Founded on a Dare, Customers Must Adapt to SURVIVE! Knives

Remember Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi? The cook whose superior soup had customers lining up around the block despite having to follow his instructions just to get some? With production runs selling out nearly as fast as they’re made, and a direct-to-consumer sales model that keeps his inventory shelves empty, SURVIVE! Knives founder Guy Seiferd just might be the Soup Nazi of the knife world – he offers a superior product, if you can get your hands on one.

Of course, any comparisons to Seinfeld’s famously antagonistic soup chef fall apart when you talk to Seiferd, who is candid and personable. And unlike the Soup Nazi, customer feedback has always been at the heart of the company. Before he ever set steel to grinder, “I sat for an entire summer weaving paracord bracelets on the porch of a coffee shop,” said Seiferd. “Just for the opportunity to talk to people and measure people’s hands and have them handle my wooden prototypes – there was a lot of research in the beginning figuring out what would make a knife work better purely as a tool.”

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“I just took that as a creative challenge.”
Guy didn’t set out to become a knife maker. In fact, even though he’s in the business of making knives, he still doesn’t refer to himself as a knife maker. “It was more or less a dare,” he said, referring to the first knife he made. “I was just a guy who liked knives as tools. I was a pretty regular customer at Edgeworks in Frederick, Maryland and the owner and I struck up a conversation about knives. I was running my mouth, saying ‘I could do better than that,’ and he said: ‘Everyone says that, everyone thinks they can design a knife.’ I just took that as a creative challenge.”

Every SURVIVE! knife is designed with a laser-focused purpose: to be the best cutting tool possible. Counter-intuitively, Guy’s lack of knife making experience informed the way he makes knives. “I approached it with naïve curiosity,” he said. “That, combined with my knack for design, led to something different from what’s out there.”

“To separate us from the customers would do both of us a disservice”
To refine and improve his designs, Seiferd relies on SURVIVE!’s close relationship with their customers. Apart from a few early knives sold to Edgeworks, SURVIVE! sells their knives directly to consumers. SURVIVE! accepts pre-orders for a limited time ahead of a particular model’s production. Then, after pre-orders have been fulfilled, they regularly post small batches of knives on their site as they are finished. This approach has meant that customers have to keep close tabs on their production schedule (which they publish and update regularly on their website) if they want to score a knife. Guy attributes much of his current success to their feedback. “We take the good and the bad – to me I enjoy it for the customer interaction. To separate us from the customers would do both of us a disservice.”

Investing in Growth
With entire production runs of SURVIVE! knives selling out in a matter of hours, Guy is investing heavily to expand his business to meet demand. But he’s not willing to grow quickly at the expense of quality – he still hand-sharpens every knife that leaves the shop and doesn’t expect that to change any time soon. “If I could figure out a way to make a machine do edges as sharp as I do and as even as I do, I would,” he said. “It’s very rewarding when I see an unboxing video or photos and someone says it’s the sharpest knife they’ve ever felt – that gives me a great sense of pride.”

“I approached the knife as a tool, and I would attribute most of our success to that – the no-nonsense designs. I think people appreciate that they’re very purposeful and simple. I like utility to be the heart and soul of every one of my knives.”

Knife featured in image: SURVIVE! GSO-5.1