How Celebrating Warriors Built a Small Business
A tribute of gratitude
When tenshimadeShop hit $5,000 in sales and became a viable small shop on Etsy last year, I told my husband it was all his fault.
We didn’t set out to create it, there was no business plan, but we put out products that my husband couldn’t find elsewhere.
And here we are.
My warrior’s ideas and designs created tenshimadeShop. It all started with Signal Corps patches and dust covers.
As an Army Signal Corps veteran of the first Gulf War, my husband was looking for patches to promote a bit of esprit de corps. The problem is that the Signal Corps is not as famous as units like Airborne or Rangers, so there are not many vendors selling Signal Corps swag. He bought me an embroidery machine for Christmas one year and asked if I could figure out how to make one. Sure, I thought, should be easy.
The first generation Signal Corps patches were a demonstration of my learning curve, but eventually, I got it down. I don’t have one of those fancy commercial machines, so it took some research to figure out how to do it. And it takes some time to make them by hand.
Once I figured it out he said, “You should put those for sale online. I bet there are a lot of Signal Corps vets who would buy them.”
So I did. And they did.
A huge shout-out to Signal Corps!
The next product was dust covers.
A couple of years ago, my husband re-engaged with one of his favorite hobbies to combat his chronic pain. Flight simulators, like DCS World, offer an intense and comprehensive flying experience on all kinds of aircraft.
Flight sim aviators can take an A-10 or an F-16 for a spin at varying degrees of difficulty including learning to start up the aircraft like pilots do in real life. The experience is so lifelike, some military pilots use it for practice.
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My husband goes for the real life experience and that included purchasing some high-tech equipment like a stick, throttle, and rudder pedals. When he’s not flying, it’s important to keep the dust out of that gear, because it’s not cheap. So he asked me if I could make him something that looked cool and allowed him to put patches on them. I took his old chocolate chip BDUs and made some dust covers.
Like the Signal Corps patches, he said, “You should sell those online, there’s a lot of guys who would love to buy these.”
I thought he was nuts, but I did it. And flight simmers all over the world love them.
As of this Veteran’s Day, tenshimadeShop has shipped product to 49 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, Armed Forces Post Office Europe, Diplomatic Post Office, and 6 countries.
We make them with custom images, callsigns, or just a place to put patches and they look darn sharp!
When the pandemic hit, my warrior asked for a fancy mask with embroidered Signal Corps flags.
I made one and then he said, “You should put those on your shop.”
So I did, and wham! I was so busy with orders I could hardly keep up.
Then he said, “I need a place to put all these patches because when they are in a drawer I forget what I have.” So we figured out how to make patch boards.
Once I made one, he said, “You should put those on your shop.”
Small business blessings
There are multiple blessings involved in making custom, personalized items that come from my husband’s ideas.
- I work at home with my husband every day. He not only created the company logo, but he handles various graphics projects when they come up. Plus, he’s the idea guy and tells all his buddies about our shop.
- I get to “meet” people all over the world. Everything I do is custom made and personalized. Anyone who orders dust covers or a patch board or even custom patches has to let me know what they are looking for so I can make it perfect. That also means I hear inspiring, wonderful stories.
- I get the opportunity to celebrate our nation’s heroes by offering veteran/active duty discounts and special items.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to my husband, known on DCS World as BlackHat. He runs the 23rd Virtual Expeditionary Wing, which is a group of guys, including veterans and active duty service members, who get together multiple times per week to fly missions together.
The wing honors the rich history of the 23rd Wing going all the way back to the American volunteer group in China during World War II — the Flying Tigers. They are still looking for a few good pilots if anyone is interested.
Not only has my warrior given me the ideas for products, but he encourages me to keep learning and creating. My sewing and embroidery skills are all self-taught, so without his support, I might have given up.
I also want to thank Niki with Easy Creatives who does all the complex digitizing for custom embroidery jobs. Her work is amazing and she transforms pictures to embroidery. Some of her work includes anime characters and recreating old military patches so veterans can celebrate their accomplishments. For those who do machine embroidery, check out her digitized designs on her Etsy shop.
Although I was not married to my warrior during his time of service, I have walked with him along the journey of consequences from service. I have written on these topics before and I wish our leaders would ensure that our active duty and veteran warriors wanted for nothing.
Honoring Veterans Means Changing the System That Cares for Them
You are appreciated and loved, but this country owes you more
There is no reason that veterans should have to beg the VA for help when they experience physical or mental side effects from service. There is no reason veterans and their families should be homeless or financially destitute. There is no reason why those who enter this country illegally have it better than those who risk their lives for it. The effects of combat and service last a lifetime and we owe those willingly sacrifice on our behalf a debt that should honor them for a lifetime.
I love making special gifts for veterans.
Like the specially embroidered face masks for Signal Corps, First Cavalry, Airborne, and the proud Navy mom who sent several to her daughter while she was in training at Great Lakes.
The Vietnam Veteran flight surgeon who filled a patch board with so many mission patches, they are a history lesson of honor and courage.
The husband and wife Navy couple who shared their family history of courageous warriors going back to Polish warriors in WWII.
The young man asking for fast shipping so he can get his order before deploying overseas.
The veteran father recreating his unit patches on his flight jacket so his kids understand that their dad is badass.
The girlfriend celebrating her sailor with a customized patch board designed especially for him.
The Air National Guard couple who needed a patch board as a place to put uniform patches on laundry day, customized to fit in a specific space.
These are just a few vignettes of the conversations I have had with those who have honored tenshimadeShop with their business.
The supply chain is messed up for the holiday season, but never fear, tenshimadeShop is here!
From now until Nov. 24, our shop is offering 20% off orders $20 or more on everything in the store and free custom digitizing for any military or first responder related orders.
We hope that you will give the warriors in your life a special gift this season. Honor them with something no one else has and honor us with your business and your stories.
In closing, the following is a list of all the military and public service units we have made custom designs for. We thank you with extreme vehemence for your courageous service and we look forward to adding more units to this list in the next year.
- US Army Signal Corps
- First Cavalry
- Flying Tigers
- 32nd Infantry
- 101 Airborne
- Department of the Air Force
- USAF Air Traffic Control
- US Army 1st Signal Brigade
- US Navy Master SWCC
- Air National Guard
- US Marine Corps
- Fighting Jayhawks
- ODA 9115
- 340 AMU
- Bravo Co. 3rd
- Texas Navy Recruiting Station, San Antonio, TX
- Air Force Flight Surgeon
- 69 Cavalry
- San Bernadino Sheriff’s Department
- Canadian Infantry
- Royal Canadian Air Force