Forging Her Own Path

3 Women Share Their Experiences
As Instructors & Dealers

As the number of female hunters and shooters increases, so does the number of women in the industry. Whether new to the industry or a longtimer, each woman has her unique story and own way of providing service to her clientele — retail customers and students alike. Let’s look at three women who have forged unique paths to prominence as an instructor, dealer or both.

My Sister’s Keeper Defense

Marchelle “Tig” Davis began her journey into the firearms industry in the military. Davis owns and operates My Sister’s Keeper Defense, which provides firearms training for women in the Atlanta area. Davis also organizes National Range Day, which promotes Black gun ownership through education and training nationwide every year on June 13.

Davis was in the U.S. Army for seven years, working in military intelligence. When she left the Army in 2016, she needed a job. One of her Army buddies managed a gun range in Atlanta, and he asked her to come work for him.

“Initially I wasn’t in the firearms industry, and I didn’t know anything about it other than what I had learned in the military,” Davis noted. “But I fell in love with working at the range, being around other gun owners and shooting every day.”

Soon, Davis decided to become a firearms instructor. Before long she was promoted and became the manager of the range. She watched women come onto the range and feel uncomfortable while their significant other tried to teach them about firearms, and she resolved to do something about it.

“In 2017, I decided I would open up my own firearms instruction company,” she stated. “That way I could really enjoy what I do without the day-to-day management of the range.”

Davis opened Trigger Happy Firearm Instruction, which eventually became My Sister’s Keeper Defense. Davis shared her long-term goal is to effectively teach 1 million women how to defend themselves with firearms.

“As a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor, I think it’s important women feel like they’re in control of their safety.”

Marchelle “Tig” Davis Owner, My Sister’s Keeper Defense

“As a domestic abuse and sexual assault survivor, I think it’s important women feel like they’re in control of their safety,” she said. “My Sister’s Keeper Defense is here to empower women and make sure no one else becomes a victim.”

Davis teaches mostly women’s handgun classes, but she also teaches some co-ed classes, as well as introductory classes for rifles and shotguns.

“We also teach Stop the Bleed and situational awareness classes,” she shared. “Stop the Bleed is an emergency first-aid fundamentals course for someone who’s injured or has had a gunshot wound.”

As Davis’s business has expanded, she’s hired additional instructors.

“Now we’re a team of eight instructors, and between us we bring a lot of knowledge to the table, so we teach some of everything,” she said. Of those instructors, five are women and the other two are male — all from different backgrounds.

Davis has big plans for the future. Her current goal is to open her own gun range.

“We’re scouting properties in the Atlanta area now,” she relayed. “My realtor and I have been working on this for about a year, trying to find the perfect property in the perfect location.”

Once she has the first range in place, Davis wants to start franchising the operation.

“I want to put in multiple ranges across the country, with a franchise of the firearms instruction company,” she closed.

Donuts & Ammo has carved a unique niche in its community — guests can come in and find ammo, while
enjoying a morning pick-me-up. Victoria Di Biase, right, shared, “We don’t try to have everything in the
store as inventory, but to cultivate our store environment to what our neighborhood needs.”

Donuts & Ammo: A Winning Combo

Victoria and Paul Di Biase have taken a unique approach to selling firearms and ammo in their hometown of Montrose, Pa. On a family trip to Minnesota last summer, they drove past a vacant storefront they had driven by many times before.

“It’s been vacant for close to 10 years,” Victoria noted. “We said it’s so sad the building is just sitting there; we kept talking about what we could do with it.”

The couple had already been brainstorming ideas for business since the start of COVID.

Paul had wanted to start selling ammo, because nobody in the area had what he needed, and he had been able to get a lot of ammo for friends and family who needed different things.

“I told him if he was going to do something fun like sell ammo, I wanted to do something fun too,” Victoria recalled. “I wanted to bake; I love to bake and always have.”

They discussed cupcakes and cookies, but neither one of those struck a chord.

“Then I said, ‘Let’s do donuts,’” she declared. “A family friend had taught us how to make them — which is why I decided on it.”

And with this idea, Donuts & Ammo was born. By the time the Di Biases got home from their trip to Minnesota, they had applied for their business name and had their paperwork in process.

Besides refining her donut-making techniques, Victoria also has applied herself to learning as much as she can about the ammo side of the business.
“I knew the common calibers just from my own experience,” she said. “Now I know a lot more of them. It’s been fun learning that side of the business and I couldn’t pick a better person to learn from than my husband.”

The Di Biases have established a division of labor, which works for them.

“I talk to the customers on a daily basis about what they’re looking for and what they need,” Victoria shared. “Paul has a lot of sources he searches each day to find what the customers and the community want. It’s been our goal. We don’t try to have everything in the store as inventory, but to cultivate our store environment to what our neighborhood needs.”

This includes catering to the various gun clubs in the area, all of which want something slightly different.

“One of our first donut sales was a large bulk order from a gun club in New Milford, because they were having a Women On Target event,” Di Biase said. “We got a lot of support from it, because their clientele kept coming back here because our donuts are delicious, and we were able to find some of the ammo they needed.”

The couple hope to expand their business over the next couple of years, both on the donuts side and on the ammo side.

“We would like to have our donuts in some other business around the area. Beyond that, our goal is just to maintain — and grow,” Di Biase added. /

The Shooting For Women Alliance

Susan Romanov’s story began with an abduction in 1992. After being held hostage at home at knife point for five-and-a-half hours by someone she had considered a friend, and then let down by the police units who responded to her frantic 911 call, Romanov resolved to learn to defend herself. At the time, her home state of Tennessee did not have a concealed carry permit program.

Over the next two years, while her assailant was still at large and stalking her, she was given “special deputy status” by her county sheriff and qualified as a deputy with her local sheriff’s department.

As Romanov learned more about firearms and shooting, she became more interested in the recreational side of shooting as well as the self-defense side. By the late 1990s, Romanov had developed good contacts in the firearms industry, and could see the need for our industry to reach out more to women. She began a magazine called Shooting for Women, which led to the development of a 501(c)(3), the Shooting for Women Alliance (SFWA). The SFWA held the first shooting-related national conference for women in the spring of 2004, with the second one a year later.

Both the SFWA and the magazine were going strong when Romanov was diagnosed with throat cancer and had to put everything on hold while she sought treatment. While she was ill, Tennessee developed a state concealed carry permit program, so women now could carry guns for protection. After Romanov made a full recovery, she became a firearms instructor and earned her certification to teach the state’s concealed carry class.

Marchelle “Tig” Davis, left, helps women of all skill levels learn how to defend themselves.
“My Sister’s Keeper Defense is here to empower women and make sure no one else
becomes a victim,” she shared.

Training Courses To Help Retailers Grow

In 2013, Romanov developed Family Fun Indoor Range, marketed as “The only shooting range designed especially for women.”

In 2019, she and her husband Vladimir moved Family Fun Indoor Range to its current location in Sevierville, Tenn.,
“The new range has 11 lanes,” Romanov said. “It’s in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, which is a good place for tourists. So, we’re able to reach a lot of people. We teach kids 6 years old and up.”

SFWA has developed a series of 10 classes on how to take people from the basics to advanced defense, train kids, prevail in a self-defense situation and other topics.

“Most people don’t have a lifetime to be trained once they decide they need a gun,” Romanov said. “So, we make those curricula available to retailers and ranges who would like to have them.”

By using these curricula and offering Women of a Different Caliber training and its association membership benefits, retailers and ranges can increase the number of times women who purchase guns come into the store or range.

“Most people don’t have a lifetime to be trained once they decide they need a gun.”

Susan Romanov Founder, Shooting for Women Alliance

“Once a woman finally gets over the fear of guns and decides she wants to shoot a gun or get a carry permit, where do you go for more than the basics?” Romanov queried. “How do you get them to come back? And how does a retailer make money on this? The Women of a Different Caliber program has been very successful at helping retailers do just that.”

There’s no ongoing fee for retailers to participate in this program or to use SFWA curriculum materials.

At the end of the day, Romanov concluded, the industry needs more good people like the sheriff who trusted a frightened young woman to carry a firearm for protection 30 years ago.

“We need more good men like him to serve as our instructors and volunteers — those who have touched the lives of girlfriends, daughters, moms, wives and others in a positive way. It will enable them to experience safe firearms ownership and the joy the shooting sports can bring.” /

Carolee Anita Boyles has been covering the outdoor industry for more than 40 years, and has been a Shooting Industry contributing editor since 1998.

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