Over the last year-plus, we’ve all spent more time cooking than ever, but check out your knife block and I bet your prized chef knife just won’t cut it anymore.
Jack Martin (Westchester), the knife sharpening maestro we’ve all been captivated by at local farmers markets, is solving our kitchen woes with ChopSwap. Advised by ecomm entrepreneur Nat Brogadir (Westport), the subscription service is $6.99 a month to keep a chef-grade, freshly-sharpened knife in our kitchens at all times.
Instead of buying a brand-new, mediocre knife every year, ChopSwap delivers a JACKKNIFE 8-inch Chef knife, made from J.A. Henckels top commercial grade, ice hardened German-steel. (Jack has the exclusive on this blade, which was previously only available to restaurant chefs.) Then, just ship it back for a new, freshly-sharpened knife at your chosen frequency.
“When you chop something with a dull knife it might take you minutes. With a sharp knife it might take you fifteen seconds…between convenience and safety you can’t really put a price on it,” explains Jack.
Safety, time, convenience? It’s a no brainer.
We spoke to Jack and Nat about the launch of their brand, their mission, how their kids are inspiring them and more:
Why did you decide to launch ChopSwap?
Jack: Over the years I had worked on the corporate side at AT&T and doing search engine optimization with Hearst—mainly all in Communications. But I also worked in high school sharpening knives, and that was really the start. I would come home for Thanksgiving or Christmas and my family would give me a knife and I would sharpen it. I also started doing the neighbors’ knives. Fast forward years later, and I was doing Farmers Markets. I did one farmers market and made very good money. Social media picked up on it. Now I’m doing six farmers markets. And it’s a service to the community; when I do Rye, I get all those accounts that use me regularly. I thought, how can I do this on a national level? I had so many ideas, but Nat helped me drill it down and come up with a plan. Start with one knife and let people know the importance of having one sharp knife in your kitchen at all times. And that was the birth.
And Nat, how did you come on board?
Nat: I met Jack through the Element 46 program which joins entrepreneurs with mentors. When Jack presented there was an immediate draw and his charm is undeniable. I thought, here’s a dad of three boys, a Navy vet, hitting all these farmers markets with his business and bringing it online and trying to scale. I wanted to help in any way I could.
Sounds like a great partnership. How would you describe your relationship?
Nat: There is a very good Ying and Yang. Jack is strategic, a visionary, and a great salesperson. I’m very data driven, analytical and have that business, e-commerce expertise and we fill in the gaps that each other have. We also like hanging out and that makes it even more exciting and fun. Our personalities are very simpatico.
Jack: I couldn’t ask for a better wingman. I’m an extrovert and he’s more conservative. We forged a business—to use a sharpening term—together.
Awesome! Why is having a sharp knife so important?
Jack: Safety, time and convenience. When you force a dull knife into an onion or something where it’s not sliding through, that’s when the fruit or vegetable turns over and you end up putting the knife into your hand. A stab is a lot worse than a slice, in my experience. That’s the safety part. Also, when people give me their dull knives, I want to cry—they’re working so hard just to cut in their kitchen. People love a sharp knife; they just don’t know how to do it or do it well. Finally, the convenience factor. With the Jack Knife, the whole concept is a sharp knife for life—it’s just like Dollar Shave Club. I haven’t shopped for razors in years. I want you to never know what it’s like to have a dull knife.
Jack, I know you’re a veteran and want to incorporate veterans into your business. Can you please share a bit about that?
I’m trying to build it up enough so I can employ veterans because a lot of them lost their way when they came back from war. I was on an aircraft carrier, both my grandfathers were veterans and my dad was in Vietnam. I see a lot of these guys coming back and the suicide rates are really high. I’d love to help them.
So wonderful. How has being a dad impacted your motivation?
Jack: If you live in Westchester or Fairfield County like we do, you have to make money or get out. That’s the pressure as a dad…. I want them to live in a nice house and go to a good school. I love being able to take them out to dinner anytime we want. My parents didn’t have a lot of money and it’s a labor of love. I live in the nicest neighborhood in Quarry Heights, in the smallest house. We have a great view and I’d love to bulldoze our house and build a really nice one. That’s the dream.
Nat: Before kids you have one person to take care of and it’s you. Now that team has grown. I have two girls (3 and 6) and I want to afford them whatever they want to do and whatever lifestyle they want. It’s a balance between work and being able to see the kids. But the nuts and bolts of it is I’m doing this more for them than myself. Watching it succeed for my family is what drives me.
Are your kids involved in any way?
Jack: My oldest son Jack (17) is already sharpening knives, including the kids’ in the neighborhood’s little pocket knives. All three of them are gentleman at the markets. I may make 5 or 10 dollars in tips. But my middle son Hudson (13) makes $200 of tips in a day. He has a great handshake and he’s great with the customers. It’s really cool to see. My youngest son Jet (11) is more reserved but he’s opened up.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Jack: I know dull knives are a problem. If I can solve this problem that would be amazing. I see how happy people are locally and I just want to solve this problem nationally. It’s a dream and it’s all coming to fruition.
We love to support local businesses. What are your favorite places in your area to:
Go on date night: Kee Oyster House
Have fun as a family: We love going to Newport for the holidays-either Thanksgiving or Christmas. Any other time we go to Stowe, Vermont. In the summer we go to the beach as a family and bring margaritas.
Have fun as a family: For Westport, Compo Beach is one of the big perks of living here.
This story is sponsored by ChopSwap.
Photography: Alexandra Blair