This month we recognize Melissa Musick'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 grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky. Russell, Kentucky sits along the Ohio river where West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio are joined by bridges. We call it the Tri-State area. I married a man that I've known since I was in second grade. We have 3 amazing daughters, 5 grandchildren and 2 son-in-laws. My cup runneth over. We've lived all over the country due to my husband’s job, but we now reside in South Point, Ohio and go back and forth from South Point and Punta Gorda, Florida. Winters in Ohio are not my favorite.
Do you work another job in addition to Sword & Plough? If so, what job is that? What is it like to manage both responsibilities?
My family owned and operated what started out as a small mom and pop business over 55 years ago. It grew into a thriving and very successful manufacturing business in not only eastern Kentucky, but around the world. Growing up I listened to adults brainstorming and talking business all of the time, trying to come up with ways to make a better product. I think this is what draws me to Sword & Plough. I see the same ambition and excitement in Emily and Betsy as I did with my grandfather, mother and uncle.
I just recently decided to get my insurance license so I'm excited to see how I can use my connections to benefit me in both businesses!! Wish me luck!
What made you decide to be a Sword & Plough Brand Manager? What is it about the products/brand you love?
When I first came in contact with Sword & Plough I was in a small family owned shoe store in Ironton, Ohio called Unger's Shoes. I fell in love with the large tote and messenger bag. I was taken back because I knew that it had to be some type of military grade material. I read the story of S&P and immediately fell in love with the product and the story. My husband is a veteran from Desert Storm and served 9 years in the Army. It meant a lot to me that there was someone out there that was trying to bring the civil-military communities together and recycle goods. I'm all about turning old into new. And it feels good knowing that we give back to the veteran communities.
When I saw the article about S&P looking for Brand Managers I knew this was something I needed to be a part of. I wanted to know that in some very small way I could actually help our veteran community by getting our story out to the public. I've ended up absolutely loving telling people about S&P and how Emily came up with the first tote. It still amazes me when I think about it.
What has been the most rewarding experience of being a Sword & Plough Community Brand Manager?
The most rewarding experience of being a Brand Manager is when someone asks me about Sword and Plough and I tell them what the bags are made of. I see their eyes light up with amazement when they realize that the bag they're looking at is made out of the same material our soldiers are either wearing or are sleeping under.
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?
One great way I have come up with to reach out to new customers is something that was actually suggested to me by one of my customers. I've started having Christmas parties for spouses. Sounds crazy, but it works. Husbands usually don't know what to give their wives for Christmas, so the gals come and preview the products and then send their husbands to the party (with the credit cards) to purchase. My customers have loved this and they have a great time!
Can you please share what has been your favorite experience/memory working with a Sword & Plough customer?
My favorite experience was when I was attending my very first vendor event in Ashland, Ky. I could see this lady walking/running toward me with quite the determined look on her face. She walked right up and said, "I saw this when I walked in and want it." I started telling her about the discount and asking if she had any military affiliation, so I could give her the best price. She told me she didn't care she just wanted the bag because it would help a veteran. This was the most expensive purse we offer. She then returned with her daughter and purchased the Rucksack.
What Sword & Plough product is your favorite and why?
It's hard to say what my favorite product is. They each have a specific purpose. I'd have to say that the large tote is my favorite. I carry it when we travel, whether it's by plane, train or auto. We usually have 3 or 4 of the bags lined up on the back seat. My husband carries the messenger bag and I have at least 2 totes with me at all times.
Are you a military spouse? What is the most challenging aspect of being a military spouse? What is the most rewarding?
I was a military spouse of 9 years. My husband left the military back in 1997. It was challenging and nerve wracking. We hadn’t been in a war since Vietnam and Desert Storm happened just as my daughter turned one. My husband was gone for a year. I was only 21 and had no idea how to raise a child, and I was doing it alone and with the stress of my husband being in the middle of a war. But, that was nothing compared to what these new soldiers and spouses are dealing with today. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. I'm very grateful for their dedication and sacrifices.
What is something about being a military spouse you did not expect?
Something I never expected about being a military spouse was meeting all of our military friends over the years. In fact, I would call them my family not just friends. It's a bond that you can not explain to someone unless you have gone through war time with them. You cry, you laugh, support one another, even sleep beside them if need be. Just give them support. I love them all.
Tell us about the service members in your life and your connection to them.
My son-in-law is our only family member who is currently in the military. He's a Marine and my youngest daughter has been with a young man for a year who’s in the Air Force, so we can't get away from the military way of life. I wouldn't have it any other way. We know the frustrations, concerns, and ups and downs of being military. We try to support them any way we can, even if it's just listening.
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?
Being in the Brand Champion program has been wonderful. It's something that I'm very proud of doing. We all have our careers and I've been successful in mine, but this is something completely different. I feel good about knowing I'm helping our veteran community in some small way.
It's something I enjoy doing and I love the products. My husband says the material will outlast him. I would suggest going out and having fun connecting with the public and telling them how our product was made and what it's made out of. It's a great feeling when you talk with military people and they get excited about our products - like how we use shell casings to make jewelry. I love the stories. They never get old.