Posted on July 04, 2016
As we all take a moment to celebrate America’s freedom, we also remember and appreciate those who have fought for it. So, today, we’re happy to spread the news about the Built by Heroes project, which teaches veterans to build furniture and décor. The products they make are beautiful and durable. Browse a few of them below. Watch the inspiring story of a veteran who became a farmer and changed his community. Happy Fourth of July!
There are 21.8 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those are men and women who drop everything to protect the country, and have to pick back up where they left off when they return. Re-assimilating and finding work can be a difficult task for many, but there are companies out there who offer jobs, camaraderie and a boost to help get veterans back on their feet.
The Built by Heroes line of home furnishing and décor zeroes in on veterans who want to hone their craftsmanship, learn new skills, or supplement income while they work toward a degree. Mike Hagood of Rogers, Ark., took the reigns of this company in November 2014 and has grown it from 15 to 35 employees — 75 percent are veterans.
“Along with the veterans, we have a few school-aged kids learning the trade and experts that help with the training. Most of the veterans are already good with their hands, whether it’s through mechanics or machinery. They really pick up on this quickly, and do an extraordinary job with building furniture and smaller pieces like crates. Sometimes it’s as basic as teaching them to read a tape measure — if you can cut it right, it goes together easy,” Hagood said.
He works with colleges and universities like Northwest Arkansas Community College, John Brown University and the University of Arkansas to find veterans who want to go back to school and need income to help pay for their education, or support their family while they get a degree.
“A lot of our veterans are going to school part time so we try to be very flexible with schedules. We work with these schools and the veteran’s employment agency based out of northwest Arkansas as well as the homeless shelter Soul Harbor to find people who want to learn and work. We try to be very open about employment, and get some folks that might not be able to find employment in other places. We have a lot of success, and sometimes we don’t. I’d like to tell you we don’t have turnover, but we do. Sometimes guys get ejected from the job or just split.”
Veterans working on the Built by Heroes team can undergo all types of training. They learn welding, staining, painting, cutting lumber, using large machinery like fork lifts and excavators. However, it’s not only the physical skills these veterans are learning, but invaluable emotional gains as well.
“The thing that’s great about this company is that the veterans are working beside a bunch of other veterans who have seen what they’ve seen,” Hagood said. “They don’t talk to me about it a whole lot, but they talk to each other, and they have support in that. You can’t take a lot of these guys and put them in corporate America and expect them to function — but some can, and some do.”
So what is considered a Built by Heroes success story? There are many versions of success here and they vary depending on the veteran. “We’ve got six or seven veterans still currently in school. These guys will probably graduate and move on from the company. My former son-in-law is a veteran and worked with us, and now he’s doing really well at Walmart. We gave him an opportunity to support his family and go to school at the same time so that he could get that successful job. Most of these veterans have to make a decision — ‘Do I go to school and try to do something better, or just go to work to support my family?’ — and we give them the chance to do both. We also have three guys trying to start their own business. They have helped me grow this thing from the beginning, and I want to help them with their goal. I also have guys that may be here a lifetime and I’m ok with that — they can move up into supervisor positions and have some career advancement here.”
The Built by Heroes team is open to both men and women veterans, though only two females are currently employed. “The future is bright for our company. We are building a line of furniture to be carried in furniture stores as well as custom business. Right now, we employee 35 and the business is growing to the point that I think we can very easily hit 60 or 70 by the end of the year.”
Want to support these veterans? See the Built by Heroes Collection.