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Tom Burden: Supporting Air Defense and Self-Defense

Tom Burden: Supporting Air Defense and Self-Defense

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, your trusty interplanetary journalist back with an eye on entrepreneurs making Planet Earth a more equitable place! I have another great interview for you this week. Today, I’m excited to zip around with Tom Burden, the CEO of Grypmat. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.

Spiffy: Thanks for chatting with me, Tom! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing?

Tom: Happy to join you, Spiffy! We make the Grypmat: it’s a flexible tool tray that helps mechanics work more efficiently. We also support a project in the slums of Brazil that teaches children self-defense. Doing this pulls them away from being drawn into things like working for gangs.

Spiffy: What motivated you to tackle this challenge?

Tom: Well, I was an F-16 mechanic in the Air Force. I grew tired of my tools repeatedly sliding off the aircraft. When I decided to help out with the self-defense project in Brazil I mentioned, I traveled there with a Brazilian I was dating and met the leader of the group who was teaching the kids.

Spiffy: How are you and your team at Grypmat working towards a more equitable world?

Tom: I am now transitioning to work with the self-defense project in Brazil full-time. Our plan is to expand to owning daycares and getting kids involved at their earliest stages.

Spiffy: Tell me about a major milestone for you all. What impact does that make?

Tom: I believe the next milestone for Grypmat is to sell the business. The next milestone for the daycare, on the other hand, is growth: we aim to enroll 1,000 kids.

Spiffy: Please share with us your personal philosophy on bouncing back from failure. 

Tom: I believe true failure occurs when you do not learn from your mistakes.  If you are learning from your mistakes, then you will never fail. 

Spiffy: What is something you've unexpectedly learned from someone recently?

Tom: I found the book "Illusion of Money” compelling. I learned a lot about what my main motives are. 

Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?

Tom: I invite everyone interested in learning more to check out my story on Shark Tank

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Tom—it’s been an honor!

Tom Burden was an F-16 mechanic in the United States Air Force. After dealing with the issue of his tools sliding off the aircraft, he invented the Grypmat to solve the problem and is now CEO of Grypmat. Tom went on to Shark Tank and closed a deal with three Sharks. (Nominated by the Ladderworks team. First published on the Ladderworks website on July 29, 2022.)

© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.