Your holiday shopping list is done and it's, well, long. Every year you struggle to find a nice gift for your in-laws or that nice aunt whom you never see. On top of that, malls are crowded and you're desperately trying to stay on budget while being a creative and thoughtful gift-giver.
Mission impossible? Not even.
We've pulled together the six small veteran-owned businesses you should be shopping at this holiday season -- and we promise there is something for everyone. These companies not only provide great products, but they also all give back in some way.
By supporting them, you support the military community. Whether you shop them on Shop Small Saturday or anytime this season, these companies are great examples of what our veteran entrepreneurs can do.
6 Veteran-Owned Small Businesses Worth Checking Out
1. TurboPUP. Founder Kristina Guerrero (call sign "Turbo") is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and proud recipient of two Combat Air Medals for missions flown in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Horn of Africa. She started TurboPUP because she wanted her dog to have a delicious Powerbar of his own. One thing led to another, and she found herself standing on the "Shark Tank" stage with an offer to help build her company. Today TurboPUP is available through these retailers and they donate five percent of profits back to veteran and animal support causes. Buy for your dog, buy for others dogs, just buy because this is a great company that helps you help others in the military community.
2. Bottle Breacher. Another "Shark Tank" alum, Bottle Breacher makes cool stuff and they "get" the veteran and military community. You want to make your civilian friend feel like aces? Get him or her something from Bottle Breacher and tell them it's a veteran-owned small business. Then tell them the company also features a "Never Forgotten" section, which pays tribute to those who have been lost in service. Proceeds from those sales go to the charities designated by the surviving families. Bottle Breacher even have a special "Holiday Steals" section so you can hit everyone on your gift list and feel great about supporting a veteran owned business at the same time.
3. Rumispice. Did you know the best saffron in the world is grown in Afghanistan? Yeah, we didn't either. But the founders of Rumispice, a team of veterans who visited Afghanistan at the invitation of Uncle Sam. figured it out and, following their military service, set out to make a difference in that country. According to their blog, "Rumi sources the saffron from local Afghan farms and employs more than 300 women in Herat, Afghanistan to hand-harvest the delicate crimson stigmas of the flowers." By providing jobs to Afghan women they help create economic stability at the local level and the company puts money back into the agriculture and manufacturing sectors in the country. Check out these very cool gift sets for the foodie or cook in your life.
4. Black Rifle Coffee Company. This company gets cool points for having the slogan "Fresh Roasted Freedom." Black Rifle Coffee Company is a veteran owned specialty coffee company that roasts in small, custom batches and ships directly to the customer. They are also committed to hiring veterans and have a fantastic holiday sale selection. If you are shopping for the holidays, they ask that you place your order no less than 48 hours before the deadlines listed by the United States Postal Service. If coffee isn't your thing (we'll try not to judge), check out their line of apparel or gear that seem to be growing in popularity as fast as their coffee.
5. R. Riveter. Gorgeous hand-made totes and purses made at the hands of military spouses. What could be better? R. Riveter was founded by two military spouses who wanted to give a nod to the hard work, determination and skill of the "Rosie the Riveters" from WWII. OK, so they aren't veterans -- but guess what? By supporting them, you're supporting veterans' families. Another business that made its way to "Shark Tank," Mark Cuban backed the idea and now R. Riveter employs military spouses who work remotely and send the finished pieces or parts of the bags to a final assembly and distribution location. Both the founders, Lisa Bradley and Cameron Cruse, have moved a zillion times with their military service members. Today they have 30 employees at their flagship store in Southern Pines, North Carolina, and 27 remote riveters on the team. We all love a great bag, but when you also get to support military spouses by supporting their portable career, everyone wins.
6. Combat Flip Flops. Matthew Griffin and Donald Lee were just two Army Rangers who did tours in Afghanistan and left the country thinking, "we should make flip flops and change this place." And they did. In their own words, "Unapologetically, we make cool stuff in dangerous places." Combat Flip Flops puts people to work in places damaged because of war and where people need jobs in order to avoid working for the bad guys. The company gives back and has a commitment to social change with a number of charities they support. Buying their products means helping put an Afghan girl into secondary school for a day and each Peacemaker Bangle or Coin Wrap sold clears three square meters of Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) from areas suffering from war.
-- Sarah Blansett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.