Two former bomb techs in California have started a jewelry line that is packing some serious fashion heat.
Cole Evans and Erik Spalding are turning ammo into accessories in a fashion line called Bullets2Bandages, which is also helping the families of fallen soldiers.
The two former Naval Academy grads, who both served as bomb technicians and platoon captains in the Middle East, said they came up with the idea after their Naval stint ended last year. They wanted to become entrepreneurs, but didn’t want a stuffy white-collar job.
“We wanted freedom and we wanted creativity,” said Spalding, whose grandfather was Puerto Rican. “We knew if we sat in an office somewhere in corporate America we’d blow our brains out.”
So the two somehow stumbled onto an industry with few men, and even fewer military vets: fashion jewelry. Their idea was to turn demilitarized bullets into “bullet jewelry.”
“We came up with the idea when Cole was cleaning out his armored vest and a bullet fell out,” Spalding said. “It landed on the coffee table next to my dog tag. I took a picture of it… It struck us both. We knew we were on to something.”
In June, the two started selling to friends and family through Facebook. Now, four months later, growing mostly through word-of-mouth, the San-Diego-based venture fill several orders per day to customers across the world, including Finland, Netherlands and Mumbai.
The bracelets, sold online at Bullets2Bandages.org, sell for $49 and are made with M27 machine gun linage and 9mm pistol bullets. They jewelry, they say, is made from real demilitarized bullets (fired and ejected brass that has been cleaned, reloaded and resized.)
“The bullet bracelets are the most popular – (they are) the only one of its kind on the market,” Spaulding said.
But making money and launching a new career was not their only goal.
Evans and Spalding, who were roommates until recently, say they immediately thought about a way to use the jewelry to help veterans. About 15 percent of their proceeds are donated to the Travis Manion Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates money to survivors of fallen soldiers.
The foundation is in honor of 1st Lt. Travis Manion, Evan’s classmate and best friend at the Naval Academy who was killed by enemy sniper fire while fighting in Iraq.
“Our accessories were born from the idea of turning something that can do harm, like a bullet, into a symbol of hope and healing,” Evans says.
Many soldiers who return from combat struggle with the transition back home, But Spalding and Evans say that a lot of what they learned during their military experience, they are putting to use in their business.
“The skills we learned in the military, like discipline, time management, and a comfort with risk support our belief that we can take risks in business,” Spalding said. “We’re not afraid to fail. For us, failing in business is a hell of a lot less stressful than getting blown up.”
On November 11th, in honor of Veteran’s Day, B2B will introduce clothing into their line. It already sells hats and T-shirts in addition to the bullet jewelry. By hiring a female employee, they also hope to branch out to the women’s market.
They also want to expand their philanthropic efforts and help a variety of veterans organizations – maybe even giving customers, through social media efforts, an opportunity to choose where their proceeds will go.
“Bullets2Bandages is a way for us to give back to those who’ve selflessly risked their lives for our country,” Spalding said. “Although we no longer serve in uniform, we find it impossible to walk away from the ongoing struggles that veterans and their families are forced to endure.”
Rebekah Sager is a freelance writer based in California.