Editor’s Note: One of the great things about this job is that I get to engage with veteran entrepreneurs, or “vetrepreneurs,” who are out there making it in the world of small business and finding a way to give back to the Veteran community. I recently sat down with Dan from Combat Flags to talk about Veteran-owned small businesses. After reading this, if you are interested in supporting a Veteran Owned startup click here!
HJ: Tell me more about the path that led you to Combat Flags.
Combat Flags was an idea that took many, many years to come to me. When I left the Army, I left it all the way – I didn’t want to talk about it, see it or hear it. Over time, though, I began feeling like I wanted to come out of shadows and become a proactive member of the Veteran community. I realized, though, that I wanted to leave my own mark and do something special for Veterans as well as civilians. One day while on a conference call for my job, I happened to look up at a 4×6-inch flag I have hanging off the corner of my desk and the idea for Combat Flags hit me like a bolt of lightning.
As soon as I left work that day I went home and tore into an old box of uniforms to begin prototyping. It took about 6 weeks to fully develop the concept of the current flag and work the process to something that can be easily replicated. Today’s Combat Flags are made from donated uniforms from veterans and active duty soldiers from every branch and from across the country. Every flag is cut to 4×6 inches and hand stamped with hand carved American Flag stamp.
The idea of using donated cammies serves to purposes. First, what is more American than the uniforms worn by our fighting men and women? Second, it gives civilians something tangible to better explain and understand what the true cost of freedom is – it takes the word “freedom” out of the abstract and puts it into a physical form. The back of each flag holds a 2-3 sentence bio on who donated the uniforms to give every flag an overwhelmingly personal touch.
The cause behind Combat Flags is to make a positive impact on the staggering number of veterans and active service members taking their own lives. Our brothers and sisters – at home or overseas – should never feel alone. With this cause in mind, I researched a number of organizations and ultimately decided to donate ½ of every Combat Flag sale to Stop Soldier Suicide. SSS is a 501c3 that works to combat soldier suicide on two fronts: when soldiers are experiencing a difficult time in life (financial problems, difficulty finding employment, etc) and when they are actively considering harming themselves.
In April, my first full month of activity, I was able to donate $672 to Stop Soldier Suicide.
HJ: What is the core of your business?
At its core, Combat Flags is committed to bringing veterans together to form a support system well as to build awareness of the disheartening statistic that 22 veterans and 1 active duty service member commits suicide every day.
HJ: What does a typical day look like?
Combat Flags is not my “day job.” I work in public relations during the day for a global manufacturing company and in the evenings I commit my time to Combat Flags. On any given afternoon, you can find me tearing down uniforms, cutting material, printing, sewing and stamping flags.
HJ: What experiences have best prepared you this project?
In all honestly, I was lacking the connection to my veteran brothers and sister, but I didn’t realize it until it was glaringly obvious. Feeling disconnected from my past and from those who best understand me and share in similar experiences was a huge catalyst in this undertaking. That propels much of what Combat Flags is – creating a community and forum for veterans to connect in a positive way.
HJ: What does your team look like?
It’s just me!
HJ: What is the best quote that guides you daily?
“Regardless of your race, culture, or religion, you want to die standing, fighting like a warrior, an America, so others won’t have to. For those looking for a definition, this is the price of freedom.” – MAJ Rusty Bradley
HJ: Do you have any words or advice that you would like to lend to veterans that might be considering starting their own business?
Follow your heart and give it a chance. If you have an intense passion for a cause or product you can make anything happen.
Again, we want to support all fellow Veteran entrepreneurs and really love the concept behind Combat Flags. If you are interested in donating your cammies and your story or would like to make a purchase, click here.