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5 veteran-owned small businesses making waves

A holiday steeped in American history, Memorial day falls on the last Monday of every May. It commemorates the many sacrifices of our soldiers and serves as a reminder to honor the memory of those who died fighting in the line of duty.

This Memorial Day, as a gesture of gratitude to our honorable military men and women, we have rounded up some veteran-owned small businesses that have been making a difference in the community.

The U.S. Small Business Administration reports that veterans are 45% more likely to be self-employed than non-veterans. Evidence suggests that there is one veteran-owned company for every 10 veterans, with veteran-owned companies making up nearly 10% of all small businesses in the U.S.

One reason why so many veterans turn to entrepreneurship is because some of the skills honed in the military service are easily applicable to the start-up life. As one veteran small business owner aptly put it, “There is no better training for the long, hard, emotionally draining early days of getting your business up and off the ground.” - Nick Taranto

Combat Flip Flops Founded by former Army Rangers Mathew Griffin and Donald Lee, after serving in Afghanistan for multiple years, these shoes are not only comfortable, sturdy and high-quality, but also helping fund education for Afghan women. One product sale can be used to finance one day of secondary school for a young Afghan girl, where the literacy rate among women is only 15 percent. Combat Flip Flops is also striving towards unearthing landmines in Vietnam and melting down the components to manufacture jewelry and utensils. The company's aim is to achieve peace-through-trade and aptly calls this movement the "Unarmed forces".

Stubble and Stache Stubble + 'Stache was founded in 2012 by Nicholas Karnaze following the combat death of his good friend and fellow special operations Marine Justin Hansen. Justin had a big beard when he was killed and Nick decided to grow his beard out in solidarity and in what he describes as a coping mechanism. In doing so, Nick got to experience the numerous skin issues facing bearded men and looked for a sustainable skincare solution. Unable to find one, he went on to create his own and launched Stubble + ‘Stache in 2013 with the world’s first facial moisturizer for men with beards. 20% of the company's net profits are donated to pioneering organizations working for mental health and environmental causes. The company is especially dedicated towards ocean plastic removal and rainforest conservation by partnering on projects such as the ReSea project and Pachama's Jari Para Forest Conservation Project in the Amazon Rainforest.

JDog Junk Removal and Hauling A Hagerstown native, Aaron Mowery served in the U.S. Army from 2009 to 2012, which included a tour in southern Iraq. Once home, he and his wife, Amber, began their search for a business of their own. “My wife and I have always been entrepreneur-minded and believed in owning our own business and being a bigger part of the community,” says Mowery. In their effort to find business opportunities or a franchise, they found out about JDog, a nationally-recognized brand offering franchise opportunities exclusively for veterans to help them explore business ownership and transition from their time in service. "We fell in love with the people and the culture at JDog. They gave us the feeling of being family instead of just a business - that is just how their business model is set up." Today Mowry and his wife Amber, with a successful running business of their own, aim to hire more veterans to reduce the nation’s veteran unemployment rate to < than 1 percent.

RBVetco As a Service-Disabled, Veteran-Owned general contracting company, RBVetCo, LLC specializes in the construction, renovation and expansion of healthcare facilities and commercial properties. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, with a Regional Office in Chicago, RBVetCo was founded in 2004 by Robert "Rocky" Bleier. Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1986. His service in Vietnam earned him a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star but a sniper and grenade shrapnel left him with devastating, lifelong injuries. Always a fighter by nature, he bounced back in no time. Rocky Bleier has had a remarkable life and career. From a national championship at Notre Dame to the battlefields of Vietnam to four Super Bowl victories with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he now heads RBVetco, an award-winning contracting company, believes in giving back and has been involved with countless community organizations including the Southwestern Pennsylvania WWII Memorial organization, National Veterans Foundation, Beating The Odds Foundation and The National Park Foundation, just to name a few.

Piper Mountain Since 1978, Piper Mountain Farm has been growing balsam firs rooted in tradition and Christmas spirit. The Corliss family created a one-of-a-kind place full of family fun and cheer. Wreaths and trees from Piper Mountain have won numerous awards, and Jim and Norma Corliss have even gotten to present First Lady Laura Bush with an 18-foot Christmas Tree for the Blue Room! Husband and wife Mac and Anne McCullen joined the Piper Mountain family in 2017. After two seasons of observing and helping out on the farm, Mac and Anne started running the farm in 2019. Owner Mac McCullen is no stranger to the land, growing up in a rural community where he spent most of his youth hunting, fishing, and working on a local dairy farm, before beginning his 36-year career in the United States Navy. As a veteran-owned business, Piper Mountain is passionate about giving back to their community of veterans and donates a portion of profits to veteran organizations such as Mission 22, Hire Heroes USA, and Trees for Troops.


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