In May 2012, Bridget Platt found out that her husband, Craig, would be deployed to Afghanistan with his Marine Corps unit that fall. Craig already had a tour of duty under his belt, so the news wasn't unexpected. This time, however, Bridget was carrying their child, and he'd be away for 13 of the first 15 months of their baby's life.
To help teach her daughter Charlotte about where her father was once she was born, the North Carolina schoolteacher ordered several books online. "Everything I got was in black-and-white and the message [about having a father deployed overseas] was pretty sad. It wasn't something I wanted to project to her. I started writing my own version for her, and it turned into one of those aha moments," Platt tells Inc. "It hit me, if I'm doing this for her, that means there are so many other children who are in the same boat. What if I could create a version for every child out there?"
Platt decided then to turn her writing efforts into a business, forming Daddy's Deployed--a company that makes customizable books to explain a mother's or father's military deployment to children. Now, less than two years later, Craig is back home and Bridget's business is off the ground. She has sold 400 books so far and received 200 new orders last week from families of two military units that are shipping out soon.
Platt started Daddy's Deployed after an initial meeting with her brother Beau D'Arcy, a Harvard MBA. (She has also gotten help with the business through Inc.'s Military Entrepreneur Program.) Beau connected her with an illustrator, who took her story and made a children's book template that can be personalized by adjusting details about the characters, uniforms, and other elements. "Typically, the deployment journey is similar for many families. We do add in different situations--one we did where the mom was pregnant and the father comes back home to a new baby. In another, the grandparents are more involved," Platt says.
The books sell for $40, plus an extra charge for additional characters. Daddy's Deployed donates $3 from every book sold to the Lone Survivor Foundation, a nonprofit that brings veterans on retreats to help heal mental trauma.
For now, Platt remains Daddy's Deployed's only full-time employee, with the illustrator and four military spouses working on social media, marketing, and other functions as independent contractors. But she has ambitions of turning the company into "a personalized book empire," selling all manner of children's titles.
"We create books about really heavy stuff children just can't grasp," she says. "We want to take those hard things parents have trouble explaining and make something tangible that the kids can look at and still feel connected."