How Workout Apparel Brand Born Primitive Is Giving Back To Veterans
“Being veteran owned and operated gives us our guiding principle for how we do business, even if we go against the grain sometimes,” says Born Primitive CEO and ex-Navy lieutenant Bear Handlon.
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There are an estimated 16.5 million veterans in the United States, many of whom have unique needs and challenges that all too often go unmet. According to Combat Wounded, Roughly 30 percent of veterans have disabilities resulting from their military service, and 30 percent of those who experienced combat have PTSD.
Notably, Combat Wounded also reports that 84 percent of veterans feel that the general public has “little awareness” of the problems they and their families face—and 71 percent of Americans admit they don’t understand the challenges those who have served since 9/11 have experienced (and are still experiencing).
Fortunately, individuals like Bear Handlon, co-founder and CEO of athletic, athleisure and outdoor apparel brand Born Primitive, are seeking to alleviate many of the issues America’s servicemen and women face. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Handlon about the actions his veteran-owned company has taken, and why giving back to service members needs to be such a high priority in the first place.
A Personal Connection
For Handlon, the desire to give back to servicemen and women stems directly from his own military service. A former Navy lieutenant, Handlon gained a deep appreciation for the sacrifices service members have given over the years through his own firsthand experience.
“When it came time to start the business, I knew this was something we were going to be about,” Handlon explains. “The military members that have gone before us—and those who are serving today—have done incredible things to preserve our freedoms, and so our goal from day one has been to exemplify patriot-inspired values like sacrifice, honor and a willingness to defend our freedoms.”
This focus is deeply embedded in Born Primitive’s culture. In fact, roughly half of its salaried employees are either military veterans, military spouses or former first responders.
“Being veteran owned and operated gives us our guiding principle for how we do business, even if we go against the grain sometimes,” Handlon says. “For us, it’s important that we are more than just a clothing brand. We knew from day one that we had to give back. Fortunately, our amazing customers have bought into our cause and have given us a platform to be able to support our military and first responders in a meaningful way.”
A History Of Giving
Born Primitive recently held its second annual Veterans Day campaign with the goal of providing even more donations to veteran organizations. Between Friday, November 11 and Sunday, November 13, the company committed to donating 100% of online profits to three veteran-related organizations, which concluded with a $100,000 donation.
“We did a similar donation drive last year, and it was a big success,” Handlon notes. “Veterans Day is an important day for our brand because so many of our employees are either veterans or active-duty spouses, and it presents an incredible opportunity for us to double down on our commitment to giving back.”
For its 2022 campaign, profits were donated to The Navy SEAL Foundation, which provides critical support for Navy SEAL personnel, veterans and their families; The Best Defense Foundation, which seeks to help veterans return to civilian life and stage unique battlefield reunions for WWII veterans; and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides mortgage-free homes to families of fallen first responders and Gold Star families, as well as smart homes for veterans who have suffered catastrophic injuries.
“Each of these organizations has had a tremendous impact for good in the lives of veterans who need that support the most,” Handlon says. “It’s such an honor to be able to help them, and to help our customers who believe in the same values as we do have a way to give back. The support we’ve received from our customers is an incredible show of validation for all that our military service members have given for our country.”
This commitment to supporting veterans’ causes is hardly new—nor is it limited to a single holiday weekend. Since its humble beginnings in an Indiana garage in 2014, Born Primitive has given over $1.4 million to a variety of charitable causes, with a particular emphasis on military and first responder organizations, as well as cancer research and prevention. This includes over $200,000 that was donated to local gyms across America that had to undergo temporary closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Leading The Charge
Handlon is quick to recognize that his company is far from the only one focused on the needs of military service members. “I think the more companies that get involved in these kinds of efforts, the better,” he says.
“A lot of the time, the general public just isn’t aware of the unique challenges our veterans face, and that can cause people who gave their all to serve our country to slip through the cracks. Our hope is that these kinds of efforts don’t just provide some much-needed money to these organizations. If it can help people better understand the needs of our servicemen and women and how they can have an impact, that can lead to even greater change.”