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Independence day is a national call-to-arms, of sorts, to take pride in, remember those who have served and be grateful for the amount of time and lives given to create a country founded and forever growing on the principles of democracy.

This holiday is a chance for all of us united by the stars and stripes to celebrate what each of us holds dear: the opportunity to live in a country which is ideally guided by virtues so inherent as freedom of speech, religion, love and, ultimately, happiness.

In that vein, we are launching a short series of posts over the next few days highlighting American businesses who make it their mission to give back to the veteran community.

Today, meet Eric, a sales manager at Bullets2Bandages, an online store selling .50-caliber bullet bottle openers. The team over at Bullets2Bandages is a tight-knit one –– many of them going back to before the company’s founding days at the Naval Academy.

Read on as Eric explains how Bullets2Bandages got started, and why giving back to the veteran community will always be part of the company’s legacy.

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Bigcommerce: How did Bullets2Bandages get started and how do you make giving back to veteran causes a core aspect of your business strategy?

We got started back in 2011, when two of my Naval Academy classmates ran what they thought was just going to be a one-off fundraiser in support of the Travis Manion Foundation, a charity founded by the parents of another USNA classmate who was killed in Iraq in 2007. Once they realized that people liked our products, they decided to make it a full-time business and we’ve been going ever since, adding about 100 consistent wholesale accounts to our existing retail offerings on our website.

Our veteran focus has helped drive our strategy by giving us a large audience of people who are interested in our products. In addition to our charity-branded products, we have trademark licensing approval from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, which allows us to provide members of each branch with products that appeal to them based on their experiences. Since we offer customization with no order minimums, we get a lot of custom orders from active duty and veterans looking for something with their name, rank, service dates, unit, etc. engraved on there, and several of those retail orders have led to large wholesale accounts.

How does Bullets2Bandages give back to the veteran community?

On an annual basis, we donate at least 15% of our profits to the dozen or so veteran charities with whom we’ve partnered. In fact, in 2014, it ended up being more than 60%. We also assist veteran charities with promotional and marketing support as requested.

Many of the organizations we work with are small and don’t have the money or personnel to get involved in online retail, order fulfillment, customer service and so forth, so we host mini-storefronts for them on our website where we offer their branded products and donate 40% of the retail value of each sale back to them — all they have to do is tell people about us via email or social media then deposit the checks we send them each quarter.

If you could give one piece of advice to those starting businesses for a cause, what would it be?

My advice for anyone who wants to start a business with similar goals would be that it is possible to maintain profitability and grow your business while also having a significant social mission. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to explain things to potential charity partners in a way that it’s easy for them to understand exactly what you’re able to offer them.

It’s not too difficult to line up partnerships that appeal to organizations who are looking for assistance provided that you can set things up such that they assume zero risk and zero upfront costs, and so your incentives are aligned with theirs. We’ve always given our best effort to be completely honest and transparent with our partners and to make sure they understand that when we grow, they grow –– and vice versa.

Do you have a business for a cause story to share? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll be in touch!

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