Hello Sword & Plough Community!
This past year has been the most transformational and surprising of my life and all of you have played a major part in that! Last year I graduated from Middlebury College and attended the Dell Social Innovation lab during the summer, where I had the opportunity and gift of time to cultivate the idea of Sword & Plough, which had been formed during my final semester at Midd.
One year ago today, I also started my active duty service in the U.S. Army when I began Military Intelligence officer training in Arizona. During this period of time, I was faced with many challenges and lessons each day, which are not unlike those of launching S&P (more on that later). So far, everything was going as expected. I still had time to develop Sword & Plough during every waking moment that I was not training. Luckily, it was also during this transition period that our team began to grow!
After completing the course, I was assigned to my first duty station at Ft. Carson in Colorado. Upon arriving, I was redirected from the unit to which I had originally been assigned to. I was then told that I would be deploying to Afghanistan in three months. Upon hearing this news, I had so many conflicting emotions that it was difficult to know how to react. I was very excited to have the opportunity and honor to serve my country in a deployment, but I also wondered how it would affect Sword & Plough's fate. Furthermore, having grown up in a military family, I had watched my mom, with great strength, see my dad off to several of his own deployments. I knew this would be difficult for her to do yet again for her daughter. I was also looking forward to finally being in the same state as my fiancé …but that’s enough about me!
While it is common for one to worry about their own personal situation, I knew I would have to put these thoughts to the side very quickly, because service, just like Sword & Plough (or any organization for that matter), is not about one person.
I write to you now having been overseas for a little over three months. During this time, I’ve been finding a lot of fulfillment in learning how to better support the mission my unit is here to accomplish. There is also a certain quality about this vast desert setting that compels one to reflect and think. I want to share with you some of the realizations that have resonated with me most since putting my boots on the ground in this new environment.
- Be adaptable.
○ There is a good reason why “semper gumby” is the unofficial motto of all U.S. military services. From an unexpected notification of being deployed, to a sudden change in mission, there are constant modifications in any given day of military service. No organization should be complacent in their plans or be resistant to making necessary changes. Similarly, Sword & Plough has experienced surprises; from our first leather tannery going bankrupt, to booking our COO to be in events on both the East and West coasts on the same day, and accidentally calling team members in the middle of their sleep because you mistakenly added eleven and a half hours instead of subtracting. With each new challenge, we’ve learned how to stay flexible, adapt and improve our standard procedures.
- Build a great team and trust them.
○ Sword & Plough is a growing social enterprise today because of the combined efforts of our motivated team and supportive community. The fact that every person brings a distinct skill set to team and strongly believes in our mission has made our existence possible. The same is true for the best groups of soldiers that I have met. A sense of purpose and a dedication to a cause above oneself is what compels a service member to give 110% to their mission and team, which sometimes translates to running for days on end on very little sleep. While we try to limit sleepless nights for the S&P team, I can’t say it never happens! I think our team shares a similar sense of drive to accomplish our mission no matter what challenges come our way. Even though I’m currently over 7,000 miles away from S&P team members on the East coast, I trust them completely to solve problems, introduce new ideas, and represent our company, especially while I’m deployed. Without our strong and dedicated team, and your support,Sword & Plough would have just remained an idea. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to lead such a talented and motivated team!
- Find inspiring mentors.
○ Mentors have played such a crucial role in Sword & Plough’s development, as well as my military service. From the very beginning of S&P at Middlebury College, we have been guided by professors, philanthropists, veterans, and business leaders who have dedicated hours upon hours to see that we learn and succeed. Without this incredibly strong ‘army of advisors,’ S&P would have seriously struggled in numerous situations where we questioned which direction to take. Similarly, military mentors have transformed my progress as a leader by taking a sincere interest in my development and offering new perspectives. I’ve been trying to figure what single characteristic above all others is shared by every good leader and I believe that I’ve figured it out. The people that inspire me most are those that truly care about the people they are leading, whether that is in business or the military. Our team looks forward to the day when we can help budding start-ups grow by sharing our S&P experiences.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the advice and encouragement we’ve received from our family, friends, advisors and backers. Thank you for taking the time to read this and support S&P by learning more about our unique mission. I hope to have more news to share again soon!
Over and out ;)
Co-Founder & CEO