Betsy Nuñez (left) and Emily Nuñez (right) at the White House on June 4, 2013. (Photo/Haik Kavookjian)

Out of military surplus, two sisters create fashion with a purpose

Betsy Nuñez, 25, says she and her 23-year-old sister, Emily, have always been fashion enthusiasts — it actually runs in the family; their mom and grandmother are clothing designers. So when Emily attended a symposium on Social Entrepreneurship, which encouraged her to think of reusing what she sees everyday for a good purpose, she came up with the idea for Sword & Plough.

The sisters raised $312,000 from 1,553 backers in a month-long Kickstarter campaign and launched a business: they repurpose military surplus and make high-end bags, which are made by veterans.

The Sword & Plough signature line includes messenger bags, totes, rucksacks, key fobs, T-shirts, iPhone sleeves and iPad covers, which are made out of repurposed sleeping bags, parachutes and tents — accented with leather and brass.

Emily, who is from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, traveled to Washington last week for a special trip. She was honored at the White House as one of 12 crowdfunding “Champions of Change.”  She took her sister and business partner, Betsy, with her.

Emily is a 2nd lieutenant in the Army who has just deployed to Afghanistan for a year, but her sister Betsy just quit her job in sales about three months ago to hold down the fort at Sword & Plough while Emily is away.

“It was a no-brainer,” says Betsy. “I am so incredibly inspired by my sister and our mission. This was my way of giving back and leaving a legacy in my work and leave a mark. Growing up in a military family, [daughters of retired Army Col. Joseph Nuñez] I’ve been very inspired by service members and how they give back — this is my way to give back. It’s also been amazing to get to work with my sister.”

Betsy, who oversees the operations for the business, says they try to work with veteran designers and use manufacturers who employ veterans to produce their products — which are all made in the USA.

“We are looking for more veteran groups to partner with and want to volunteer at veteran’s events,” says Betsy. “Community is very important to us, and empowering veterans is definitely part of our mission.”

Of approximately 1,200 startups that applied for this competitive program which will potentially award them with more funding, Sword & Plough was one of 128 startups to be accepted as finalists from all over the world.

 “Our hope in our first year is to recycle 20,000 pounds of military surplus, to get involved in communities, and expand the product line,” says Betsy, adding she is in the process of bringing on more interns and preparing for the MassChallenge 2013 Accelerator Program.

Betsy says Sword & Plough is currently comprised of five core members working from Denver, NYC and Boston, and they plan on beginning to take online orders hopefully around July 4th. They also hope to have items in local stores this fall or around the holidays.

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