Am I writing my own bio? Yes. Yes I am. I suppose I never expected to need a bio. You see, I never hoped for this. I wasn’t planning on this weird pocket knife pseudo-fame that’s happened to me. I was going to make documentary films. Behind the camera. Never in front. Outside the spotlight, unknown. But life is strange. It takes us places we never expected. And then you have to write your bio. Here’s my story so far, starting with a short summary I wrote in the 3rd person, and a self-portrait headshot I snapped in my basement: 

Who is Ben Petersen?

Ben Petersen is a knife designer, entrepreneur, and marketing e-commerce personality. His career spans 12 years with stints at Blade HQ, CRKT, and Amazon-focused businesses Pattern and Heyday. While at Blade HQ, Ben produced and co-hosted the YouTube show Knife Banter. His video tagline “What iiiiiis Up Guys” became a well-known industry staple along with his nickname Ben Banters. He co-founded Knafs with his wife, Athena in 2018, and they took the business full-time in 2022. They live in Northern Utah with their four kids, two rats (on purpose), a fish, and an accidental lizard. 

Ben Petersen Headshot

Writing those words feels… odd. Sure, I design knives. But I don’t feel like a Knife Designer. Ken Onion is a Knife Designer. Jens Anso is a Knife Designer. Me? I design knives. And I run a business. I’m a dad. I like hiking and adventures. And I still like making documentaries. And I also like to write. So, naturally when I started writing my story, it kind of ran off the rails into a 6,600 word personal history. Turn back now, intrepid reader! Or don't. This will be fun: 

How Did You Get Here?

I snuck in the back door. On accident. I was in college at Brigham Young University studying broadcast journalism and film. I had two semesters left and I was panicking. I’d been in the studio doing broadcast. I’d been on film sets. I’d made a documentary. And I didn’t want to do any of it professionally. I was married with kids on the horizon. I wasn’t sure how I was going to provide for my family. The professional panic felt warranted. 

I had a professor, Chad Curtis, who was very good at listening and understanding my predicament. He kept his ears open for internships for lost broadcast kids who didn’t want to work at TV news stations, and he connected me with an interesting opportunity in Washington DC. I interned with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services making training videos. It wasn’t glamorous, but we got to live in DC. Totally worth it. And I had a little extra time at night to watch YouTube. This was 2011 when the platform was juusssst starting to evolve from cat videos. I chanced upon a guy named Devin Supertramp who was shooting nature videos like this:

I was riveted. Devin had dropped out of BYU to make YouTube vids. Millions of views. Growth. Not a studio or station. Independent film. That felt like opportunity to me. When I returned to Utah, Devin hosted a free workshop on campus with the guys from Orabrush (the Harmon Brothers, for the curious) where they explained what they were doing with YouTube. Again, I was riveted and I came home jabbering incessantly to Athena about YouTube, the future, and what this all could mean for a little lost broadcast kid. And then Blade HQ called. 


I never planned to get into knives. Sure, I’d been in Boy Scouts and owned a Swiss Army knife. But I was never planning to make it a career. So when Jim Brown, one of the owners at Blade HQ, got in touch about making videos for them, I hesitated. I wasn’t sure. I’d met Jim a few months before at an extended family party. He’s Athena’s cousin’s husband, and we were sitting at the same Christmas party, awkwardly making small talk. I asked what he did for work. Knives online. Interesting. Did he have video on his site? No, but he wanted to. We started chatting about Zappos’ videos on their site, YouTube, and the future of video. I told him to keep me in mind after I got home from my internship. I didn’t expect him to call, and I was surprised when he did. I also wasn’t sure about knives— was that really how I wanted to spend my time?

At this point, I was underemployed doing news at a classical radio station. I needed a better job, so I prepared a pitch and went in for an interview with Jim and Cam, co-owners of Blade HQ. I don’t recall how it went, but they made me an offer for $11/hour on a 3 month trial basis. It was better than the $8.25 at the radio station. I decided knives were for me. Or at least more money was for me? I took the job. 

Fail Before You Fly

Jim and Cam  were talking about how a company named Blade Ops that was eating their lunch on YouTube. My job was to chase Blade Ops and beat them. It didn’t go well. Why Blade HQ kept me past the 3 months is still a mystery to me. My goal on YouTube at the beginning was “viral. “ I wanted the views that Devin and Orabrush were pulling in. Millions! We made stuff like this:

It flopped. But people saw we were trying. They subscribed. Then we did a big ol’ giveaway with a knife called a Benchmade Griptilian. I’d never heard of it, but the giveaway worked. 

The subs started coming, and I started understanding that “viral” wasn’t the goal. Instead, it was connection and consistency. We put everyone in the Blade HQ shop in the YouTube videos. No one liked being on camera, me included. We burned through hosts like a house fire as the audience eviscerated their presentation skills and stage presence. The internet is ruthless and I found myself as a video maker without consistent on-screen talent. I leaned in and put myself on camera. 

I didn’t know that particular video would change my life. I was just doing my job and chasing views. I never wanted to be on camera, and I didn’t enjoy it. What happened next stunned me: acceptance. The audience gave me the thumbs up. It was go-time. 

Collaborate to Dominate

At this point, I was a 23-year-old punk kid who didn’t know knives, but I had told the internet I would learn. In the meantime, graduation was about to happen, and I had no prospects of other jobs. This was it. I graduated, and Cam brought me on full-time. I contacted a YouTuber named Crocket20 and asked if he’d do a video review of that Griptilian knife with us. He said yes. 

We were off to the races. Blade Ops still had more subscribers, but we were pulling in more views on new videos. It was working! Focusing on consistent, community based content was helping us win. I started covering trade shows in a newsy fashion. I filmed on vacation while  splitting the gas bill with Blade HQ and met people like Chris Reeve and Grant and Gavin Hawk. 

Each successive project garnered more support from the community. Each video was gathering compounding algorithmic momentum. We were closing in on 60,000 subscribers. I was pleased, but struggling professionally. I’d gotten a raise at BHQ, but we had a growing family and rent to pay; we were suffocating financially. It was time to find more oxygen. 

Oregon Calling

I’d had an epiphany at some point during my time at Blade HQ while reading a Leatherman catalog at lunch. There was copywriting and photography and storytelling and product development in the catalog—-professionally crafted media. People were making an actual living in knives and tools. I needed to find out how. Networking has always been lifeblood for me when I needed a new job. I started hitting LinkedIn and cold emailing. I ended up on an informational interview with a lady from Leatherman, and I was messaging with the marketing director at Kershaw. No luck, but it was the right segment of professionals. I hit up Joel Bornzin at CRKT. He said he’d keep me in mind if a position came up. A few months later, he emailed to let me know that they were hiring a digital marketing specialist. I applied, then interviewed at Blade Show Atlanta while filming for BHQ. I got an offer. 

Athena and I spent a lot of time and prayer on that offer. It was a good opportunity for more learning. Oregon sounded cool. The pay was better, albeit still early career wages. But adventure! We took it. On my last day at Blade HQ, I filmed a project with an influencer named NutnFancy that I'd wanted to do for years. It was a fine close to an excellent chapter. 

Ben Filming
My last day at Blade HQ on my first tour. It was also the last day I did video production full-time. Weird.

The first time I laid eyes on Oregon was from the driver’s seat of a Uhaul with all our belongings in it, headed to live there. The chaos was palpable. I’ll be honest: I immediately struggled with the job at CRKT, and I had serious doubts about what we’d done. The pay was low. The cost of living was high. The apartment was small. The lease was a year. If not for that lease and Athena’s calm encouragement, I would have bailed. I’m glad I didn’t. Instead, I committed and settled in. It changed my life. 

Ben and Flavio - Hangin'

This was the first time my photography work had been featured somewhere big-- in this case, it was at SHOT Show in Las Vegas. I was super proud of the photo of Flavio Ikoma behind me. 

Now is probably a good time to talk about Little House on the Prairie. Athena always says I’m Pa. I don’t know what this means because I haven’t read the books and I’ve never made it through an episode of the TV show, but she explained that I don’t settle down— I’m always looking for the next frontier. Always ready to uproot for adventure and build a new cabin somewhere on the prairie. Admittedly, I don’t sit still well. My brain rarely relaxes. It’s an intense way to live, and it didn’t jive well in the corporate confines of CRKT. Joel kindly told me to chillax, and he taught me how to navigate, negotiate, and win within a company. This included managing an email inbox, using Excel, and how to use data to sway management. I’m so grateful I sat still long enough to learn from Joel. His patience in breaking a young horse was remarkable. 

My title at CRKT was “Digital Marketing Specialist.” I managed anything that touched the internet, including the website, social media, and email marketing. Part of my job was creating content with their knife designer stable. This was often the view from my office:

Lucas Burnley Obake Interview

The view filming with Lucas Burnley. He always got super nervous on camera, so I'd coach him through calming down and crushing it. Good times.

It meant I would spend days working with designers and makers like Ken Onion, Lucas Burnley, Jesper Voxnaes, Flavio Ikoma, Alan Folts, Ryan Johnson, A.G. Russell, Bob Terzuola, among others. I was studying their designs to ask the right questions in video interviews. I was riding around with them to locations to film and take pictures. I was editing their interviews and shooting b-roll of their knives. And I was quietly listening and absorbing everything. 

I remember driving around with Ken Onion as he talked about naming the Kershaw Leek, Shallot, and Scallion. He explained his philosophy of designing in themes and having a design prompt in mind as he started drawing. Ken became a good friend and a long-term mentor for me.

Ken and Ben

Ken Onion is a gem of a human. I sure love that guy. 

I remember eating dinner with Burnley and Alan Folts in a Las Vegas hotel and they started riffing on knife design. Alan showed me how to use tracing paper to make sure a blade fits in the handle. Burnley talked about coming into knife making via jewelry and metal work. I remember sitting by the Willamette River with Jesper Voxnaes, listening to him talk about the Danish fjords inspiring his design. I was swimming in this knife stuff! It was my whole professional world for 2.5 years. At the same time, I was learning about the business side of knife retail— margins, distribution, direct to consumer, QC, warranty, returns. I was a kid barely out of college at the high tables with the designers, VPs, and the owner of the business. I asked a lot of questions. I absorbed a lot of answers. Everyone was incredibly kind, and I got to work on projects like this one that changed my perspective on the world: 

Despite the intense learning at the beginning at CRKT, my professional growth within the company had stalled around year two. There are only so many places to move up at a company with 50 employees, and my job turned into a dead end for learning and earning. Athena and I had two kids, and we lived in a tiny apartment with 3 windows. Many people live their entire lives that way, and I applaud them. However, we had bigger dreams and our discontent was growing. Athena and I would drive around the Portland suburbs and look at houses we could never afford— nothing crazy, but we were on track to buy a starter home in our late 40s. We were dreaming dreams that we weren’t qualified to own. Dissatisfaction has always been a powerful motivator for me, particularly in chasing a better life for my family. I’m not a corporate ladder-climber by nature, yet more money usually means accepting more responsibility. I started networking again. 

From Frustration to Education

We wanted to stay in the Portland area, and I was hoping to stay in the outdoor industry. I started shooting my shot with Keen, Columbia, Danner— any and all of the consumer brands I could think of in the area. I applied. Networked. Called. Nothing. I extended my search across the country. Vista Outdoor, SmartWool, VF Corp, Bolle. Not a single call back. Most of them never even let me know I’d been rejected. I had an interesting conversation with Anne Reeve about potential opportunities at Chris Reeve Knives. She was beyond kind, but it didn’t materialize. In the meantime, my son was starting to outgrow his crib in the closet. We were making it work, but it was a study in discomfort, and the clock was ticking. 

At this point I realized I needed to reset professionally. I needed a new network to open new doors. Our goal was to buy a house. This meant we needed more money. And more money meant moving into management— a proposition I wasn’t qualified to do. I started studying for the GMAT. The plan was business school. 

The GMAT is a horrible hoop that schools require prospective graduate students to jump through before they’ll allow you to apply for their ranks. I had two months to take the test before I needed to start applying to schools  to start in the fall. I crammed every morning at 5 am. I studied at lunch. Athena quizzed me after the kids went to bed. I bombed the test. More studying on Saturdays. Practice tests. My second attempt went better, but I wasn’t headed to Wharton, the Kellogg school, or even BYU— I didn’t have the GMAT math chops or the score, and I had run out of time to study. Luckily, the University of Utah accepted my application to their full time MBA program. I found out on the same day I headed to SHOT Show for work. It was January 2016. 

Back to the Beginning 

Business lunches and dinners are pretty standard at trade shows. You text a friend in the industry, meet up, eat, swap stories, spread rumors, and head back to work. Meeting up with Jake, Justin, and Mark of Blade HQ felt very normal. Except this time the topic of discussion wasn’t normal at all. Cam and Jim were stepping away from the day to day of the company and putting in an executive team. Mark was moving into the CEO position. Jake was becoming Chief Creative Office, and Justin would be the Product Manager. They needed a Marketing Manager, and they wanted me back. Whoa. Plot twist. I sat there and stammered about how I just got accepted into the MBA program. Think it over. You’re moving back to Utah for school anyway. Why not change to the professional program at night and work for us during the day? More stammering from me. You don’t need to decide today. I told them I’d think about it. 

The rest of the show was a blur, and I went back to Portland befuddled. Jake was in town the following week. We went to lunch with some of the CRKT crew, then I ended up in his car on the way back to the office. We sat in the CRKT parking lot for a while hashing out details of the position. I had some stipulations. He had some questions. I told him I’d continue to stew it over.  

My biggest concern was pay. There was no reason to go back if it didn’t improve my life. This is when I learned about BATNA— Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement. Essentially, it’s the fallback plan if everything falls apart. My brother was working as a compensation consultant at the time, and he helped me understand my BATNA was MBA school. He also loaded me up with salary data ammunition to bring to the negotiating battlefield. When I told Cam my desired salary number, he balked. I told him to go hire a toilet paper salesman instead. 

Me: Look. You will not find anyone who knows as much about knives, e-commerce, and your business as I do. Learning your website backend alone is a 6 month ordeal. I already know it, and I’ll hit the ground running. These are my terms. 

He laughed, softened. 

Cam: You’re not the kid I hired at $11 an hour, are you? I hope this isn’t retribution for that. 

It was. I was pissed about life at this point in the game. And I don’t use the word “pissed” lightly. I had worked my tail off in my first two jobs, sacrificed to learn, given everything I had, and I still made so little money we qualified for Medicaid. We were losing financially. I had nothing to gain by accepting a low-ball job offer, and I’d worked too hard to get into business school. I was annoyed with the world, frustrated, and ready to improve my life. I came out swinging. Cam found a number that worked. Athena and I contemplated, prayed, and took the job. We headed back to Utah. 

Ben at CRKT

My last week at CRKT. Good place to be. 

Home at Last

This is the part where Athena took over to make dreams real. We now had a job offer that would qualify us for a home loan. She sprang into action, found a home for us in Utah, and we bought it sight unseen. Dreams do come true. We left our amazing friends in Oregon, and I started my new job at Blade HQ three days later. 

I won’t bore you with the details of the chaos I created at Blade HQ, but 6/7 of the original people on the marketing team had exited the business within three months. I was cleaning house, and stirring the pot; Management was not thrilled. They were concerned I was driving out good people. I understood their concerns, but I was confident that accountability roots out underperformance and slack. We were going to perform at high levels. I hired a new team. I trained and rebuilt a culture based on open feedback and iterative improvement. And then the magic started happening. 

Austin and Jamie were essential at this juncture. I had hired Austin Goetz to run our social media, and I’d asked him to start thinking about how to fix our YouTube channel— growth had slowed, excitement was low, and it wasn’t driving revenue. As our video guy exited, it gave us the opportunity to rethink about what was next. We interviewed a guy named Jamie Gregor from Minnesota who had just finished school and wanted to move out West. He was remarkably talented running a camera, and he had also just made a fixed blade knife in his garage. Sold. We made him an offer. He accepted. Within a month, Knife Banter was born. 

A YouTube Show?

I’ve already hinted at this, but I should probably confess it openly: I had been obsessed with YouTube for years. I loved it. In fact, I was planning to start a YouTube channel to help pay for my MBA. I had the website, first video, an LLC filed, and business plan finished. Here’s that video, unlisted and never released:

However, taking the Blade HQ job necessarily buried that plan. You can’t run your own  YouTube channel about gear while working for a gear company. But I was ready to start a new content adventure. I had ideas that needed an outlet. 

Austin, Jamie, and I chewed for weeks on what kind of content we’d create for BHQ. We debated format and release cadence. We designed a cheap set and cobbled together lights and cameras. Austin and I became the hosts out of necessity. Our first Knife Banter launched right before Black Friday 2016. 

That was the top of the roller coaster. We had no idea the loops and corkscrews awaiting us down the tracks. We put our hands in the air, tried not to puke from the G force, and enjoyed the ride like crazy. Austin left after a year to chase dreams. Zac took his place. We kept climbing. I’ll say it: Knife Banter was a smashing success. We released an episode nearly every week for three years. We worked our butts off. We got millions and millions of views. We sold boatloads of knives. Sometimes we even went viral. 

In 2018, I had an experience that blew my mind. I was in Chicago, 1,200 miles from home, in a children’s museum with my kids. A random gentleman stopped me and said, “You’re Ben.” Indeed. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, but I was usually recognized at trade shows and around Utah at sporting goods stores— places you’d expect. But there I was in a city that barely allows pocket knives and a stranger stopped me to talk steel types. I was floored, and I realized those millions of views represented real people— humans interested in knives. We had hit our stride. 

Somewhere in the midst of the chaos of the new job, I signed up for the professional MBA program— I was planning to do night courses to get the degree. I even paid the non-refundable seat fee. But then I started into the pre-program math course and I’ve never felt so unsettled about anything in my life. I walked back through my mind to remember why I was doing an MBA: I wanted to buy a house. Check. I wanted to make more money. Check. I wanted to move into management. Check. Why was I doing an MBA again? I didn’t have a single reason. I had already achieved everything that had started me down that road. Athena thought I should get the degree. I had zero interest in it. I called my friend and mentor, Doug Flagg, at CRKT. He said something that settled it for me: “If you want to run someone else’s business, get the MBA. If you want to run your own business, you don’t need it.” I told Athena I was out, then wrote the university to let them know I wouldn’t be attending. I dropped out before the first class started. I was thrilled and we never looked back. 

Discontent with Content

It’s worth noting that my position at Blade HQ didn’t include “YouTube Host” in the job description. Most of my job was managing a department of 6-10 employees. Hiring, firing, mentoring, planning, collaborating, meetings, messages, emails. I’d explain that to people and I’d often get blank stares— you don’t do this YouTube thing all the time? Not at all. In fact, my involvement on YouTube was causing unnecessary friction with my real job. I’ll spare you the details and challenges, but in August of 2018, the frustration was starting to boil. We took a week off and went to Montana to recharge as a family. I had some time to think away from the internet and the computer. And my brain started racing again. This time I put pen to paper and 8 years of knife knowledge began spilling out. I hastily taped printer paper into a poster and sketched for days. It was revelatory. 

Knife poster sketch

When I got home from vacation, I started dumping my angst from work into this idea of a knife poster. I was back to the 5 a.m. grind. I spent months researching, designing, and revising— 100 hours in total. I sent it out to friends for feedback. I studied paper types and found a printer. Around this time, my friend TJ Schwarz was passing through town and ended up crashing on our living room couch. In return for the cheap room, I made TJ review my poster and chew on my ideas. I asked if this was a product or a brand. TJ kindly looked at me like I was an idiot. Of course it’s a brand. How do I create a brand and still work at Blade HQ? Keep it all above board and transparent. What do you think of the name Knafs? You’d better buy that web domain before I do. That’s how the conversation went deep into the evening. I’d bring up doubts. TJ would encourage me. By midnight, he had more than paid for his room and board, and I had decided I’d be starting a brand. Knafs was born. 

TJ and Ben at Schwarz Knives

A visit to TJ's shop. Watching TJ's business grow is one of the most satisfying things in the world. 

Slow Burn to Somewhere 

I bought the website for $12. The trademark was wide open, so I sent in the application. I designed a logo and filed for an LLC in November 2018. I put Athena as 50% owner. She laughed and shrugged as I started chasing a dream. She didn’t doubt what I was doing, but she also couldn’t see the vision that was in my head. The first run of posters was 2500 units. I made a deal with Blade HQ that I wouldn’t work on it during work hours and I’d only sell it through their site. It launched December of 2018, and that first check for something that I’d made myself was intoxicating. I was hooked.

Knafs first check
The first $20 from our first poster sale, and the first check from our first-ever PO at Knafs.

It was the beginning of the end for my run at BHQ. My frustrations boiled over, and I started planning my exit. I let Jake know I was done hosting YouTube on January 1, 2019. By this point, Austin had left Blade HQ, and Zac Whitmore had taken his place on the YouTube channel. He and Jamie were doing brilliant work, and I knew it was in good hands. I cut my hours back to 40. I started networking again. In the meantime, Athena and I were busy packing posters in our kitchen:

Athena rolling posters in our kitchen. Notice the neglected dirty dishes cast aside in favor of posters. This would become a theme for the next 4 years as we grew. 

I knew I’d never be able to seriously build a knife business while working for someone else’s knife business. I had to get out of knives to be able to stay in knives on my own terms.. At Blade Show that year I took a few minutes and chatted with WE Knives about designing a knife for them. They were thrilled. Blade HQ was not. It was a conflict of interest. I respected that. I told WE “not yet.” I waited. I interviewed. I negotiated. I landed a job at Pattern, an Amazon brand management company. I exited Blade HQ in August 2019. I’ve written a bit about that moment here. I left with no regrets and no hard feelings. Sure, I had my frustrations and low points, but I left on good terms with the team and felt full of gratitude for the opportunity. It truly changed my life. But it was time to change again. I was out. WE Knives called two days later. They wanted to make my knife design. I told them it would be about a month because I wanted to take some time to think through it. I started sketching in Montana as we took time off between jobs. I began working on the Banter and thinking through what it would be.


Banter Knife progression

When we got back, I started my new job at Pattern as a Brand Manager. I took over the Amazon accounts for nail guns, makeup, car tuners, a foot peel acid, and bathroom fans. The learning curve was steep. I’d never even heard of a vlookup in Microsoft Excel. I still had so much to learn. But now I could do whatever I wanted in knives. I was back to the 5 a.m. hustle. That’s how it would be for the next two and a half years as I wrenched my dreams into reality. Wake up. Make products. Go to work. Manage others’ products. Go home. Dinner. Family. Answer emails. Manage my products. Bed. It was exhausting, but I was creating something that was ours. And at my day job, I was learning business in ways I never had before. I was learning negotiating and what makes employees tick. I was studying finance and Excel and margin opportunities. It was probably around this time that I realized I had spent the past decade learning on other people’s dime. I didn’t need the MBA because I’d worked myself to the bone in a real-world education. Do I wish I knew finance and economics better? Absolutely. But my MBA came from the school of hard knocks, and I’d paid for it in blood, sweat, and tears.

I submitted the Banter sketch to WE in early September 2019, and it was announced in January 2020, days before COVID blew up everyone’s world. I was worried the pandemic would kill the knife, but it was actually an enormous boon for its success. I was amazed, thrilled, and humbled by the number of WE Banter knives sold. Who would have thought people would buy my blocky, weird knife? Mind blown. Athena and I started socking away royalty checks into our Corporate America escape fund. This wasn’t poster money anymore. This was actual dollars that could make our entrepreneurial dreams real. 

Our fourth child was born in March 2020, and we hit a major snag in life again: our house didn’t fit us. We had three kids in one bedroom, I was working from home and needed a quiet room, and we’d filled up the garage with posters and our new knife shop mat. A few neighborhood teenagers  were packaging and shipping products in our basement . Everything was working slowly, scaling gently, but our house had become a cramped shoebox with no room for our growing kids and an expanding business. 

Ben and Athena Petersen - Knafs

Athena and me as the garage slowly disappeared in business chaos. 

In April 2021, I took some time off work, we piled the kids into the car, and we all headed on a road trip to the Pacific Northwest. Athena and I had a lot of time on the road to talk about our hopes and dreams. The Banter in Micarta was about to launch, and we were looking at the numbers— we were getting close to the savings numbers we needed to feel comfortable taking knives full-time and launching our self-employment rocket to glory. Between Knafs and knife design royalties, we thought we could make it work. And then reality slapped us in the face again. The WE Banter in Micarta was warping, and they couldn’t be sold. I wrote extensively about it here, but the despair was real. That knife was going to take us full-time, and it blew up on the launch pad. I was bummed. That said, we weren’t ready to quit my job because we needed to figure out the house dilemma first. With four kids and life happening, we weren’t ready to take the business full-time. Hold. Wait. It wasn’t time yet. 

The Last Year Before Launch

In September 2021, I followed my boss out of Pattern to another company called Heyday. It was a cash-flush venture capital-backed company that was thriving in the pandemic, and the workforce was fully remote. I joined at a significantly higher pay range. In our typical fashion, we pushed all the life buttons at once. We found a house an hour north in Utah, uprooted the whole family, and moved. We now had enough house to allow the business to scale. Our kids weren’t packed like sardines into the bedrooms, and we were able to sock away more savings to make the jump. The rocket was approaching the launch pad. Our plan was to stay at Heyday for two years, then take Knafs full-time. By this point, I’d launched the Baby Banter with Civivi, I was working on the Big Banter with WE, and I had the design done for the first Knafs knife— the Lander. The familiar feeling of the top of the roller coaster was happening again. Things were about to get crazy.

About nine months into my job at Heyday, they brought the remote team together in Boston for an on-site. It was fantastic to meet the people I’d seen on Zoom for months and get to spend a little time in person. I really enjoyed my coworkers, and I was fascinated by their backgrounds: MBAs from Harvard and Northwestern. Folks with experience at big, big businesses. And me. Resident knife guy. At some point, they found out about my history on YouTube. There were so many fun questions to answer for them. I especially loved explaining how knife royalties work. They were fascinated. I genuinely enjoyed the crew there.

After the work trip in Boston was over, I took a couple days off, rented a car, and headed up the Eastern Seaboard to visit a couple of friends and see a part of the country I’d never visited. My first stop was in Manchester, New Hampshire to visit Tony Sculimbrene. If you’re into knives, you’ve probably read his blog, Everyday Commentary. I had chatted with Tony online for a decade, but we’d never met. He’s an attorney by trade, and our conversation over Greek giros was engaging and fantastic. 

Tony and Ben

Tony Sculimbrene and me in New Hampshire. He was a huge inspiration that week for me to quit my job and take Knafs full-time.

We talked a lot about knives, but what stuck with me was this: Tony used to work for someone else and he eventually got fed up and he started his own law practice to take cases and clients on his own terms. He was paving his own way. I was inspired as I said goodbye and drove off to Newmarket, New Hampshire.

I showed up at Tim and Jenny’s house a little late, but I was thrilled to be there. If I can diverge back to 2014 for a moment: I was working at CRKT, and I had this wild idea to bring all the influencers I knew together at Blade Show in Atlanta to test our new products. I invited 8-ish people down to the river for “Chopfest” and sent them coordinates of where to meet me with my suitcase of goods. One of the folks I invited was Tim from Everyday Tactical Vids. He followed my weird GPS coordinates down to the little stretch of river and we had a swell time. It was a friendship that would blossom professionally and personally.

When I went back to Blade HQ, we made videos like this Altoids Survival Tin:

Tim is a true professional, plus, I just like the guy. I’d hung out with him and his wife, Jenny, at SHOT show years prior, so asking if I could come crash at their house wasn’t weird. Or maybe it wasn’t weird for me? Either way, I showed up and hung out with them for a couple days as they showed me their town and lives in the Northeast.

Ben and Tim and a big 'ol Adamas knife

Tim and me in New Hampshire. He and his wife Jenny helped convince me to quit my corporate job and run Knafs full-time. 

Tim is a pastor by day and gear YouTuber by night. I got to see his church and his profession, and he and Jenny let me in on a little secret: they were about to exit the church where Tim had worked for 15 years to plant their own church in their town. I asked a lot of questions and realized they were about to become entrepreneurs. I was inspired. And uncomfortable. If Tim and Jenny could make that jump, why not Ben and Athena? What were we waiting for? Two years at Heyday? I’d shrivel up in an overworked heap and Knafs would wither from neglect. I left New England on Saturday. Athena and I prayed about it on Sunday. Then I put in my notice at Heyday the following Wednesday. We were taking Knafs full-time, baby!

Go Time

On May 9, 2022 I started my first day of self-employment. It was glorious. A week later, we launched the Lander Kickstarter. The outpouring of support was again humbling— we raised $80k in 30 days. I was blown away. This might actually work. I started cranking like I’ve never cranked in my life. And it scaled with my efforts. I wondered why we hadn’t done this sooner. 

Athena and Ben

Athena and me taking the biz to the Moon! 

Within 6 months, we were hiring full-time positions to try to keep up with the Lander launch. Our garage was filling up with inventory and people. It was working! We had a very cold winter in the garage. In June 2023, we moved into a 2,400 square foot warehouse and office space. We fixed it up nice and opened a storefront to shill our knives locally. Everything scaled at once, and as of this writing, we have five full-time employees and two part timers. I’d love to say the rest is history, but it isn’t. We’re still in the thick of making a small, fledgling business function. Athena works on the biz more than we’d like. My brain is more overwhelmed than we’d like. We haven’t screamed and cried into the abyss for about a year now though, so I consider that a win. We’re still in the early stages of making it happen. We think the future for Knafs is bright, but it’s a future we’re still clawing and scratching to create. 

Knafs Team 2023

The Knafs team - November 2023. Amazing humans.

I look back now on the past 13 years of my career and I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the moments that weren’t so bright or clear. The number of times I’ve been lost in my own story is astounding. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wondered, “Is this really where I’m supposed to be? Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” When you’re living a story there aren’t always obvious waypoints and clarity to use as benchmarks. You don’t know where the story is headed, and it’s common to feel stalled on the road to nowhere. It’s OK to be lost in your own story. The frequency of that feeling throughout my own story is absolutely humbling to me. I didn’t know where this all would lead. I had some goals and hopes and dreams, and I worked at them for more than a decade. Some of those goals exploded on the launchpad. Other dreams went to the moon. Somehow it has all worked out. And I’m confident it will continue to work out in the future, even when I can’t see where the story leads. 

Lastly, I haven’t written this story to brag or boast. I’ve had a few people ask how I ended up here, so I figured I’d write it down. And then I kept writing and writing. I didn’t make it on any 30 under 30 lists; I’m doubtful I’ll make it on any 40 under 40 lists. The only work award I’ve ever won was “Detail Employee of the Month” at a car wash in college. I don’t feel like it’s a remarkable career. I’ve done my best and worked hard toward my goals in the face of frustration. And maybe that’s why my story is important for me to write down: I’m a normal dude chasing my little dreams, and it’s working. And as corny as it sounds, you can too. See you at 5 a.m., amigos.