Military surplus material creates fashion empire & jobs for vets

Two sisters have found a way to transform civilian-military perceptions into fashionable accessories.

Emily Nunez Cavness, a former U.S. Army captain, and her sister Betsy Nunez created Sword & Plough, a company that creates stylish handbags by repurposing military surplus material. The business employs veterans throughout each stage—from design, to sewing, to management, sales and modeling—and hopes the company is able to bridge the civil-military gap.

“We started out working with one veteran-owned manufacturer here in America and now we’ve growth to work with five veteran-owned manufacturers,” Emily told FOX Business’ Maria Bartiromo on “Mornings with Maria.” “And with that, we’ve helped support 65 veteran jobs and through all of these bags, we’ve repurposed over 30,000 pounds of military surplus.”

Cavness said she came up with the idea after joining the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at Middlebury College.

“It was there where I realized certain challenges like veteran unemployment, the civil military divide and the need to reduce waste,” she said. “And one day I had this ‘a-ha’ moment and I thought how incredible would it be to come with a company that could repurpose military surplus material into stylish bags that anyone would want to wear that would employ veterans at every single stage of our business.

According to the most recent data released by the Department of Labor, the veteran unemployment rate was at 2.7% in October, the lowest monthly veteran unemployment rate since 2000.

The former army captain said her time spent in the military helped prepare her for her career as a small business owner.

“It really trained me to know how to perform under stress, how to lead a team, how to have really good time management skills and I think the best thing it taught me is to never give up,” she added. “And I think that determination has really helped us get to where we are today.”