Also attending were SDI’s PR Specialist, Garett Bishoff, VP of Product Positioning, Zeke Stout, and Industry Relations Specialist, Vanessa Boyer. Somehow, as previously mentioned, they all managed to fit into one golf cart.

Following the tournament, competitor teams gathered in the Nashville Gun Club lodge for pulled pork, corn bread, amazing baked beans, and the presentation of awards. There was an auction of goods ranging from hunting knives to hearing protection, and even a Mossberg shotgun was awarded as a raffle ticket prize.

While looking like an occasion to relax and have fun, the Music City Sporting Clays Tournament is serious business. The attendees were intent on raising money for the Ronald McDonald House—and they certainly met their objective. By taking in over $50,000, this tournament was a resounding success.

SDI is looking forward to future opportunities to sponsor organizations like the Ronald McDonald House.

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SDI Attends IV8888 YouTube Range Day

Boom! Red, white, and blue smoke filled the air as a concussion ripples across the field and a chest-thumping sound expands across the rural landscape of Georgia just North of Atlanta. With this, the IV8888 YouTube Range Day kicked off its yearly event of shooting, socializing, and networking for the firearms community.

Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) attended IV8888’s invite-only event on October 7, 2017, and it was an impressive display of solidarity, friendship, and fun. Representing SDI was its own Wes Lemay, Garett Bischoff, and Mac Christian. With the current political environment surrounding the firearms community, an event like this could very easily evolve into a highly politically charged meeting. This day, however, maintained its course as an occasion to gather with like-minded individuals representing various areas of the firearms community to have fun and learn.

Walking around the tables set up at IV8888 YouTube Range Day, attendees could find a large assortment of firearms in almost any model and type. Even the most avid firearms enthusiasts would be able to find something new at this event, whether it be Kriss Vectors, suppressed 50 cal rifles, or Ruger’s new backpacker rifle with a suppressor added–which SDI’s Wes LeMay called “the coolest darn thing I’ve seen in a long time.” The air around Range Day was filled with a constant cacophony of firearms. The sound would vary from large bolt action rifles to the occasional rattle of fully automatic rifles as well as the thunderous noise of a 50 cal bolt action rifle. These were all handled under the supervision of professionals with specialty licensing to work with these types of firearms.

Held on a private property in Georgia, the shooting course might have resembled a bit of bedlam but once the range went hot, a fair amount of order ensued. A rotary clay launcher sat in the middle of the range and shotguns were primarily demoed in the center of the course to provide access to the randomly firing clays. Fully-automatic and semi-automatic rifles along with handguns were fired on either side. Close targets were identified as handgun-only targets to prevent any fragments from coming back to shooters. Targets were placed at varying locations up to 100 yards and consisted of foam torso, popups, steel, tannerite, two cars and a gong. IraqVeteran8888’s Eric Blandford kept constant communication with the shooters through a loudspeaker system to notify the shooting range to halt shooting at various time intervals for the resetting of targets.

IV8888 YouTube Range Day was a terrific outing and a great example of solidarity within the firearms community. SDI was proud to have been a participant and honored to have attended such a professional and positive event.

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SDI Is Ready For A Busy October

Lots of people, lots of firearms, and more than a little fun. October is shaping up to be a great month for Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI). Here’s why you should be paying attention to the happenings at SDI!

October 6-8, 2017, Members of the SDI team will be gathering in the mountains of Georgia for the annual Iraqveteran8888 Range Day. Range Day for the IV8888 team is a chance to invite the YouTube firearms community to get together, showcase new gear, and try out an unimaginable number of firearms. At this shoot, you will see everything from fully automatic rifles to high-grade pellet rifles, or even an archery tag course. The IV8888 shoot is by invitation only but it will not lack for coverage. Several of the most notable YouTube firearms celebrities will be in attendance to document all the action. Keep an eye out on Sonoran Desert Institute’s Facebook page to view live updates, videos, and posts of all the happenings. IV8888 Range Day is a sight to behold and is eventful enough to fill up your enjoyment meter for a few months, but it is not the only event we have coming up.

On October 27, 2017, Sonoran Desert Institute is assembling a shooting team of staff, partners, and even one lucky local student to compete in Nashville Tennessee. SDI’s team will be competing in sporting clays and will be raising money for the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville where one of SDI’s own, Christian Wilson, serves as a board member.

As stated by the Ronald McDonald House of Nashville, “The 2nd Annual Music City Sporting Clays Tournament in association with the Kids & Clays Foundation will be held on Friday, October 27th, 2017. The tournament will be hosted at the Nashville Gun Club and participants will enjoy a 100-Bird course specially designed for the recreational fun shooter. Registration includes ammunition, exclusive shooter gift, a delicious lunch, bottomless beverages and a cocktail/awards reception. Featured activities include a fabulous silent auction as well as side events featuring flurry shots with all of your favorite game birds!” For information on the event, check the link here,

The SDI team will comprise of both novice and experienced shooters and the resident BMOC, Garett Bischoff, will be in attendance to spread the word about the school. It’s a very exciting opportunity for a school like SDI to be able to work within the firearms community as well as help children and a great cause. Be sure to stay tuned to SDI’s Facebook page for updates on this event as well as live video, news, and to cheer the school on!

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Michael Veglianti

Staff Spotlight: VA Certifying Official, Michael Veglianti

From Birmingham, England, to Scottsdale, Arizona, Michael Veglianti has made quite the trek, and we are glad to have him at Sonoran Desert Institute. Michael is one of Sonoran Desert Institute’s VA Certifying Officials, and he takes great pride in helping our veterans achieve their educational goals.

“I’ve never quite seen anything like the veteran culture in the United States. Veterans have a strong presence, and despite some shortcomings, the U.S. really takes care of their veterans,” said Michael. Michael knew of veterans in England but he had never encountered such a strong unity among veterans as he’s seen in the United States. “It’s really moving to help those that have served their country,” he said.

Michael first started working with veterans’ benefits at the University of Phoenix in 2007, and continued through 2017, until the University of Phoenix started reducing its staff. Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) was lucky enough to acquire his services directly afterward. Michael’s duties consist of processing paperwork from other schools that students have transferred from, negotiating student debt from past classes or past schools, running calculations for student funds, and helping to verify payments. One of his favorite parts of the job is fielding calls from students. Michael had this to say, “I spend most of my day on the computer, so it’s actually a nice change of pace when I get to talk to a student who has questions or somebody who is having issues with their accounts. Really, I just love to help veterans. It drives me nuts when I don’t readily have an answer. So when I don’t, I will dig until I have it.”

Michael has a significant amount of drive when it comes to performing his job. He has earned his bachelor’s degree in business with an emphasis in accounting. He is also trying to find the time and resources to earn his master’s degree. In addition to all of this, Michael is taking steps to learn more about benefits to make himself more of service to those in need by learning TA as well as student Financial Aid benefits.

Michael prides himself on organization and maintaining a consistent process, but as with any job, issues can arise. “The biggest complications I see on a regular basis is when students transfer from one VA region to another without notifying the VA, if there is a VA account debt from a student’s previous education, or sometimes there’s just a delay in the VA office.” Despite the massive amount of records that Michael processes on a daily basis, he drops everything to help when problems arise. He maintains a dogged approach when problems do come up. “I do absolutely anything I can when a student reaches out.”

Outside of his professional life, Michael Veglianti enjoys soccer, rugby, and cricket. His favorite sports are not often televised in the States, but he makes sure to catch a match when his favorite team, Tottenham Hotspur F.C., is televised. He’s also expanding his taste and starting to enjoy American football. Michael is also quite the movie buff. “Man, I’m going through my phone here and realizing I’ve seen most of the movies out right now.” His current favorites are American Assassin and The Hitman’s Bodyguard.

Michael’s education is not limited to business, accounting, and customer service. He has steadily been learning Pokémon characters from his son and daughter. Like most professional parents, Michael is finding this learning curve to be as complicated and challenging as anything he has encountered in his professional life.

Sonoran Desert Institute had been privileged to gain the employment of somebody with Michael Veglianti’s experience in VA benefits. Combined with his desire to constantly improve SDI’s VA processes and his dedication to help those who have served our country, Michael has proved himself as a terrific asset and a powerful advocate for our students. SDI is happy to have him on board and looks forward to many more years with Michael on staff.

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Emmanuel Ajagbe

Emmanuel Ajagbe: An ambitious student getting all he can out of an SDI education.

Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI) created the Field Study Program to give students a chance to gain hands-on experience in the firearms industry by working alongside industry leaders and various successful gunsmiths throughout the country. It’s a program that is not taken advantage of enough, but for a student like Emmanuel Ajagbe, it’s a program that he has jumped into head first. In his quest to be a gunsmith, Emmanuel has now completed not one, but two, Field Studies with SDI partners.

It takes a certain level of drive to build your experience the way that Emmanuel has. Attending a Field Study requires a student to take on extra initiative and responsibility as well as show exceptional work ethic. Moriarti Armaments® was Emmanuel’s first Field Study and was chosen because it was a convenient location to travel for Emmanuel. Although he didn’t really know what to expect, he ended up gaining enough from this experience that he wanted to do it again and enrolled in a Field Study with Moss Pawn & Gun.

Moriarti Armaments is a Type 07 FFL manufacturer and Type 08 FFL importer of firearms located in Miami, Florida. Emmanuel started their program by learning under an armorer understudy on AR-15 and AR-10 platforms. “I personally built in excess of over 10 rifle builds of both AR-15 and AR-10 platforms, checking every build in our in-home steel shoot housing,” said Emmanuel. He also had the opportunity to learn the basics of a firearms business by participating in sales, setup of the store, proper storage of firearms for store closing, how to run FDLE background checks, and how to fill form 4473s to tender the sale of a firearm. Emmanuel worked regular hours and he worked hard.

In all, Emmanuel participated at Moriarti Armaments for four weeks, which he said was ample time to learn a company’s processes and learn or improve old skills. “I have personally built my own AR-15 rifles prior to this field study, but in this study I learned the proper order of assembly, proper use of tools, solutions for abnormal issues, and the management of time, which all improved my total armorer skills. The AR-10 and AR-15 armorer learning aspect was my overall favorite portion of the field study.”

Given what Emmanuel learned at Moriarti Armaments, a lot of students would have called it good. They would have moved on with their careers, but Emmanuel wanted more. He decided to enroll in a Field Study Program with Moss Pawn, a well-known shop with a successful YouTube channel. According to Emmanuel, the experience was “everything I hoped it would be.”

Moss Pawn took Emmanuel in right away. Renown Master Gunsmith Ray Vaughn took Emmanuel around the establishment on day one and introduced him to the entire staff. Emmanuel was then introduced to the tools and was put to work on a project with a Lee-Enfield rifle—a type of rifle that Emmanuel had never before worked on. While he said it was a challenge, Emmanuel was walked through the project by Ray Vaughn, who let him build his confidence by doing it himself.

Emmanuel Ajagbe built many skills while attending the Moss Pawn Field Study. He had this to say, “ I learned many skills from Moss Pawn, such as repair on revolvers, striker-fired pistols, rifles, sighting-in precision rifles, Cerakote™ application, diagnostics, customer relations, business-to-business relations, and many approaches on how to problem solve.” With Moss Pawn being a high-volume shop, Emmanuel had no shortage of work to do.

Emmanuel had high praise for both Moriarti Armaments and Moss Pawn. They are both hardworking, professional establishments and Emmanuel was able to make friends across the industry while attending these Field Studies. He came away from both experiences saying that he would recommend them to any student wishing to gain hands-on experience in the firearms industry. Given the work ethic that Emmanuel Ajagbe has shown, there is no doubt that someday he will probably be hosting his own students at his own successful business.

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