Veteran-owned businesses that give back
Veterans have started some of the most successful American companies. “Shark Tank” star and FUBU founder Daymond John attributes that to their service mindset and persistence. “They dedicated their lives to service,” John told the Motley Fool, “so they come with the perspective of, ‘What can I do?’ for this customer. They’re never going to not finish a task.” From FedEx to Nike to Walmart, veteran entrepreneurs have made their mark on the corporate landscape. These veteran-owned companies are making continuing service part of their business model.
The equipment is better suited for R&R, although the shoes can be pretty heavy-duty if you need them to be. It’s fitting for an enterprise aimed at “stopping the cycle of violence and human suffering around the world.” A portion of the proceeds supports Aid Afghanistan for Education, Mines Advisory Group (which removes and destroys land mines and other weapons left behind after wars), and The Station Foundation (which provides resources to members of the special operations community and their families when they return home).
There’s a lot of military surplus material. A lot of it goes to waste, but Sword & Plough has turned more than 30,000 pounds of it into durable tote bags, handbags, and travel bags, all the while employing veterans throughout the operation. The company donates 10% of profits or 2% of revenue, whichever is greater, to veteran organizations every year, supporting initiatives for healthcare, housing, education, and employment. “From the beginning, Sword & Plough has been about more than just creating bags. We’ve always been excited to create high quality products, but our hope was that these products could be used as a platform to promote change,” co-founder Emily Núñez Cavness says.
It started with Combat Ready Ointment to heal the wounds on hard-working hands and skin. But there are other wounds that aren’t as visible, and Doc Spartan has been committed to helping fight the opioid epidemic and provide jobs for people recovering from addiction after treatment. Now, the product line has expanded into deodorant, beard care, and even pet care. The mission of providing a supportive environment for a lasting recovery has grown as well, and veterans and first responders still get 50% off the ointment.
The popular veteran-owned clothing line (they also make Merica Bourbon, as one of their requirements for loving the clothes is that you also love whiskey and bacon, along with freedom) started the Grunt Style Foundation this year. The foundation works with organizations that provide mental health services, career assistance, food programs, and help for unhoused veterans. “No veteran should ever go without,” the company vows.
Not every veteran-owned clothing line has to be rough and tough. Navy veteran and founder Nadean Barton tries to instill confidence and self-love in her customers with every pair of stilettos and each makeup kit. Barton was inspired by the recovery process she went through after a miscarriage, and she advocates for those suffering with PTSD and depression. “Keep in mind that the time it takes for you to heal emotionally takes much longer than the physical recovery,” she writes. “You are allowed to be vulnerable and take the time you need to heal.”
Man’s best friend also serves, and this treat brand pays tribute to service dogs. The ingredients come from veteran-owned farms, and proceeds help veterans get service dogs as well as provide protective equipment and medical supplies for dogs in harm’s way. In 2018, K9 Salute’s Jessica Harris was one of three winners of the Bob Evans Farms Heroes to CEOs contest.
Like many veterans, CEO Luke Schneider and VP Jason Patton didn’t stop their service at separation. They’re both firefighters and Schneider is also a paramedic. Naturally they both drink a lot of coffee and love it so much they opened their own roastery staffed by firefighters and first responders. Through the Fire Dept. Coffee Foundation, 10% of net proceeds go to assist first responders who have been injured on the job or face other serious health challenges.
The “official spirit of a grateful nation” was first bottled on Veterans Day 2011. Founder and former Marine Travis McVey wanted to live out the American dream of owning a business, to honor fallen friends, and to find a way to support veteran organizations. Heroes Vodka was the answer, and along the way it’s won several awards at blind tasting competitions to boot. The brand partners with organizations such as Team Red, White & Blue, The Legion Fund, and the Night Stalker Foundation, and has given more than $120,000 to veterans and their families.