In addition to contributing financial and "hands-on" assistance, how can businesses support our heroes and their families through skills-based service?
By Kevin Lavelle, CEO+Founder, Mizzen+Main
This blog post was submitted by Kevin Lavelle, CEO+Founder of Mizzen+Main, a Billion + Change pledge company. It builds on remarks Kevin gave on a recent Billion + Change Veterans Day webinar discussing ways the business community can help support veterans and military families through skills-based volunteer service.
From job training and mentoring opportunities to helping veterans map their skills to careers, businesses across the country are lending time and talent to help veterans overcome major challenges transitioning to civilian life. With a 22% unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24, this support is needed now more than ever.
We launched Mizzen+Main last year to make a big impact, in many ways. Our idea was one the world had never seen: we’ve combined the best of advanced performance fabrics with the refined look of a traditional dress shirt. There are many benefits to today’s high performing athletic shirts. They’re moisture wicking, wrinkle free, have four-way stretch, and require no maintenance like ironing or dry cleaning. Mizzen+Main, with an eye on classic style and a traditional appeal, has taken these attributes and crafted a one-of-a-kind men’s dress shirt proudly made in the USA.
We’ve started with dress shirts and are expanding to other areas of men’s apparel, including a soon-to-be-released performance blazer that we sell both online and in various boutiques, including our own flagship storefront in the prestigious Short North district of Columbus, Ohio. Our vision is that Mizzen+Main will be a great American brand, combining classic style with true innovation, and will maintain our commitment to give back to our communities and country. Joining A Billion + Change was a natural extension of our desire to have an impact on those around us. Even as a small business, we know we can make a difference.
From the very beginning, we knew we wanted our company to have a broader impact than simply writing a check at the end of the year, and we decided from the outset that veterans would be our focus. There are many deserving causes we knew we could support, but it is the men and women who enlist in the military to serve who sacrifice voluntarily. From time away from families to the mental struggles and physical injuries suffered in combat, these brave men and women make an incredibly difficult choice to put the needs of others before themselves. We feel there is no better use of our efforts to give back than to serve this incredible group of people.
Many veterans returning from service are unsure of what steps to take next. Many times it’s because they lack a college degree or standard resume. Unfortunately, what many don’t realize, along with many employers, is that the military teaches men and women more real world skills than any degree or a few years behind a desk ever could. Military personnel are often far more skilled and disciplined than their civilian counterparts – they just need the chance and encouragement to prove it.
Shirt for a Start
Web Smith, a Mizzen+Main Co-founder, conceived of a way to make an even greater impact than direct donations, fundraisers or one-off assistance to this community and appropriately named it a Shirt for a Start. We believe we have found a way to bridge the gap between service and the start-up scene by a new paid internship program. We will pay selected servicemen and women making the transition to civilian employment while they develop entrepreneurial experience, industry connections and a better understanding of civilian life.
As we grow as a company, we will offer them more than a start. We will offer an opportunity to join us in design, logistics, communications, engineering and other key departments—on a full-time basis. We will also connect them with our networks for continued career development and networking opportunities. There is a myriad of incredible non-profits that do fantastic work to help the veteran community in all the ways it needs and deserves. A Shirt for a Start is our way of making a direct impact on individual lives through providing real job opportunities and training. We also see the program as a way to help our own networks make a difference and raise awareness through hiring those that go through our program.
We’re proud to give back in our own unique way and demonstrate to other companies, whether you are a startup or a Fortune 500, that giving veterans a chance to prove their skills and value in the civilian working world is not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart business choice.
About the Author:
Kevin Lavelle has spent his career dealing in numbers, strategy and technology and never expected to start a fashion e-commerce company. The idea for this revolutionary product has stayed with him since that hot summer day in Washington many years ago, and after studying the market and finding no such thing as a moisture wicking dress shirt, Kevin decided to do something about it. He is an entrepreneur at heart. Kevin is enormously grateful for the support of his wife and partner in Mizzen+Main, Jen.
Follow him on Twitter: @KevinSMU
Connect on LinkedIn: Kevin Lavelle