American made and veteran owned isn’t a tagline you’d expect from a fashion company, and that’s precisely what makes Sword & Plough so special. Started by two sisters, Sword & Plough makes bags, backpacks, jewelry, and more — all from military surplus material.
Sisters Emily and Betsy Núñez still own and run Sword & Plough together. Emily spent five years in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer (2012-17) and reached the rank of Captain. During that time, she graduated from Airborne School, served in the 4th Engineer Battalion and 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), deployed to Afghanistan, and was one of the first 100 women to try out for the U.S. Army’s Ranger Training Assessment Course.”It was an honor to serve alongside so many remarkable and dedicated men and women,” Núñez told Wide Open Country.
Enlisting in the Army wasn’t something Núñez did on a whim; she grew up in a military family. Many of her close relatives have had long military careers, and the list of their accomplishments is incredible: their father served in the Army for 30 years and taught at West Point and the U.S. Army War College; their uncle served in the Marine Corps and went on to become a NASA astronaut who piloted three missions to space, and their cousin served in the Navy.
Understandably, that dedication to the country and fellow soldiers inspired the sisters’ decisions beyond military service. It led them to start Sword & Plough, unique in its product offerings and commitment to veterans.
“The Sword & Plough brand embodies a life cycle. We start by recycling thousands of pounds of military surplus material. We work with veteran-owned or partially staffed manufacturers to create our product line and donate 10% of earnings to veteran initiatives,” says Núñez. True to their mission, Sword & Plough incorporates veterans into every stage of the business, from design to modeling.
What comes out of that effort? Crazy cool gear, that’s equal parts fashion and durability. They’ve got necklaces and rings, handmade from shell casings; water-resistant wool totes; and sturdy rucksacks, made from military canvas. Sword & Plough’s products look at home whether on New York City’s subway or a 14er in Colorado.
Along with its vintage appeal, Sword & Plough uses military surplus material for the environmental benefits and durability. Núñez’s Army background means she’s familiar with the pros and cons of each material; she’s also keenly aware of her use of space. For her, form is nothing without function.
Using military surplus isn’t just cool for us (the consumer), it adds a unique challenge to the Núñez’s day. The materials available to them is constantly changing, so they’ve got to be creative with their designs. Sword & Plough started with just a three bag offering. Now, they have over 65 products.
Continued success and a Kickstarter campaign led to even more growth for the company. They recently won the Grand Prize in FedEx’s Small Business Grant Competition. Núñez is excited, of course, because that means they can hire more vets.
Being in the military, or in a military family, is uniquely difficult — which the Núñez sisters well know. For Emily, what she learned serving in the Army has directly transferable to running a (quickly scaling) business. She experienced firsthand what it means to commit as an individual and as a component of a team. When every member of a team is focused on the same goal, well, your chances get a whole lot better.
They’ve taken that experience and created their own version of success. Get excited about their designs. Call it nice to see two women running a business. Or, be humbled by their dedication to the men and women who have served. Regardless, Betsy and Emily have given the world a lot more than a trendy tote.