After being cut from the University of Southern California baseball team, Ryan Morris was devastated. Baseball had been his life and without it, he knew that things were going to change. He was at a crossroads, but after talking with a former marine in his accounting class about his service, Morris gained some perspective.
“That’s when it hit me. Here I was upset that I couldn’t play a game anymore while kids my age were overseas fighting for our country,” says Morris. “That’s when I decided I was going to give back to the troops.”
Then in May 2011, Morris launched Salute the Brave, a clothing line designed to give back to the United States military members stationed overseas. The company operates with a one-for-one business model, meaning that for every product sold, another is donated overseas in a care package to the troops.
“What gets me motivated waking up every morning to work on Salute the Brave is knowing that I am giving back,” says Morris.
Currently, Salute the Brave sells hats, shirts and tank tops, though sweatshirts and fleeces are in production. The logo for the company speaks for itself—a silhouette of a soldier in front of stars and stripes, while each donated item sent overseas features the phrase "Free To Be Because of Me."
“Even though it is nice to make my own money, the real goal of this is to give back to the troops,” says Morris. “They are the real heroes.”
Morris has found a great deal of support from people of all ages for Salute the Brave, but particularly the families of soldiers overseas and college kids—many of whom see Salute the Brave as an easy way for them to show support for the troops.
“There are so many young men and women fighting overseas, but when you are 18 or 19 years old, its hard to support them,” says Morris. “This is an affordable way for a college kid to give back on a college budget.”
Living in a fraternity at USC, Morris has gotten a lot of help and feedback from his friends, who identify with the key demographic outlined by Morris of 16 to 25-year-old males.
“I really do get a lot of help from my friends and other people at school because they want to give back to the troops, and by getting the word out about Salute the Brave—they do,” says Morris.
Salute the Brave doesn’t have paid advertising, and though they do use social media to get the word out there, the majority of publicity comes from word of mouth and help from Salute the Brave’s 75 campus representatives, who are paid on commission and work on college campuses to find the key demographic and potential customers. But Morris above anything else credits the company’s success (has had $30,000 in revenue since launch this past May) with the social goal behind it.
“If we continue to make visually appealing apparel that still has this positive social impact, there is no telling where this company can go,” says Morris.