It’s more than a day off from work.
Veterans Day, first known as “Armistice Day,” has been around for more than 100 years. And in each of those years, Americans have taken time on this holiday to pay respects to those who have served in the military.
Turns out, the skills learned in the armed forces — leadership, discipline and sacrifice — can also come in handy when starting a business. That’s why we’re spotlighting women veterans who have founded businesses in a wide array of industries, selling everything from girl-power workshops to nutritious, on-the-go dog food.
1. Sword & Plough
Sisters Emily and Besty Nunez started Sword & Plough while Emily was still at Middlebury College participating in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. The Denver-based company uses military surplus material to make durable and fashion-forward bags. Sword & Plough may have been destined to start, as the sisters grew up in a military family at West Point and were immersed in army culture. Emily came up with the idea for Sword & Plough after going to a social entrepreneurship symposium, and the company incorporates veterans into every stage of the business. According to their website, they have provided 75 jobs to veterans and repurposed more than 30,000 pounds of military surplus.
Dawn Halfaker lost her right arm while serving in the U.S. Army as a military police officer. As she recovered, she saw the resilience of fellow veterans who had suffered even more substantial injuries and wanted to give back. So she formed Halfaker, a provider of technology solutions that aims to improve the lives of military personnel and veterans by making government agencies more efficient. Her firm in Virginia also hires veterans.
Kristina Guerroro (a.k.a. Turbo) is an Air Force veteran — she flew turboprop planes in military operations, hence the nickname. She started TurboPup because she believes that dogs deserve nutritious treats just as much as her human companions. Her first product, Complete K9 Meal Bars, was an on-the-go meal for dogs — now, she offers numerous varieties of bars and snacks. Her Oregon company has been featured on the ABC show “Shark Tank.” Guerroro donates 5 percent of her profits to companies that support dogs and veterans.
4. Girl Smarts
Dianna Flett retired from the army as a lieutenant colonel and now runs Girl Smarts, which hosts a series of workshops aimed at empowering 4th- and 5th-grade girls in Northern Virginia. She was inspired to start the company in 2009 when her second oldest son was deeply disturbed by the plummet in girls’ confidence in middle school — he told Flett to do something about it. At the time, Flett was teaching leadership training at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and decided that young girls could benefit from much of what she was teaching.
5. Trumbull Unmanned
Dyan Gibbens is an Air Force veteran who started Trumbull Unmanned, a company in Houston that collects and analyzes data-using drones. While at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Gibbens studied engineering, eventually doing PhD research in industrial engineering and management focused on drones. Trumbull Unmanned works primarily in the energy industry, supporting oil and gas and environmental efforts. The company recently expanded its contract with energy giant ExxonMobil.
6. The Virginia Tea Company
Marisa Lightfoot spent more than seven years in the army before starting The Virginia Tea Company in Manassas, Virginia. She says she became an entrepreneur because she wanted more stability in her family life — something that was difficult to achieve when she was in active service. Her company, which is fair trade and uses local organic herbs in its products, aims to make tea more appealing to Americans, who don’t drink it as much as people in other countries.
7. Final Salute Inc.
Jaspen Boothe was a single mother working in the Army Reserves who started a company based on the hardships she experienced. While she was preparing to deploy, she was diagnosed with cancer. During that time, she also lost her home to Hurricane Katrina. She was discharged because of her health and discovered it was difficult to find medical care, a job and a place for her son to live. So she launched Final Salute Inc., a social enterprise based in Virginia that helps homeless women veterans find safe and suitable housing. Due to the coronavirus crisis, her organization is not bringing in new residents or accepting clothing donations — but they welcome financial contributions that will be used toward homelessness prevention efforts and feeding local families.
Note: This post was originally published on Veterans Day 2019. It has been updated.