Kirk Whatley, Whatley Training

Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Job title and company: Owner, Whatley Training, Hadley

Age: 51

When business opened: May 2013. I held seven classes in summer and fall. All classes are held at Norwottuck Fish and Game in Amherst. Classes consist of classroom training followed by a written test. Those that passed the written test then proceeded to the two-hour, live-fire exercises. Starting the company took approximately $5,000. The cost was made up of getting certified to be an instructor, forming a limited liability company, insurance, business cards, website, training aids like plastic pistols and revolvers, flip charts, hearing and eye protection for the students, firearm cleaning materials and supplies, course materials from the National Rifle Association, ammunition and the purchase of three additional pistols and revolvers for the class.

Your duties: Provide a safe and educational environment to instruct the NRA Basic Pistol, Basic Shotgun or Home Firearm Safety classes. Safety is always job No. 1. I also try to educate my students on Second Amendment issues.

How did you start your business? I started my business because firearms have been a passion of mine my entire life. I could not help but notice the sheer amount of disinformation, lies and general lack of understanding regarding firearms and firearm laws, so I decided to do something about it and opened Whatley Training LLC – Firearms Training for Good Guys.

What’s most challenging about your work? I’m instructing people that I do not know personally, and placing firearms with live ammunition in their hands. There is a lot of judgment, “gut feels” and reading body language that I do with the students. I have to be concerned for all of the students’ safety as well as my own safety. Each class fires over 600 rounds of ammunition in the live-fire exercises, so I need to pay attention.

What do you like about it? I love seeing the students’ reactions to actually firing a firearm for the first time. I take them all the way from, “This is how you hold a pistol,” to having them load their own magazine, walk up to the firing line, shoot at their target and then walk back to the table where they place their pistol — all safely and observing proper range etiquette. Plus being outside for two hours shooting is just wonderful.

What is your key to success? I work hard to make it a factually based class with real-world, hands-on experiences. I also toss in some appropriate humor now and then to keep things light. No one wants to be talked down to or made to feel foolish for asking a question. I think I achieve that and my students appreciate it.

What role does technology play in your business? Technology really doesn’t impact my teaching the classes. It’s actually kind of “old fashioned” teaching method for me. I use easels, presentation flip charts, hands-on learning aids and “this is how you stand” teaching methods.

Why did you choose to do business in the Valley? Well, it’s where I live, first of all. But I’ve also learned something interesting: While the Valley is very well known for being liberal, there is a huge and quiet group that are not liberal. They are moderate to conservative in their views. These are the people that make up the majority of people in my classes. I’m seeing it as a huge untapped market. Plus, I’ve been able to sway a few people who had unfavorable opinions of firearms to take my class, lose the fears and come to understand the truths about firearms — and some of them have indicated that they may actually purchase their own firearm after taking my class.

What has surprised you most about your new or expanded business endeavor? The tremendous amount of interest in taking the classes, especially the NRA Basic Pistol because that class is a step toward getting a license to carry in Massachusetts.

Name a few of your goals for the coming year: To have at least two classes each month. Five students per class is where I max out. I can keep the training personal that way. This way I can help people become informed, learn the truth about firearms and help them become comfortable around firearms.

What is your advice for others seeking business success? Do what you love. Even if you can’t quit your other job, doing what you love really puts your mind in the right place.