When Kevin Tretter left the U.S. Army after 22-years of service, he felt a bit lost. As a Special Forces soldier, Kevin had a career that included intense combat, including surviving a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2008.
His transition back to civilian life turned out to be too much too fast, and pushed him into isolation. Feeling defeated, Kevin retreated, locked the door, shut the blinds, and didn’t leave the house for six months.
“When I got out, the door just slammed suddenly behind me,” he says. “22 years of my life came to one screeching halt of a moment.”
Then, he found knitting.
He decided to knit himself a hat, and in the process gained newfound focus, motivation, and an overall positive outlook on life that eventually led him to launch Warrior Woven, a company that specializes in handcrafted, ruggedly designed, knitted head caps.
Knitting helped Kevin deal with some issues that stemmed from prolonged combat exposure, and helped to lift him out of the rut he was in.
In a word–it was therapeutic.
Through knitting, Kevin found purpose and was able to find his center. “It’s such a detailed focus that it’s easy to tune out everything else, but as that skill set develops it’s easy to open up those gates again,” he says.
Looking to give back, Kevin trains what he calls the Meanie Militia, a team of veterans and their family members who knit their signature product, the Meanie.
“Every Meanie that is going to market is made from the hands of a U.S. military veteran,” says Kevin.
Their business model, says Kevin, is straight out of Fight Club, in that everyone knits. “The big equalizer is knitting and it demonstrates how much you’re invested in the company,” he says. “We pay everyone, including myself, the same for every Meanie completed.”
Meanie Militiamen and women make $27.50 for every one they create that meets Kevin’s standards.
Unlike most manufacturing companies that have quotas, knitters can decide how much to knit and when. “It’s like working for Uber, but its knitting,” he says.
Kevin, who along with his wife Alicia operate the company, strive for a community that they say was both missing when Kevin left the Army.
“Something we miss so much by moving away so far is the community that the military offers,” says Alicia. “Part of what we wanted to do is be there for those who have been there for us.”
A warrior herself, Alicia is a breast cancer survivor that was diagnosed with the disease just 6 months after she gave birth to her first child, Gabriel.
“It was terrifying and surreal, but I was actually very annoyed,” she says. “Our life was just starting, we were having a baby and here comes breast cancer. I was bothered that it was interrupting this life we had just started.”
In addition to knitting, Alicia does the photography for Warrior Woven.
Other knitters come from all over the country who send in their finished products to Kevin and Alicia in Woodland, California. From there, the warrior duo ships the meanies and other products all over the world.
“For me, it matters that the hats are made from the hands of American veterans,” says Kevin.
Even the materials come from alpaca farms and yarn stores owned by vets. And of course the knitters are veterans, ensuring every Meanie from Warrior Woven is produced from 100 percent veteran-owned small businesses.
Kevin doesn’t care about how many hats he sells, but he says he cares most about how many lives he’s able to touch.
And he’s looking for knitters. So, if you’re a veteran, or related to one, and if you want to join the Meanie Militia, send a note to Kevin@warriorwoven.com