A souvenir Inspires teen to go into business
Damon Billington might seem like just another 16 year old. He’s fond of science and he loves traveling. You wouldn’t guess it by looking at him, but he is the owner of a business that sells all over the nation, and even to some shores beyond our own.
Damon lives with his parents, Bruce and Jen, in Crosslake. They came to the area while Damon was still in first grade. They originally lived in Rochester, where Damon attended Benjamin Franklin Elementary School. Damon’s dad moved them from Rochester to work with Hunt Technologies.
Now in northern Minnesota, Damon attends school in Pequot Lakes, where he developed a natural affinity to science.
He plays saxophone for jazz combos, jazz band, and symphonic band at Pequot Lakes, but he is becoming more and more known for something that started on a vacation.
Damon and his family love the outdoors. On an annual trip to the Boundary Waters with other fathers and sons, every year the group does something new to commemorate the beginning of their time there.
“One year we came across these (paracord) bracelets. We did a camo and orange one and wore them around,” Damon said. “People saw them and they said they were cool and asked where we got them. We said we made them and it kind of grew from there.”
Since then, Damon has made and sold roughly 500 paracord bracelets. Though Damon started making and selling them two years ago, the business really started booming last November and October, when he began selling bracelets for breast cancer awareness in memory of his aunt, who passed away from the disease.
Damon’s bracelets are made of up to three different colors and one custom charm that can be printed with sports logos, military service colors or virtually anything else imaginable.
“At first it was just two standard 1-2 colors and then it developed into three colors with one running down the middle. Then we got the charms,” Damon said.
He sells them under the company DB Paracord, which now consists of Damon and his friends, Dillon Nichols, Nick Salvevold, Adam Glenski, Del Ryan, Karl Satterlund and Noah Kronstedt. They get most of their business through word of mouth and Facebook.
“From the beginning it was mainly just me. My dad would help when we got a lot of them. As it grew I just kind of recruited them and it kind of just snowballed,” Damon said.
The business is also supported by 11 “pro-staff” representatives who basically act as walking billboards by wearing his bracelets in sporting events and photo shoots throughout the nation.
Damon also donates bracelets to various charitable causes, though he doesn’t like to brag.
Aside from owning his own business, Damon is an accomplished 16-year-old. He once traveled to Memphis, New Orleans and Chicago on a band trip, and he was once nominated for the “People to People Student Ambassador Program”, a program set up by Dwight D. Eisenhower to enhance cross culture communication.
Under the program he visited Australia two summers ago. Today, his bracelets can be found there with the family that hosted him.
This summer, Damon hopes to travel to Washington, D.C., for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program through the Smithsonian Institute and National Geographic. The competition is stiff, but Damon has an advantage.
“It (science) is so natural,” he said.
Because of his age, Damon doesn’t always get taken seriously, but when all else fails he has the support of his friends and his family.
“I think what I’m very proud of is the giving but also the fact that he lost his aunt to breast cancer, so the pink bracelets are very important. In fact the entire month of October he wore a pink bracelet in support of that and also the military,” said Damon's father, Bruce. “I’m a former military, so is my dad, my mom, my uncle. So I’m very proud.”
Paracord, more specifically 550 paracord, is a type of cordage created in World War II for use with parachutes. The material is made of seven strands of white rope inside a sheath. This cord is rated to carry as much as 550 pounds. It has become popular among outdoor enthusiasts for its strength and many uses.
Damon said DB paracord bracelets contain about one foot of cord per inch of bracelet.
Aside from bracelets, Damon also makes bow slings, necklaces and turkey totes. He is currently researching how to make comfortable watch bands.