Bespoke Readiness Outfitter Pops Up Downtown

Reading today’s headlines is not for the faint of heart. Disasters — natural and man-made — are all around.

Westport can seem immune. But Jesse and Sefra Levin know we’re not.

Since graduating from Staples in 2003, they’ve been on a mission: prepare people around the globe to survive. They’ve brought “readiness skills” to the veteran, disaster response and entrepreneurial communities.

Now they’ve popped up in Westport.


The twins opened a pop-up shop at 29 Church Lane. Their company — Tactivate — outfits customers with gear, and offers advice and training, for every conceivable emergency. They call themselves “bespoke readiness outfitters.”

The Tactivate pop-up shop, at 29 Church Lane.

According to their website:

From classes on how to pack and use a serious go- bag and medical kit to how to communicate when there is no cell service, we partner with you to devise custom tailored solutions and training experiences delivered by professional first responders and military veterans on and off site.

Tomorrow (Thursday, December 12, 6:30 p.m.), they offer their first event: “Tequilas and Tourniquets.” They call it “paint and sip for bad-assery.”

Suffice it to say, they’ve hacked out a path quite different from most of their classmates.

While still at Staples, Jesse ran a small guerrilla marketing operation, doing X and Gravity Games promotions for SoBe.

Jesse Levin, in Puerto Rico.

He took wilderness survival school courses, and after graduating from Babson College went straight to Panama where he launched a cultural mediation advisory firm (and got his first exposure to disaster response, during floods).

He formed Tactivate in 2010, after working with local populations, the military, government, NGOs and the private sector following the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Most recently, he helped carry out a food and water security project in the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricane.

Sefra attended Staples, graduated from Greens Farms Academy and Colorado College, then earned a master’s in agro-ecological education from Cornell University. She built seed banks all over the world, while specializing in designing spaces quickly.

Jesse says that the Westport pop-up store was conceived only last week. Within a couple of days — with help from the Downtown Merchants Association and Bedford Square developer David Waldman, plus his sister’s “wild outfitting skills” — they had a lease and a decorated space.

“We employ the same sort of expediency and operational efficiency required to save lives in disasters to our business ventures,” he explains.

Jesse and Sefra Levin.

He says that his survival school experience — and all that followed — has empowered him. He wants others to experience “the freedom that comes from knowing you can help yourself and others in a very serious situation.”

Disasters can bring out the best in people, he has seen. Now he’ll show Westporters how to be ready for whatever may come.

“We want to expose people to the pleasure and comfort that comes from taking proactive steps to be of better service to others when it counts,” Jesse says.

“We have big storms, the power goes out and things are going boom around us. You can live in fear, react in an uninformed way when something happens and be a liability. Or you can take simple measures to get a little training and acquire a few critical pieces of gear to make you, your family and your business ready to provide for themselves and others in a time of need.”

So there it is: tactical preparedness, pop-up style. You can find it in the heart of downtown, right between the home furnishings of Anthropolgie, and the honey at Savannah Bee.

(For more information on Thursday’s “Tequilas and Tourniquets” event, click here.)

9 responses to “Bespoke Readiness Outfitter Pops Up Downtown

  1. Other than an extinction meteor
    or a EMP strike frying our many
    electronics, preparation for these
    emergencies that are likely to disrupt
    our lives is of paramount importance.
    I think this pop up preparedness
    company of Jesse and Sefra’s is
    a godsend and so relevant given
    the many natural and man made
    crises that surround us.
    They deserve all the support they
    can get as there mission Is to save lives.

    • Thanks Art,

      I spent over a year in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. The majority of the island was without power for an extended period. It was emblematic of an EMP and I wondered why more agencies were not down here studying societal reactions, the impromptu infrastructure solutions that came into play etc. It was fascinating, and why of course incredibly challenging for everyone impacted, a true celebration of the power of community that was forced to congeal to survive. There was actually a case study done by NIAC that we contributed to around these types of occurrences and vulnerabilities to the grid etc.

  2. Tom Duquette, SHS '75

    Tactical or ‘Tacti-cool’? Not sure about this approach but sadly in this day of active shooters teaching civilians how to apply a SOF tourniquet isn’t a bad idea. Jesse’s and Sefra’s resumes and experience looks kind of thin but checking out their website it appears they’ve partnered with legit military veterans that give their enterprise some gravitas. They see themselves as providing a “common operating picture” between federal agencies, military, NGO’s, UN, and private sector. Not certain they’re filling a real void or even have that level of expertise. They probably mean well but small “entrepreneurs” like this often are a problem during contingency operations since they don’t have the logistical or security capabilities needed to function effectively and safely on their own. Regardless; having a little tequila and learning how to use an IFAK might be kind of fun.

    • Sir,

      Thank you for these thoughts. They actually get at the root cause of why we started Tactivate, which functions ver much like an NGO some number of years ago. Our main objectives have been establishing creative platforms to mesh veteran, first response and private sector communities for mutual skill share and to bring a lean self sufficient operational capacity to disaster response and emergency economic stability work around the world able to operate more freely outside and alongside of conventional capabilities requiring more security etc. Happy to share case studies / articles on this line of effort if of interest to you. We call it “Expeditionary entrepreneurship” and the vast majority of work is OCONUS.

      There are countless incredible “tactical and tacti-cool” training outfits out there, we aren’t trying to operate really in either of those arenas, only to make general personal, family and community readiness skills more accessible to a broader demographic. We have seen their utility and a growing need from them both here at home and abroad.

      It would be great to connect to discuss our model, experiences and lessons learned as we are always adapting. It sounds like you have a great deal of experience in the HADR / medical arena and I might assume prior service if you know what an IFAK is. Looking forward to the potential for continued dialogue. Thank you again for the feedback.

      That impromptu pop-up over the holidays in our old stomping grounds was a fun experiment. You can reach out to us at any time.

  3. Interesting Dan that with 40 years of journalistic experience you missed that this pop up mission, most ever worthy, would only be in place for one week from Dec. 11 – 18 until replaced by an overcrowded CBD wanna-be establishment. Your response?

    • I said it was a pop-up. That implies it’s not there forever.

    • William Strittmatter

      I was rather disappointed today when we went Downtown specifically for some doomsday and zombie apocalypse gear for stocking stuffers and/or practical use. Much to our dismay, no Tactivate. Just the “seed to store” Farmacy. That was a mighty short pop-up given a lease and decorating of the space noted in the article. And a rather quick new pop-up on its heels. Oh well.

    • William Strittmatter

      Of course, the competition ran the Tactivate story under Comings and Goings (as a Coming) on December 16th with no mention of 12/18 as the “Going” date. Pretty odd, all else being equal.

      • Will sorry to miss you. The store was open for roughly 10 days. Going from deciding to launch and do a fun impromptu holiday pop-up on a Friday, to opening the next day on a Saturday, there is a lot we could and would have done differently had we planned on it. If we take up a more permanent location we will be sure to let you know.