A female army intelligence officer is set for success in the fashion world after coming up with the idea to transform discarded tents, sleeping bags and parachutes into handbags and backpacks.
Emily Nunez, 23, who is stationed in Colorado and will be deploying overseas this June, started working on her military-inspired line of accessories called Sword & Plough last year.And this week, in a bid to get her fledgling business off the ground, she started a 30-day campaign on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. In just two days her project has attracted $75,663 in donations – more than three times her original goal of $20,000.To get the bags made Emily partnered with Green Vets Los Angeles, a nonprofit started by U.S. Army Reserve Major Jim Cragg in 2009 that gives veterans, both injured and non-injured, jobs in sewing factories.
Each of the khaki green tote bags and rucksacks, which range from $195 to $269, are finished with locally sourced leather from Colorado and brass hardware. A key fob, T-shirt, iPhone and iPad case are other products included in the range.It is estimated that in five years the project will recycle 750,000lbs of military surplus and create 600 new veteran jobs.
Emily, who is the daughter of a retired army colonel, came up with her business idea after attending a lecture at the Middlebury Center for Social Entrepreneurship in Vermont last January.At the event she heard about a group of Berkeley College students who built a gourmet mushroom business using compost from old coffee grounds.Inspired, she started brainstorming ways to salvage old army supplies. ‘A lot of the time military surplus material is burned or buried if no one does anything with it,’ she explained to The Middlebury Campus.
‘[So] I thought, “What if we were to take this material and turn it into something beautiful that someone would want to buy?”‘Emily’s sister Betsy, 25, encouraged her to pursue the idea and she entered a social entrepreneurship contest sponsored by Middlebury College which led to a three-week stint at Dell’s inaugural Summer Social Innovation Lab last July.Mentors helped her to construct a business plan, make a prototype bag and come up with a brand name.The phrase ‘sword and plough’ originates from the biblical phrase ‘to beat swords into ploughshares’, which means to refrain from violence and turn to peaceful solutions.
In February Emily entered Harvard’s Pitch for Change competition and beat 100 hopefuls to claim first prize. She received a $6,500 check and free consulting.As her venture took shape, her sister Betsy quit her sales job in Boston to become the company’s creative director.On April 15, Sword&Plough started taking orders for three types of bags plus accessories such as key fobs and card holders on Kickstarter. A website for the brand is also up and running but the online store is yet to open.In preparation for orders the Nunez sisters have lined up a supply of military surplus. Emily plans to keep on top of things while she is in Afghanistan.
‘In the military they teach you to have your team operate even when you’re not there. [Emily] will still be able to execute as a CEO from Afghanistan,’ Betsey told the Huffington Post.The two siblings enjoy working together, but Betsey said she is struggling to adjust to military meeting time as it ‘typically means being thirty minutes early.’She revealed that those who support their business are drawn to the sustainability message as much as the products.
‘This is a chance to get behind a project they believe in,’ she said.However she added that ‘it’s not a business until people buy what we make.’Ten per cent of profits will be donated to the Veteran Green Jobs and the Wounded Warrior Project – two agencies which help U.S. military veterans transition to civilian life. – DailyMail