Meet the Founder
How did the Gator Cases story begin?
Gator Cases was born around my kitchen table in 2000 with my father, Jerry Freed. We knew we wanted to start a case company and needed a name. We liked the idea of having a tough name and logo to represent the durability of our product. Being based in Florida, “Gator” seemed like the perfect fit. Initially, we launched with a small offering of molded plastic guitar cases at the Summer NAMM show in Nashville, TN. Gator has since grown to serve almost all musical instruments, audio / visual, IT, and outdoor end markets.
What were the early growth days like?
In the early years, we were very entrepreneurial. My father initially handled sales and product development, and I did everything else, ranging from setting up our accounting system and warehouse management, to developing the marketing plan and entering POs. The experience couldn’t have been better – I operated at every level of the company and had the opportunity to try new things (some that didn’t work) and constantly adjust. Since the early years, Gator has continually focused on growth and innovation. We have over 1,000 case solutions made from vacuum-formed plastics, rotational-molded plastics, wood, EVA, and sewn materials, supported by a team of over 150 people. We’ve also grown our product and operations through strategic acquisitions.
Why did you partner with Seidler?
Seidler first reached out to our team in 2013. Although we weren’t looking for a partner at the time, we continued to stay in touch and periodically trade updates. My father passed away in 2014, leaving his equity in the company to my mother, who was not involved in the business. I wanted to provide liquidity for my mother, while bringing on a value-add partner to help us continue our growth story and identify potential acquisitions and organic expansion opportunities. It was important for me to retain control of our family business, and to bring a growth-oriented, value-driving partner into the business alongside me. In 2020, I accomplished all these objectives by partnering with Seidler.
What has the partnership accomplished?
The Seidler team hit the ground running in our partnership, providing thoughts on organic and inorganic growth strategy and building out a pipeline of potential add-on acquisitions. Their familiarity with our business and industry was clear, and they understood our team’s vision for growth across existing and new categories. It’s been great to work with SEP to evaluate these options and focus on the highest value-driving levers. Their willingness to dive into projects, coupled with their partnership-focused approach, has been a great combination in a partner. My business philosophy is, “Do the right thing,” and I appreciate having a partner who embraces the same values. I’m excited to see what is next for our partnership as we continue to methodically execute on our strategic initiatives.