In honor of the July 4th holiday, check out these vets-turned-entrepreneurs who put their American values into their businesses. All of their products are made in the U.S.A., and giving back to the community is just part of the job.
In 2012, Betsy and Emily Nuñez founded retail start-up Sword & Plough with the bold idea of repurposing military surplus to make high-end bags for the civilian sector. They launched a Kickstarter campaign that exceeded their fundraising goal of $20,000 within just two hours--netting $312,161 total. The company's name comes from the biblical phrase “to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks” and illustrates the adaptation of military technology for peaceful applications. The sisters also strive for a “quadruple bottom line” and have a mission to benefit the environment and the veteran community.
Three days after former Marine Colonel Noah Currier arrived home from combat, he suffered a spinal injury that paralyzed him from the waist down. Rather than succumb to the tragedy, Currier founded an active apparel company and named it for a phrase in military jargon meaning, “Get on-the-move!” The clothing company, Oscar Mike, which sells a full line of military-themed t-shirts, launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this month to incorporate ruck packs, denim, leather goods, and sporting equipment into its product line. As if the swag wasn’t enough--the company also doubles as a foundation seeking to rehabilitate disabled veterans through adaptive sports.
In 2010, Army veteran Carl Churchill launched the Utah-based coffee chain Lock-n-Load Java with his wife Lori. He then partnered with a local coffee roaster, who also happened to be his brother-in-law, to establish an online distribution of the beans, and by 2012 had a projected revenue of well over $120,000. “Supporting veteran-owned businesses really resonates with people,” Churchill told Inc. in November.
In 2006, Chris Cancialosi started the corporate consulting firm gothamCulture, using knowledge from his pre-Army background as a business consultant. GothamCulture now works with a number of large-scale businesses in North America--including JetBlue Airways, Promedica and Virgin America--to assess and advise business leaders on their company culture. Cancialosi credits his unique perspective on business operations and team leadership to his role as both a battalion operations officer and Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq.
After suffering a traumatic brain injury during on leave, William Wheeler retired from the Air Force in 1995. After a decade spent catching up to speed--both physically and vocationally--he decided to start a business, Veteran Corps of America, with his brother selling veteran-made products and services to the government. Veteran Corps started out selling IT products, but has more recently "been all over the map." Wheeler told Inc. in 2011, "We go after any area that allows us to employ veterans.” Previous projects include a nation-wide satellite communication system for veteran hospitals, and call centers staffed by home bound veterans for the Purple Heart Service Foundation.
Trillacorpe Construction is a military contractor owned, operated and staffed by veterans. CEO Frank Campanaro founded the company with the intention of providing jobs to other veterans with disabilities. “I wanted to do something for those who had given way more of a sacrifice than I had. A fully blind GI or a GI that is an amputee or missing two or three or more body parts--that is a real disadvantage in this world,” he told Inc. in a video interview.