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Friday, June 23, 2006

Fatigues transferred to handbag division

After military fatigues bear the heat. sand and sweat of war. some face
an usual form of retirement.
The pockets are ripped off. the holes are stitched up. pink trim is
added and they are sewn into -- purses.
All Fired Up Candle Co.. founded by military wives in 2001. makes
and sells the military-inspired purses. as well as clothing and
candles. on military bases across the country. For the 25 women who
make up the company. All Fired Up serves as an outlet to express their
professional goals as well as their support for the military and their
husbands.
Roxanne Reed. founder and chief executive officer. began molding
candles with military insignias in her home in 2001 as a way to stay
busy and make extra money.
As her business continued to grow in 2003. she attended Jane Wayne
Day. She and other Marine wives jumped out of airplanes. fired
artillery and experienced some of the other activities their husbands
do. Wearing heavy combat gear. participants threw their rucks. into a confusing pile.
"So I had tied a pink bow on my husband's ruck." Mrs. Reed said. "I
saw the combination and went. a subsidiary of All Fired Up. now includes a line
of purses. pins and accessories. One set of donated fatigues
can make four bags.
Operations manager Joetta Libby said the bags. which are the
company's top product. sell for between $45 and $65.
All Fired Up shops sell products from all military branches outside
Marine Corps bases Camp Lejeune. and Twentynine Palms. Calif.
Although they aren't military stores. they are associated with the
military because of their locations. All Fired Up also sells products
in post exchange stores on bases including Quantico. and is pursuing investors.
Next month. employees plan to tout the line to retailers at the
AmericasMart wholesale products show.
Mrs. Reed declined to reveal figures. but said sales have doubled
each year. From 10 percent to 20 percent of proceeds go to the Jane
Wayne Foundation. which provides startup money and professional
mentoring to military wives who want to start businesses.
The 25 women who run All Fired Up. based outside Camp Lejeune in
Jacksonville. are scattered at military bases throughout the
country. For many of them. it is the only kind of work that fits the
lifestyle of their career-military husbands. whose assignments force
them to move frequently.
"Most military wives are professionals at some levels ... but we
move so much we can't really integrate ourselves into the natural
corporate sector." Mrs. Reed said. "The private sector sometimes
considers our transient lifestyle a prohibitor."
The women of All Fired Up find a bond with other military wives.
who take pride in the fact that the candles and clothing come from
their "inner circle."
"With the war right now. there's some people trying to make a buck
off of Americana. For us. we come from that world. [Camouflage] is
something we see every day. carrying a piece of their husband's wardrobe
is a reminder of their strength.
"It's a constant reminder of how strong I've become. a spokeswoman of All Fired Up who lives at the Quantico base. Her
purse is made of the worn desert fatigues of her husband. I wouldn't be half the
independent person I am. It's a constant reminder of where we've come
and where we're going."
When their husbands are deployed. the women tend to work harder and
rely on the business to keep them busy and away from TV channels
showing news of the war in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Eight military wives and two dozen contractors sew about 3. when their husbands are gone. they'll stay up
until 2 in the morning sewing." Mrs. Libby said. "Their husbands don't
like them doing that when they're home."


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