Writer’s Note: Portfolio: Crusader Industries was published originally as a Subscriber Exclusive on April 11, 2018.
Makers of the Genesis passenger starliner, an extensive fleet of cargo transport ships, and cutting edge shuttles, Crusader Industries is a titan of the aerospace industry; a company so powerful and prominent that it purchased a gas giant in the Stanton system to house its current headquarters. Despite its extraordinary success, founder August Dunlow was always proudest of the company’s commitment to charitable work and, to this day, Crusader Industries remains one of the most generous corporate donors to nonprofits across the UEE.
As Dunlow famously said, “What good are profits if they don’t lead to progress?” Over the years, some have interpreted this quote to mean that businesses need to constantly invest in themselves to stay on the cutting edge, a strategy Dunlow deployed as CEO. However, according to Francine Konello, author of Dunlow’s authorized biography, the ‘progress’ Dunlow so passionately advocated was social, rather than financial. The betterment of Humanity was a lifelong passion ever since he witnessed, and was forever changed by, one of the most shocking events in UEE history.
August Dunlow awoke early on August 12, 2781. Too excited to sleep, he put on his uniform, ate breakfast, and rushed to school. The eleven-year-old was one of several model students selected to stand in a prominent position along the procession route through Angeli and enthusiastically wave a UEE flag as Imperator Messer X passed. Dunlow wholeheartedly fulfilled his duty, then watched from afar as the Imperator’s cavalcade crept across the Caravac Bridgeway toward Khanos Stadium. He had the perfect view when the stadium exploded, sending rubble and chaos across the city. The violence triggered a coup by dissatisfied members of the military. After a night of intense battle, Imperator Messer X was dead and his cruel and ambitious son Linton, who had secretly orchestrated the attack with his sister Fiona, was quick to claim the throne. This historic moment not only changed the UEE, but started Dunlow down a path that would lead to the creation of Crusader Industries.
The destruction of Khanos Stadium killed Dunlow’s mother and gravely wounded his father. They, like many Angeli residents, had been required to attend the stadium’s opening ceremony. In the wake of the disaster, Dunlow dropped out of school to earn money to care for his father. At first, the boy found work with the labor crews hired to clear debris, but that job soon dried up and it wasn’t long before Dunlow and his father found themselves destitute. Without money to afford a home, much less the medication needed to keep him alive, his father passed away during the year and a half that Dunlow spent on the streets. Outside of his father’s death, little is known about this time in his life. Dunlow refused to discuss this period with anyone, including close friends. What he did make clear is that it was only through the generosity of Angeli’s Angels, a nonprofit youth homeless shelter, that Dunlow eventually managed to get off the streets. That incredible act of kindness was not forgotten and inspired Dunlow on his first crusade to improve the UEE.
Dunlow received a scholarship to the University of Angeli and double-majored in business and political science. He became a fervent anti-Messer activist and proved adept at turning ideas into action, inspiring others to the cause. His public profile grew along with the size and scope of the anti-Messer rallies he began organizing.
One day, an illness kept him from boarding a ship destined for a massive anti-Messer summit in Terra. The ship exploded in-atmosphere, killing all on board. The Department of Transportation and Navigation deemed it a tragic accident, but Dunlow and others disputed the finding. Fearing that political dissidents were being targeted for assassination, his fellow activists smuggled Dunlow into Xi’an space, where he laid low and worked behind the scenes. However, when the Massacre of Garron II occurred in 2792, he refused to stay hidden any longer. With the help of Xi’an who supported the cause, he re-emerged to organize massive protests in Angeli. The tides of history had turned and the Messer regime was deposed within weeks.
Following the fall, Dunlow moved to Earth and became a prominent advocate of government reform. He joined a civil rights lobbying firm and the halls of power soon wore away his naivety, making Dunlow realize that the best of intentions meant nothing without financial support. Rightly or wrongly, those with deep pockets could guarantee that their voices were heard. It was then that he decided that if he really wanted to make a difference, he would need to switch to the private sector.
The fall of the Messer regime led the UEE to reconsider many existing government contracts. Dunlow recognized that there were serious credits to be made which could then be used to support charities. He also realized that his time sweet-talking Senators left him with an extensive list of contacts that could help him secure government-funded work. Now, all he needed was a company.
Dunlow searched for an existing enterprise that wasn’t maximizing its potential. Seraphim Systems, a small shuttlecraft manufacturer based in Tram, became his target. The company produced excellent planetary shuttles, but in limited quantities. It had begun to lose business because customers were unwilling to wait out the long delivery times, and it was unable to find the capital to expand its operations due to its location. A few years earlier, businesses had fled Asura following unfounded accusations from Imperator Messer XI. Fearing government sanctions as retribution, the bottom had fallen out of the market and the local economy all but collapsed. Dunlow thought that if he could get external investors, he would be able to accelerate production and rapidly grow the company without much capital expenditure. He also knew that it would be politically advantageous for Senators to grant government contracts to a company in a system wronged by the Messer regime.
Dunlow compiled a business plan, courted investors, and offered to buy a majority stake in Seraphim Systems. Much to his surprise, the company’s board of directors rallied around CEO Janna Malone and rejected the offer. Lengthy negotiations began between the two sides but were almost derailed over a single sticking point, the company’s name.
Dunlow disliked “Seraphim” but Malone argued against a change. Much like previous Seraphim CEOs, Malone was a deeply religious individual who believed the image was essential to its identity. Dunlow spent a weekend with Malone and her family explaining his desire to use the company as a platform to promote positive change. Once again, his powers of persuasion prevailed, and they compromised by calling the company Crusader Industries. As Malone wrote to her employees on the eve of the sale, “Our new name, Crusader Industries, should be considered a commitment by the company not only to innovate and stay on the forefront of our field, but to vigorously advocate for what is morally right across this planet, system, and even the Empire.”
Advance and Expansion
Crusader Industries officially incorporated in 2799 and, as part of the sale, Dunlow became CEO. He deployed the investor’s seed money to expand operations and used his Senate contacts to land a government contract in 2801. That year marked major profits for the company and the inauguration of a policy that continues to this day: a significant portion of profits are earmarked for charitable causes.
The company steadily grew, but Dunlow was eager to expand its donations. To do that, they would need to move beyond government contracts and secure a larger profit margin in the civilian sector. However, cutthroat competition made further expansion into the existing market difficult. For Crusader to truly become the company Dunlow envisioned, it would need another big idea. No one anticipated just how big it would be.
Dunlow credited Axel Adamson, then a warehouse manager, for the idea that forever changed Crusader. On a conference call addressing production delays caused by overdue shipments, Adamson exclaimed, “If we had our own fleet, I guarantee that this wouldn’t happen.” An exploration into the cost of procuring Crusader’s own fleet opened Dunlow’s eyes to an exciting new opportunity. Numerous large ship manufacturers had folded during the economic turmoil of the last decade. As he later said, “If we can make shuttles, why can’t we make bigger ships?”
Dunlow drew up a business plan and presented it to the board of directors. Initially, opposition was strong, but after a year of debate, the idea was narrowly approved. Convinced that the company’s future hinged on the success of the interplanetary craft division, Dunlow recruited some of the best and brightest engineers and designers by offering them significant pay increases and stock options.
In 2812, Crusader’s first carrier, the Jupiter, rolled off production lines. At first, it solely used the Jupiter to deliver its shuttles to other markets, but it wasn’t long before word of the ship’s solid craftsmanship got around and orders trickled in. Sales rose quickly after the first year and surpassed the company’s production capacity. Careful not to repeat the mistake that Seraphim had made, Dunlow immediately reinvested profits into additional production facilities around the Empire. The Army even signed a new contract with the company to use its vehicle transports to move ground-craft to the frontlines. To the pride of Dunlow, his ships were also vital in bringing government aid across the Empire to war-torn areas that needed help the most.
Meanwhile, to celebrate the company’s success, Crusader Industries became, and remains to this day, the primary source of funding for Angeli’s Angels, the non-profit that saved Dunlow from a life on the streets.
August Dunlow remained Crusader Industries CEO for nearly five decades, retiring in 2846 to focus full time on philanthropy. Several CEOs followed in his wake. Each one committed to Dunlow’s promise to devote a percentage of profits to charitable organizations, though some did so with more gusto than others.
To the shock of industry insiders, Crusader named Kelly Caplan CEO in 2863. A ship designer by trade, she had worked for the company ever since landing an internship with the design department while in graduate school. She was a major part of the team that built the company’s first signature starliner. Thanks in large part to her innovative design, the launch of the Genesis-class vessel was a huge success, and before long most major transport companies were using Crusader ships. For a brief time, taking a vacation was referred to as “going on a crusade.” Yet, many stockholders were unsure if she had the business acumen to run the company. It wasn’t just the singularity of experience that scared some; even more alarming were her radical ideas on how to reform it.
In 2865, Caplan convinced Crusader’s board of directors to purchase a low-mass gas giant and its three moons in the Stanton system from the UEE. Caplan was convinced that the latticework of floating platforms built by the military would be an ideal place to save credits on the construction of their massive ships. She was right. After consolidating operations there, Crusader reportedly saved 40% on the backend. A significant portion of those savings was passed along to the consumer, while they also provided increased support to charitable organizations.
Despite her successes, Caplan’s tenure as Crusader CEO has not been without controversy. A plan to encourage other companies to establish outposts on Crusader’s three moons (Cellin, Daymar, and Yela) was considered a disappointment due to the rules being too onerous. Recently, the company also came under fire when an independent watchdog group proved that Crusader’s crime stats were not accurate. While the company has since revised its protocols to address the issue, it has become clear that policing and protecting an entire planet and its three moons has proven more difficult and expensive than expected.
Today, Crusader remains atop the list of companies providing charitable donations. The good that it has enabled across the empire is undeniable. However, some critics have questioned whether more good could come if the company reduced its charitable spending to provide stricter security. One expert called Crusader’s rising security costs “the biggest financial threat to the future of the company.”
After nearly a century and a half of success, powered in part by its willingness to adapt, one wonders if Crusader needs another radical idea to help it overcome its latest obstacle and if the company will once again find a smooth course to fly.