Bulletproof clothing designers say US demand is on the rise

A Florida husband and wife duo who developed a fashion line of bulletproof clothing say they have seen the demand for their products in the U.S. increase exponentially — and amid growing security concerns, they believe the market still has untapped potential.

Miguel Caballero created MC Armor, a branch of his Colombian based company that focuses on ballistic-resistant clothing that includes items from jackets and accessories to children’s apparel. Leading the U.S. market efforts is his wife, Carolina Ballesteros.

“It’s fashion,” Ballesteros told ABC News. “But it’s fashion with protection.”

PHOTO: Carolina Ballesteros shows Gloria Riviera the bulletproof backpack from MC Armor.ABC News
Carolina Ballesteros shows Gloria Riviera the bulletproof backpack from MC Armor.

Since starting the business in 1992, Ballesteros said the profile of MC Armor’s customers has already changed. “Now we get a lot more celebrities and politicians,” she explained.

Ballesteros, who bravely showed off the effectiveness of their clothing by taking a bullet to her chest, said she and her husband decided to expand their Mexico and Colombia-based boutiques to the U.S. because “we felt it was the moment.”

“The U.S. has a lot of guns, and it’s part of the culture,” Ballesteros said. “But we participate in the defense and security industry and we want to save lives. So as soon as we see something as a shooting, a massive shooting, we need to be there.”

The U.S. market alone has proven highly lucrative for the couple. With an estimated 3 million American gun owners, it is one of the largest markets for gun accessories.

One South Florida gun store owner, David Johnson, said he has been selling ballistic accessories to a wide array of customers recently.

“We have a full spectrum: lawyers, doctors, we have a lot of realtors that go into bad neighborhoods, landlords that have to collect rent,” he said. “Also this is South Florida — the home of road rage — a lot of people like to keep this in the back of the car, just in case.”

MC Armor’s bulletproof clothing and backpacks were originally developed in the early 1990s when Colombia was ravaged by crime, prompting a demand for products to help people feel safe.

PHOTO: Gloria Riviera talks to MC Armor’s Carolina Ballesteros in a gun shop.ABC News
Gloria Riviera talks to MC Armor’s Carolina Ballesteros in a gun shop.

Ballesteros said they even developed a bulletproof version of the Bible for priests.

“So he has a Bible all the time in front [of him] so he can use it as a shield,” she explained.

Now, she said the company’s products have become part of a new safety trend that includes bulletproof backpacks, especially in schools.

Ballesteros said her company’s first bulletproof children’s backpacks were specifically designed for students in the United States after the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The design includes a bulletproof material sewn inside the backpack which allows students to use the book bag as a shield.

“It’s the same as you’d teach [children] different things, like how to go to the bathroom in school,” Ballesteros explained.

“As mothers, we have to teach kids,” she added.

More recently, Ballesteros said the bulletproof backpacks sold out within minutes of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in February.

But she defended the company against criticism that they are making money off of fear explaining, “it’s not about fear, it’s about protection.”

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action who is the mom of a high school student, argues that she shouldn’t have to buy a bulletproof product in order for her and her family to feel safe.

“We should be asking ourselves if this is truly an effective way to stop injury by gunfire,” Watts said. “Not saying that the technology is bad, the real problem is that civilians want these products because lawmakers aren’t taking action to curb gun violence.

Our lawmakers should be the ones taking action to prevent people from causing harm in their communities,” she continued. “We’re doing a lot of things in America that are desperate attempts to protect our families from gun violence… If you compare America to other countries, our rate of violence is off the charts and ballistic clothing should not be the first line of defense for those who want protection.”

According to an August 2017 report from Market Research, body armor manufacturing is a $465 million-a-year industry and a Grandview Research 2016 study projects that the industry could reach over $5 billion globally by 2024.

Abbas Haider and Robert Davis are another duo who have launched their careers in the ballistic resistant retail industry. The pair founded Aspetto Inc., the first U.S. based company to offer high-end and couture suits and shirts for an elite clientele.

PHOTO: Aspetto Inc. CEO Abbas Haider and COO Robert Davis discuss their high end custom bulletproof suits.ABC News
Aspetto Inc. CEO Abbas Haider and COO Robert Davis discuss their high end custom bulletproof suits.

Haider said the unique area between Washington D.C. near Quantico has changed the profile of their customers. “Now we get a lot more celebrities and politicians,” he explained.

The bespoke suits can range in price anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000 and are made of the same fabrics used by other luxury designers, he explained.

“Our product is 100 percent made in America. Our ballistics are government approved. So if you’re going to put your life behind ballistics it should be us,” Haider told ABC News.

The factory is based in south Florida “where all the magic happens,” he added. In addition to manufacturing the suit patterns, he says their space is also used to test the fabric with various guns to ensure it measures up to the level of protection advertised.

“This is the product that saves lives. This creates the best chance for their life being saved,” Davis, his partner, told ABC News.

Davis showed off a suit that can withstand the blast from a 9-millimeter bullet but said it would still feel like taking a punch.

PHOTO: Aspetto Inc. CEO Abbas Haider and COO Robert Davis look at their company’s suit patterns with Gloria Riviera.ABC News
Aspetto Inc. CEO Abbas Haider and COO Robert Davis look at their company’s suit patterns with Gloria Riviera.

“With the government standards, it can only be a certain amount of depth,” he explained. “So this still falls in line with the government standard.”

Although Aspetto has traditionally had a list of high-profile clients, Davis and Haider said more and more Americans are willing to splurge on protective clothing.

Henry Ross, a former U.S. Marine who works in the security industry, said that despite his experience and training in the military, he sees this type of clothing as a backup form of protection against the unexpected, “the same reason you buy a first-aid kit.”

“You don’t buy because you want to use it, right? You buy because if you don’t have it when you need it, you’re kind of out of luck,” Ross told ABC News.

Distributors and designers like Davis, Haider and the Ballesteros all claim to take the legal selling requirements very seriously and conduct background checks on all customers. While background checks are not required by law to purchase ballistic clothing, the U.S. has a federal ban on convicted felons illegally possessing armored clothing.

Ballesteros said she and her team hope untapped clientele in the U.S. could make the country MC Armor’s biggest market very soon. And she has plans to specifically focus on women like herself.

“Women are learning about guns and safety and security and they want to know how to care for their family, the ones they love,” she added.

Meet the team behind the runaway success of live game show HQ Trivia

Lauren May was ecstatic. She jumped up and down, she fought back tears, she screamed out in pure joy. After being on the edge of her seat for what seemed an eternity, she had done it. She had won.

May hadn’t won a new car. She hadn’t won the lottery. She had won HQ Trivia, beating hundreds of thousands of participants for a grand prize of a whopping $11.

“I was so excited, I couldn’t believe it,” she told ABC News’ “Nightline.” “Of course it wasn’t until much later I found out that I only won $11.”

PHOTO: The grand prize, split equally by the winners, is usually $2,500.HQ Trivia
The grand prize, split equally by the winners, is usually $2,500.

HQ Trivia is a smartphone game app that launched last August, but it already attracts more than a million players, who compete for real money every day. To win, players need to answer 12 to 15 questions correctly or face elimination. The jackpot, which is split by the winners, is usually $2,500 but has lately soared to $25,000 and even $50,000.

Scott Rogowsky, also known as “Quiz Daddy,” hosts the show live at 3 p.m. EST and 9 p.m. EST. He credits the show’s success to its ability to tap into age-old phenomena of competition for a prize.

“[It’s] the allure of winning money that’s always popular,” he told “Nightline.”

PHOTO: Scott Rogowsky was living with his parents in Westchester while trying to make it as a standup comic in New York before he was offered HQ Trivia.HQ Trivia
Scott Rogowsky was living with his parents in Westchester while trying to make it as a standup comic in New York before he was offered HQ Trivia.

Before HQ launched him to celebrity status, Rogowsky was a stand-up comedian best known for his “Fake Book Cover” videos filmed across New York City subways. He was living at home with his parents in Westchester, New York, and was all set to relocate to Los Angeles before he was offered the show.

Now, Rogowsky said HQ fans hound him for selfies and he was spotted hobnobbing with Joe Biden at the Super Bowl.

“I thought the concept was brilliant,” he said. “I couldn’t fathom the global cultural phenomenon that it’s sort of become. And I still can’t really wrap my head around that because I’m so inside of it. But, again, every day that goes by I hear from more and more people, I see more and more news reports, and it starts to sink in.”

A Johns Hopkins grad, Rogowsky claims he has never won a game of HQ Trivia.

“I think we’re on to something here in a big way,” he said. “We’re having millions of people now tuning in. And you know, look we’re getting catered lunch now. I mean this is, every day is a bigger and bigger improvement.”

PHOTO: HQ Trivia co-founder Rus Yusupov has a history of successful internet startups including video-app Vine. HQ Trivia
HQ Trivia co-founder Rus Yusupov has a history of successful internet startups including video-app Vine.

HQ Trivia’s co-founder Rus Yusupov said on the first day they launched, the team had no idea what to expect.

“We had our hopes and kind of our ambitions, but it slowly started building and growing and more players piled on,” Yusupov told “Nightline.” “[It] went from 5,000 players to 10,000 players and 100,000 players. When we hit a million, it was the most exciting moment for the team.”

Yusupov has a history in successful internet startups. He co-founded Vine, the popular 6-second video app, with Colin Kroll, and then he worked at Twitter.

He believes HQ’s fixed schedule has played a big role in attracting a loyal fan base.

“I think it’s the appointments,” he said. “We believe that the timeslot is very important and that people do schedule their lives around things they love.”

And the fact that users can play on their phones for free from anywhere has contributed to their success, Rogowsky added.

“We get people sending us photos from weddings and the top of ski mountains and basketball games, like they’re out and about,” he said. “HQ trivia hits — boom, they don’t need to be on the couch. It’s taking the couch out of the equation.”

PHOTO: The grand prize is divided equally by winners who answer 12-15 questions.HQ Trivia
The grand prize is divided equally by winners who answer 12-15 questions.

Yusupov said the daily jackpot comes from the few millions of dollars the company raised from venture capitalists. While the show has no ads, the team is in talks with sponsors for brand integration that enhances the experience for the players.

“We are lucky to be in this position and we are really striving to reach pop culture before figuring out how this can make money,” said Yusupov.

The big value proposition for the show lies in its ability to retain a young audience’s attention, according to veteran marketing executive Donny Deutsch.

“How many things can you now do where you can get millennials to spend 15 minutes paying attention, not getting distracted? One, right now. It’s HQ,” said Deutsch. “It really is kind of a marketer’s dream.”

But he advised that the app needs to come up with creative ways to slip in advertising in the future to generate revenue.

“Millennials are hip. They know stuff has got to get paid for,” Deutsch said.

PHOTO: Participants have to answer 12-15 questions correctly or face elimination.HQ Trivia
Participants have to answer 12-15 questions correctly or face elimination.

HQ’s ride hasn’t been completely smooth. Players complain that the game freezes and is plagued with technical glitches — issues that Yusupov called “growing pains.” Players have also grown frustrated that the app doesn’t have safeguards preventing cheaters from getting outside help from search engines or home assistants like Alexa.

“I don’t consider Google cheating,” said Yusupov. He said it’s incredibly difficult to use the search engine effectively to get the right answer within the 10-seconds-per-question time limit. “If you can do that, you probably deserve the prize,” he added.

The game also faced a barrage of social media hate after reports surfaced that investor Peter Thiel, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, may have invested in the app.

“I can’t comment on our financing right now,” Yusupov said. “But as you can imagine, with a company that’s growing as quickly as HQ, we’re getting tons of attention from sponsors but also venture capitalists.”

For the time being, Yusupov and his team of writers and software developers are focused on increasing the user base.

“The biggest challenge for us is staying focused and executing our roadmap,” he said. “Can we give away a prize of $1 million one day? I think so.”

Last week, HQ had a record $50,000 jackpot. That show attracted over 2 million players with six winners splitting the prize to take home $8,000 each. Just days ago, HQ held its first winner-take-all game, with one lucky winner getting a $25,000 jackpot all to himself after answering 18 questions correctly.

Rogowsky insists that ultimate prize is the glory of winning.

“It’s not just the money that people play for,” he said. “You’re thrilled because it’s rarified to be an HQ champion.”