Aspiration & Struggle

Sword & Plough: How These Stylish Sisters Are Making a Difference for Veterans

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We’re betting you’ve had a few light bulb moments in your life when you thought, “Oh! That would make a great business.” But let’s be honest: For many of us, that flicker is the end of the entrepreneurship road.

As daughters of a retired U.S. Army colonel, however, sisters Emily and Betsy Nunez aren’t familiar with the concept of giving up.

“Once we realized the importance of action and full commitment to an idea, we came to understand that the things in our way were not walls, but simply small hurdles,” the sisters wrote of their company Sword & Plough in an essay for GOOD magazine.

Thanks to Emily and Betsy’s determination, Sword & Plough has become a shining example of social entrepreneurship success. To top it all off, the company employs American veterans to create stylish bags and accessories from recycled military materials.

Socially Conscious Beginnings

When she was an undergraduate student and ROTC cadet at Middlebury College in Vermont, Emily attended a social entrepreneurship symposium, and inspiration struck.

“One of the speakers talked about startups who had social causes behind them and one really resonated, and made me think what in my life I routinely wasted that we could harness and turn into something that’s beautiful and carries a powerful mission and message,” Emily told PennLive.

Emily is part of a military family and a soldier herself, so discarded military materials immediately came to mind. Soon after, a six-hour lunch with her sister Betsy led to their co-founding Sword & Plough in 2012.

The company’s name comes from the biblical phrase “to beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks,” which the sisters have interpreted as “tak[ing] military technologies and materials and apply[ing] them to peaceful civilian applications.”

Sword & Plough is proud to be what they call a “quadruple bottom line” company: They take people, purpose, planet, and profit into account when making business decisions. This translates to repurposing military materials, employing veterans, manufacturing products in the United States, and donating 10 percent of their profits to veteran organizations.

The Commanding Success of Sword & Plough

The Nunez sisters’ mission is working: Sword & Plough’s self-labeled “rugged, refined, and relevant” products (and its founders) have been featured in such publications as Bloomberg, Inc., and the Huffington Post.

Since the sisters began their business, they’ve created 38 part- or full-time jobs for veterans and repurposed more than 20,000 pounds of military surplus materials, according to the New York Post. They expect to double their product line in 2015, as they did in 2014.

Some of our favorite items from their collection include the Signature Tote ($219) and Repurposed Pocket Tee ($39). These prices may seem high, but remember, you’re investing in a sustainable, American-made product. More importantly, your money supports a good cause.

Millennials Taking Charge of Social Entrepreneurship

The Nunez sisters exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit. According to their site, they “wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face, and the power that every person has to help.”

These inspiring women are showing the world that Millennial labels are definitely not one size fits all.