Everyday Greatness: For Veterans, Camaraderie Through Coffee

As one of the founders of Stars & Stripes Coffee, Chad Watts helps veterans find community, increase their income and transition into civilian life.

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Posted in , Jun 23, 2022

Chad Watts; photo courtesy Chad Watts

WHO HE IS Chad Watts of Edmond, Oklahoma, launched Scars & Stripes Coffee in 2018 with Brad Dean, a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. Their jobs, in sales for an orthopedics company, put them in frequent contact with veterans at the Oklahoma City VA medical center. Chad, a civilian, had felt God nudging him to do more for these military men and women. He and Brad hit upon the idea of selling small-batch craft coffee through a sales force that was made up exclusively of veterans.

WHAT HE DOES Chad was moved by the physical, mental and emotional struggles of veterans he encountered at the VA. The challenges they faced awaiting treatment. Their difficulties finding purpose in civilian life. He also saw how the vets lit up when they were together, supporting each other—a sacred bond. That’s why empowering veterans to start their own businesses and providing them with the support and camaraderie they knew from the military are at the heart of the Scars & Stripes mission.

WHY HE DOES IT The seed for Scars & Stripes was planted when Chad watched a TV news report about organizations helping veterans. In that moment, he felt God urging him: Do something! “My eyes were opened,” he says. “I thought, what if there was a business that not only creates extra income for veterans but also connects them with other veterans?”

HOW HE DOES IT The Scars & Stripes sales force is structured like a tight-knit military unit. It’s made up of veteran team members, squad leaders who each oversee six team members, platoon sergeants who direct four squads and report to first sergeants. Monday morning musters are held to build enthusiasm and accountability.

Scars & Stripes trains veterans on how to start a small business, including writing a business plan, understanding tax laws and evaluating opportunities. Team members immerse themselves in their communities, setting up booths at farmers markets, street fairs and the like. Income is directly connected to a veteran’s individual sales and not dependent on what others sell. But the business is about more than selling coffee.

Squad leaders act as transition coaches and mentors, offering advice on every aspect of reentering civilian life, from family and mental stresses to workplace practices. “Most of our veterans are scarred in some way, but it’s not easy for them to talk about,” Chad says. “We’re a safe place for them to share.”

HOW YOU CAN DO IT Any veteran can join the sales force by going to scarsandstripescoffee.com. Currently, there are 275 veterans on sales teams in 40 states. In the past three years, they’ve sold almost 60,000 pounds of coffee. You can buy coffee via the website in individual bags or a subscription, plus shop for mugs, shirts and other merchandise. Twenty percent of your online purchase goes directly to veteran sales team members.

Beans are roasted by Eôté (Ends of the Earth), a small-batch coffee roaster in Oklahoma City. “So many veterans have told me they felt like a stranger returning to civilian life,” Chad says. “We’re helping them feel connected again.”

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