July 4, 2013: This Millennial Company Employs Vets and Represents the Best Of the U.S.
With precious little to grasp onto when it comes to American pride right now, wrapping our fist around Sword & Plough, a quadruple-bottom-line company founded by Emily and Betsy Nunez, two post-grads from a military family, is a solid port in our storm. To continue the hand-grasping analogy, it's also a place to hang onto as we embark on our climb to (possibly) become a new nation of innovative, progressive, sustainable, and generally awesome companies.
Beaches and barbecues aside, it's hard to feel especially celebratory on America's birthday this year. Beyond the whole "freedom" thing being rocked by the disgusting NSA debacle, if you turn your mind to, say, the economy and the status of veterans in the country, it may become darn near impossible. Job creation isn't happening at nearly the pace it needs to, and a report released in February by the Department of Veterans Affairs found that that 22 veterans kill themselves every day. In addition, more than one million veterans are projected to leave the military in the next four years, and the crisis of veteran unemployment will grow as a result.
Driven by a mission to empower veteran employment, reduce waste, and strengthen civil-military relations, Sword & Plough directly addresses these atrocious problems and takes '"Made in the USA" to the next level along with it, working with vets to re-purpose military surplus fabrics into stylish, sturdy, and sophisticated bags for men and women. Sword & Plough makes something beautiful and sustainable out of material used for war and helps veterans acclimate to civilian life through meaningful work (and also just creates employment in general).
This soon-to-be-household name got off the ground with a smashing, ball-busting crowd-funding success on Kickstarter. The team aimed to raise $20,000 in 30 days and greatly surpassed its goal with an epic final total of $312,000 raised through 1,553 backers. This enabled the production of Sword & Plough's first round of bags and the recycling of 10,000 pounds of military surplus.
In addition to a heart-pumping mission and stunning crowd-funding achievements, the company's story is one that deserves to be told. Sword & Plough is a family company to the core with direct ties to the military. It was founded by two sisters, Betsy and Emily. Emily is currently an active duty officer in the army, serving in Afghanistan. The girls' father was in the military for 30 years, and their brother, also in the army, is interning with them this summer.
Sword & Plough is a tangible demonstration of what can come from supporting young entrepreneurs. After growing at Middlebury’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship, work continued with the Dell Social Innovation Lab, the Harvard Pitch for Change Competition, the Kairos Society, TOMS Start Something That Matters Mentoring Program, the White House Champions of Change initiative, and now the Mass Challenge accelerator program.
To say we need more companies like Sword & Plough is an understatement of great proportions. But to know that with support, an idea can generate something of value while addressing the harsh environmental and social realities America faces, is something to celebrate. It's good to know what can happen here. Now it just needs to happen many times over.