Dog Tag Alumni Pivot Businesses During COVID-19 Outbreak

As we continue to navigate this uncertain time, we have decided to highlight stories about Dog Tag alumni who are pivoting their businesses in light of COVID-19.

“Life doesn’t always go according to plan,” says Dog Tag CEO Meghan Ogilvie. “Often we have to pivot, both personally and professionally, and this unprecedented time is no exception. By design, our Living Business School provides our fellows the unique opportunity to see first-hand how we constantly adapt in order to ensure our mission is the driving force behind all our decisions. We strive to teach and model resilience and perseverance, equipping our fellows and alumni with the tools, resources, and mindset to navigate the changes and curve balls thrown their way.”

We will be updating this page regularly with new stories, as well as our social media, so be sure to follow along!

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Badges United Foundation + Ms. Jo’s Petite Sweets

Our first #DogTagPivot story is about how three alumni - Sara Laszaic & Kim DeFiori, co-founders of Badges United Foundation, and Erinn Roth of Ms. Jo’s Petite Sweets - along with another veteran-owned business, Beyond Lettuce - came together to provide 185 hot meals to first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

Badges United Foundation (BUF) supports first responders and their families by offering recreational events, workshops, and financial support for mental health treatment. Ms. Jo’s Petite Sweets is a DMV-based catering company specializing in beautiful scratch-made desserts.

“As veteran entrepreneurs, we embrace challenges by adapting and overcoming,” said Sara of the opportunity to collaborate with Erinn, “We wanted to bring as many veteran entrepreneurs together as possible while creating a positive change.”

Sara and Kim continue to adapt their programming to meet the evolving needs of first responders during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. For example, BUF has collaborated with other veteran-owned businesses to assemble and distribute supplies and snacks to federal air marshals, as most airport shops are closed.

Their collaboration provided Erinn with an opportunity to generate revenue for her small business (several of her upcoming catering events had been cancelled due to COVID-19) and also gave her the inspiration to pivot and begin offering dinners for curbside delivery several nights per week in Alexandria, VA.


Ximena Rozo Design

Ximena Rozo Design, founded by Dog Tag alumni and military spouse Ximena Rozo, is based in Ximena’s birthplace of Colombia. Her company uses traditional designs to create handmade home accessories, manufactured by artisan communities as a means of fostering economic and social development.

With the risks mounting from the spread of COVID-19, Ximena had to make the hard decision to halt production, reducing the risk to her team of weavers and artisans. Her supply chain in Colombia was also completely shut down.

While she could no longer create her beautiful home products, she decided to pivot and partner with a local graphic designer to develop a line of exclusive Ximena Rozo Design-inspired greeting cards.

“During COVID-19 times, we are looking at ways to stay connected, thrive, and continue growing together,” said Ximena of the inspiration behind the greeting cards, “We know in times like this we all can go back to old fashioned ways to say I Love You, or Thank You, Get Well Soon, or Happy Birthday, so we have a card for you!”

Furthermore, Ximena Rozo Design has joined efforts to support the social cause #ayudarnoshacebien (helping feels good), a campaign endorsed by Colombian designers to bring food to the most vulnerable. The goal is to feed 500,000 families. For each set of the new greeting cards sold, 20% will go to the crowdsourcing campaign.


Semper Sanitize

This #DogTagPivot story is about Dog Tag Alumnus and Marine Corps veteran, Sharod Wade, and his company, Semper Sanitize, LLC.

Sharod serves as the Director of Operations for the DC Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, but on the side runs Semper Sanitize - a company that provides building maintenance, janitorial & housekeeping services to government agencies, private firms & residential clients in the DC metro area.

Semper Sanitize has felt the impact of COVID-19, and in light of the new challenges, has added additional services to their repertoire, including landscaping and decontamination of facilities that may have been exposed to COVID-19.

Semper Sanitize was also employed by the bakery to take precautionary measures against the virus, and will continue to keep the bakery sparkly clean when we reopen!


Anne Barlieb, Writer/Poet/Storyteller

With a background in writing and poetry, Dog Tag Alumna and Army Veteran Anne Barlieb discovered her natural knack for storytelling during her time in the Dog Tag Fellowship Program.

She embraced her newfound creativity and passion after the program by participating in live storytelling events and spending much of her time mentoring service members and veterans dealing with complex medical issues and PTSD through the art of writing and storytelling.

The recent quarantine has made it difficult for Anne to engage in storytelling and mentorship in the same way, but true to her usual resilience, Anne has done a #DogTagPivot. Now, she virtually attends performances, shares stories with her community, takes part in writing groups, and reconnects with friends near and far. To Anne, the ability to find comfort in writing and the need to connect haven’t disappeared; rather, she is finding new ways to stay close to her community. “Connecting with the Dog Tag alumni every couple of weeks and hearing everyone’s highs and lows and shared resources reminds me that we are a part of something much larger, community is real, and everything has a way of working itself out in perfect order, one day at a time.”

Anne is especially grateful for the self-care focus of the Dog Tag Fellowship Program, particularly during these difficult times. “Quarantine life is really validating the self-care skills I re-learned and practiced while in the fellowship. I journal regularly, make gratitude lists, take breaks, and breathe deeply. I also give myself permission to be as I am in the moment which sometimes doesn’t feel good or look impressive.”

To see a poem Anne wrote during quarantine, scroll through the photos.

Thank you for following along with our #DogTagPivot stories - stay tuned for more stories from our alumni!


Queen of Spades Natural Hair Accessories

“Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors” African Proverb

Dog Tag Alumna & Air Force Veteran Monifa Caines started her company, Queen of Spades Natural Hair Accessories, to “change the narrative of what is beautiful.” Her product line currently consists of head wraps, head bands, hair combs, and hair pins with vibrant, unique designs. Monifa planned to launch her business this spring, just as COVID-19 hit.

Rather than delay or give up, Monifa pivoted and continued with the launch of her business. She participated in several virtual events, including online markets, virtual pop-up shops, Zoom calls, and hair-wrapping parties. She also reached out to cancer, alopecia, and senior groups to show how they might benefit from her product and mission.

When she initially founded her company, she concentrated on hair wraps because it was something personal for her and a way to give other women of color more options for their hair. After conversations with customers, she found they wanted more. They spoke about the issues they were having finding hats that fit and t-shirts that represent them. She realized she had so much more creativity and ideas to fulfill these requests, and is now pivoting her business to be Queen of Spades Boutique.

“I am a woman-owned, veteran-owned company that seeks to fill gaps for women of color that are longing to represent who they are and accentuate their personal style with more options for cultural accessories and clothing. I am a very proud Black-owned company ready to fulfill the needs of what is missing when people want to be their authentic selves. The Dog Tag Fellowship taught me that becoming an entrepreneur means there will be many ebbs and flows, but to remain always resilient. Digging deep and putting in the work during the hard times is what the military taught me to do because the only outcome I want is success.”