This is probably the most unpopular, yet nearly-unanimously shared opinion amongst a good majority of veteran business owners in the United States. Here’s why:
Scroll down your news feed on Facebook or Instagram as a veteran (or supporter) and odds are, you’ll probably see advertisements for shirts that have some type of super-moto saying like “Caution, veteran. Stand back 100 feet or you’ll be shot” or some bullshit like that. You know, the shirt that has word graphics spanning the entire shirt that look like they were just put in a generator with some fancy font and slapped on a shirt that probably feels like cardboard when you put it on.
A lot of veterans think that they can just start a shirt company, make some half-assed graphics, and people will just eat it up because that’s how businesses work, right? Wrong. I myself am entirely guilty of this mindset when I first started this company. In January 2018, I started the company “Veteran Apparel” with the hopes of having a backup plan for when I got out of the Army. I thought that if I started a business and spent thousands of dollars marketing my half-assed product that people would come.
It took a business analyst to look at my business plan and tell me “you’re honestly one of the dumbest business owners I’ve ever met” (yes, that was really said) for me to take a serious look at exactly what the hell I was doing. After countless time conducting real research on the clothing niche (and veteran clothing niche), I realized that veteran clothing lines are really a dime-a-dozen. Type in “Veteran Shirts” on Google and you’ll have dozens of pages worth of websites you can visit and buy cheap shirts that cost less than a convenience store shirt.
I hated everything about veteran clothing at that point. I knew I messed up, and didn’t really have any business owning a clothing line. I needed help, I needed something that can set me apart, or at least on the same level as the successful veteran clothing lines. I needed a movement.
That’s when I talked to a close friend I gained in the veteran marketing community, Dan Sharp, owner of Pop Smoke Media. I told him my backstory, and a life-changing event that happened in 2017 when I helped save two high school teens from a burning car in Nashville, TN. He said “Use that, take that experience and run with it. Use that story to help change the lives of other people”. Then, the “Never Ordinary” movement was born.
Then, another close friend Mike, owner of Ares Clothing took a ton of time explaining to me the financial aspects of owning a business and how to handle finances. Any problem or question I had, I went to him knowing full-heartedly he would give me a no-bullshit answer.
I finally started developing a purpose. A reason to have a business, something that people can relate to. Now, I might actually have a chance. I confided in more veteran business owners and influencers, and each one of them were so incredibly supportive of the idea for a change, something that people can look up to. I thought “wow… these people with hundreds of thousands of followers took the time out of their day to give a scrub veteran business legitimate advice on how to succeed.”
I never thought that I’d get so much support from people that theoretically should be competing with me and taking my customers. That’s when I realized that the veteran business community is unlike any other business realm, the brotherhood that is formed during your service extends past just serving.
Don’t get me wrong… there are a lot of “shitbag” veteran clothing lines in the United States that profit off the veteran label at the cost of forgetting their morals. I’ve personally seen Instagram pages feature a post “honoring” fallen service members, then putting the link to one of their brand shirts in the description of the post. It made me sick to my stomach.
As a whole, I hated the veteran clothing industry. I regretted everything about starting the business, and hated myself for even associating myself with it, with the false-persona trying to sell shit that had no purpose. Then, I actually met the business owners that make up the industry. It was then when I realized, I wouldn’t have it any other way.