If you follow this blog with any regularity you’ll know that I’m always on the lookout for folks doing interesting work. And recently, I came across a company manufacturing some very cool products that are predominately made from up-cycled military surplus, Sword & Plough.
Bags, jewelry, belts, all sorts of things, but of particular interest to me, are their tie bars and cuff links. The former is actually made from 50 caliber brass shell casings!
To learn more about the company and their beginnings, I reached out to founders Emily Cavness and Betsy Núñez.
[Ryan] First, I’d like to ask you two about the quadruple bottom line — which consists of social impact, environmental impact, purpose, and donating 10% of profit. It seems to drive much of your business decisions. Can you tell us a little bit about why these four items are important to you?
[Emily/Betsy] As a business, what sets Sword & Plough apart is our commitment to a quadruple bottom line: People, Planet, Purpose, Profit. This means that we are simultaneously focused on empowering veteran employment and supporting American jobs, repurposing surplus material, manufacturing in the U.S., strengthening civil-military understanding, and donating 10% of our profits to veteran organizations. Our quadruple bottom line is so important to us because it allows us to sustainably give back to the community that raised us, and the community that Emily went on to serve in.
Here is more detailed information about our quadruple bottom line!
+ Social Impact (People): We support social impact by supporting veteran employment at every stage of our business. This includes the design process, manufacturing, management, fulfillment and sales. Since 2012, Sword & Plough has helped support over 65 veteran jobs through our own company and manufacturing partners. These include positions within our own management team, through our contract manufacturing partners (which are veteran owned or partially staffed by veterans), through our veteran owned fulfillment center, and through our Brand Champion program. Sword & Plough encourages any job-seeking veteran to send his or her resume and cover letter to email@example.com so we can try to help secure an employment opportunity either internally or within our expanding supply chain.
+ Environmental Impact (Planet): Another key part of the Sword & Plough mission is to reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint on the world. By incorporating repurposed military surplus materials into our designs, we are able to significantly reduce our environmental impact as a fashion brand. We also manufacture exclusively in the U.S., which reduces our carbon emissions. To date, we have repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus.
+ Purpose: Sword & Plough is also committed to strengthening civil-military understanding. Our team knows that veterans are highly skilled technical professionals, problem solvers, and proven leaders who are empowering assets to civilian communities and companies. Through our social media, email, blog and public speaking opportunities, we work to educate others about the value that veterans provide. Our customers love to share the conversations they have when stopped and asked “Where did you get that bag?” or “What is that bag made out of?” Those conversations are opportunities to bridge the divide and increase understanding between civilian and military communities.
+ Profit: Since launching we have made it a priority to donate 10% of our profits to veteran non-profit organizations that align with our mission such as Got Your 6 and Team Red, White, & Blue. We’ve also donated more than $35,000 worth of Sword & Plough products to veteran organizations. These in-kind donations have helped support over 100 additional veteran-related initiatives in areas of employment, education, health, housing, and leadership.
I’m fascinated by how companies find their start. What can you tell us about your company’s beginnings? There was a Kickstarter campaign, right?
Yes, we launched on Kickstarter in April of 2013 with the goal of raising $20,000 to fund our first large production order. We reached that goal in just the first two hours of our campaign and ended the 30-day campaign with over 1500 pre-orders and over $312,000! Just one month later, Emily deployed to Afghanistan. Over the next 7 months, our team communicated over four different time zones, built a large community around our brand, developed a long-term supply chain, and fulfilled all of the Kickstarter orders in time. We knew if we were able to overcome that challenge, we could accomplish anything.
What are your favorite products to date and how do you see your product line evolving?
When we launched on Kickstarter in 2013 we had three Signature bags and since then have expanded our line to include more than 60+ SKUs. Our collection now includes leather goods, handbags, purses, jewelry, travel gear, and accessories. Some of our favorite products are the S&P Travel Kits, our recently launched accessories such as our Tie Bar and Money Clip (these are hand hammered from repurposed .50 caliber bullet casings) and our Camo Rucksack because it is made out of the same woodland camouflage pattern that our Dad wore when he was in the Army.
On your website I read that you have repurposed over 35,000 pounds of military surplus since 2012, that’s amazing! Where would this hardware have gone otherwise?
Thank you! As you mentioned, another key part of the Sword & Plough mission is to reduce waste and minimize our carbon footprint on the world. By incorporating repurposed military surplus materials into our designs, we are able to significantly reduce our environmental impact as a fashion brand. We also manufacture exclusively in the U.S., which reduces our carbon emissions. Additionally, we use recycled materials in our packaging!
What are some of the biggest challenges facing veterans in the Colorado area? And where can we learn more about veteran non-profit organizations?
Through Sword & Plough, we are working to empower veteran employment and strengthen civil-military understanding which are two challenges that veterans face.
We are very proud to be a Colorado based business because Denver has such a strong and supportive veteran community! There are many great veteran non-profit organizations to get involved with. Here are a few that we support and enjoy being a part of: https://www.swordandplough.com/pages/giving-partners.