What Mandi Fenning lacks in height, she makes up for in confidence. Clad in a black and white skull-print hoodie and matching headband, the petite 5-foot-1-inch 27-year-old's eyes light up when she talks about shooting automatic weapons at a firing range or studying Krav Maga.
Since graduating high school, Fenning's resume includes stints as both an Army intelligence analyst and Florida corrections officer. These days, she's preparing for the worst, literally. Her upstart online business, EpocalypseGear.com, is for those who want to be ready for any disaster scenario — be it the Dec. 21, 2012, expiration of the Mayan calendar, a natural cataclysm or zombies overrunning the planet. Seriously.
"I wanted to be my own boss, and I know a lot about survival gear," says the Cleveland resident. "I started watching different TV [survival] shows, and I was thinking about what would be the easiest business for me to start. It hit me."
Fenning's online business offers home-canning systems, water and air purifiers, surveillance equipment and military-grade survival gear, including gas masks and even a steel-chain whip for protection. Trying to appeal to survivalists and horror-flick junkies alike, she markets her company at both gun shows and comic-book conventions.
Her company's motto is "Where being paranoid is being prepared," and Fenning says her military experience bolstered her belief in being ready for anything.
"There are underground organizations and terror groups that are developing chemical and biological weapons," she says. "Who can tell me what the effects are going to be on the human population? ... It's better to be paranoid and prepared than surprised and S.O.L."