This month we recognize Ben Soltero De Martin's dedication and outstanding work as an S&P Brand Champion.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?
I was born and bred in Corpus Christi, Texas, but have now made a home in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania over the last 6.5 years. I had always had a goal of attending Penn State University, and in 2011, I packed up my belongings and made the journey up North to live out my dream. By the end of the Spring 2018 semester, I will finally be able to say that I am a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University.
Do you work another job in addition to Sword & Plough? If so, what job is that? What is it like to manage both responsibilities?
A majority of my work life has been spent in the restaurant industry in a variety of positions from dishwasher to manager, sometimes performing both positions in the same shift. I currently serve guests at Mangia Qui in Harrisburg, one of the premiere restaurants in the region. Thankfully, the flexibility of both food service and the Brand Champions program have allowed for me to succeed at both ventures simultaneously.
What made you decide to be a Sword & Plough Brand Manager? What is it about the products/brand you love?
It started when I fell in love with the style of Sword and Plough’s bags after seeing a friend posting a picture of her Blue Signature Messenger Bag online. After reading about S&P’s commitment to veterans and American manufacturing, I knew that this was an organization that I wanted to be a part of. When the opportunity arose to join the Brand Manager program, I jumped at the chance. I must have been one of the first to apply!
What has been the most rewarding experience of being a Sword & Plough Community Brand Manager?
There is nothing more rewarding than meeting individuals who share the same commitment to community service as I do. Whether it be my fellow Brand Managers or people hearing about S&P for the first time, it makes me feel good to know that so many people are working to make a real difference in their “village.”
One of the hopes for the Community Brand Manager program is that each member will leverage their own entrepreneurial spirit. What creative ways have you employed to reach customers?
Generally, I try to use my sense of humor and authenticity in relaying the message of S&P’s mission. I take the time to creatively present a package that is not only momentarily effective, but that will leave a lasting memory for those who come to understand my wittiness. I also work hard to show how I personally utilize Sword and Plough products throughout my community.
Can you please share what has been your favorite experience/memory working with a Sword & Plough customer?
One day at a local coffee shop, I was approached by a guy who lifted up his shirt without saying anything to me. He was apparently showing me his new Sword and Plough leather belt that he received as a gift, and thought that I would understand his actions without an explanation. Once he clarified what was going on, we both got a big laugh out of the whole situation.
What Sword & Plough product is your favorite and why?
My Green Signature Rucksack is utilized most often out of the different bags I currently own. My rucksack is a great way to transport everything that I need for school, work, or play. I can put my laptop in with my work uniform, throw my bag over my shoulders, and jump on my bicycle to take on the day. There is also plenty of room to add a book and some goodies and head down to the Susquehanna River to relax.
Who is someone who inspires you and why?
In June of this year my mother passed away, but she will always remain a significant and inspiring figure in my life. She taught me the value of hard work, respect, and generosity, and I hope to continue her legacy of impacting people through service from the heart. I believe there is no greater gift than love, and she was a shining example of that idea.
Are you a military spouse? What is the most challenging aspect of being a military spouse? What is the most rewarding?
As the husband of a soldier serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, I have begun to better grasp the sacrifices that both the enlisted and their families make for this country. While the time away from my husband can seem difficult in the moment, it is worth the effort to ensure that the wellbeing of others is always protected. We are extremely fortunate to have such strong forces that stand ready in times of need, and strong spouses who keep households running when duty calls.
What is something about being a military spouse or a service member you did not expect?
I did not really consider the amount pride that I would feel until that day my husband took the oath, and then with all that came in making such an important commitment. I can remember showing up to his graduation from basic training, and being overwhelmed with emotion for all that he had accomplished. It was really a special moment that still gives me goosebumps when I think about his company marching into the theater on base, and the sound of cadences filling the air.
Tell us about the service members in your life and your connection to them.
My family has a long tradition of service to this country. From my great-grandparents to my spouse, our family has been blessed to be filled with soldiers, sailors, and a Marine.
What, if any, experience did you have that made you feel like the Brand Champion program was a good fit for you? What advice would you give to someone who is just starting as a Brand Champion or thinking about applying?
The Brand Champion program works for me because it provides an opportunity to maintain my current responsibilities while giving back to those who serve our country. I not only get to speak on the importance of veteran employment and opportunities, but I also get paid, and look pretty stylish while doing it. For those who are considering joining our family, I would recommend using the other Brand Managers as resources for ideas and advice. There have been some awesome examples of tabling and promotions that I have seen since the beginning of this program, and I can not wait to see what new approaches will be presented.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to truly cherish the moments that you have with loved ones. Recently I was observing the interactions between kids and their parents while school shopping together, and I began reminiscing about the same experiences I had when I was a child. I would do just about anything to spend one more day shopping with my mom, even if she was picking out clothes I did not like.