Sword & Plough: From Army Surplus to Handbags

A cadet turns tents into bags with the aid of many mentors
Army brats: Betsy and Emily Núñez Photograph by Benjamin Rasmussen for Bloomberg Businessweek

Middlebury College senior Emily Núñez was already committed to a career in the U.S. Army when in January 2012 she made an impromptu visit to the Center for Social Entrepreneurship that had just opened on campus. There she heard Jacqueline Novogratz, whose Acumen Fund invests in ventures with a higher mission, talk about some Berkeley College students who built a gourmet mushroom business using compost from old coffee grounds. The ROTC cadet wondered if canvas used for military tents and other gear could be repurposed into handbags. “It was just an idea in my head,” says Núñez, 23.

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