While working as an independent contractor at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Oklahoma City, Scars and Stripes Coffee cofounder Chad Watts noticed how many veterans have trouble reintegrating back into everyday life. He also noticed that veterans who walked into the Oklahoma City VA seemed relieved and excited to be around other veterans.
“They would always light up when they were around each other,” said Watts. “When you’re in the service, you’re used to having your brothers and sisters there. When you leave, that camaraderie is gone overnight.”
Watts, who works in the medical industry, quickly became friends with coworker and veteran Brad Dean. As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Oklahoma Army National Guard, Dean agreed that post-service life is difficult for most retired soldiers.
And Watts and Dean are correct–studies show that 44% of post-9/11 veterans find it hard to reintegrate back into civilian life. Upon realizing how little support veterans were receiving after service, the duo decided to do something about it. They founded Scars and Stripes Coffee to empower veterans to be entrepreneurs alongside their veteran brothers and sisters.
“The most impressive thing I have experienced is that above all else the soldier cares most about their fellow soldier and nothing is more important than the team,” says Watts. “So I thought what if there was a business that not only builds an extra income for veterans but also brings the “team” together. Thus, the creation of Scars and Stripes Coffee was developed.”
Scars and Stripes Coffee is structured in a way that’s familiar to veterans. There are four ranks for their salesforce: team member, Squad Leader, Platoon Sergeant, and First Sergeant. Each veteran starts at the bottom and works up to the next position based on a detailed structure of duties and milestones that have to be met consistently in order to advance. Every new veteran is assigned to a team of 6 with a Squad Leader. Each week, Squad Leaders hold a “Monday Morning Muster” to meet with each of their 6 team members to help with business development and provide accountability and community.
“The commission from the coffee sales goes directly to the supported Veteran, it doesn’t go to a company, or to Scars and Stripes for us to decide where the profits should be spent,” says Dean. “This is a grassroots organization that 100% puts the service member first.”
The members are trained to sell the coffee through various outlets including online and in-person events like trade shows and farmers markets. These events help empower transitioning veterans to merge their military skills with civilian skills.
“I always say that this is not a handout, it’s a hand-up,” says Watts. “If you’re gonna be successful you gotta put the work in.”
Not only does Scars and Stripes have a powerful mission, they also have high quality coffee. All beans are single origin and roasted right here in the USA.