EVERETT — Ryan Decker said his new business, Last Line, actually began by happenstance when he made an olive green T-shirt that was actually a mistake.
The T-shirt actually became popular with those who saw it, and Decker began making similarly adorned hooded sweatshirts, jackets, hats and more.
The name for his new business comes from the military mindset: that it’s the last line of defense.
Decker’s soon-to-be-opened business at 108 E. Main St., Everett, and Black Valley Farm, 9048 Black Valley Road, West Providence Township, where Army Reservist Joe Capricci is interning through a program called “Troops to Tractors” will be stops on a tour conducted by Startup Alleghenies on Veterans Day to highlight the veterans who are starting their own businesses.
Startup Alleghenies, which connects existing and potential entrepreneurs with coaches to help them utilize economic development resources, will be touring a six-county area Monday to acknowledge veteran-owned businesses. The visits will be live-streamed to help highlight the contributions of veterans as entrepreneurs.
Debbi Prosser, director business-development for Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission, said veterans are making a significant impact on their economies through businesses they operate. Currently the commission’s entrepreneur coaches are working with 11 veterans who own startups.
Decker’s Last Line hasn’t officially opened yet but he has a storefront that is attracting customers.
At first he was making T-shirts, but when requests came pouring in for hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps, he had them made in bulk, he said. The word spread from there. For instance, he recently made “Volley for Vets” T-shirts for the Northern Bedford game against Claysburg-Kimmel.
The clothing is helping to support his personal initiative for veterans. He’s using a portion of the sales to support the building of “tiny homes” on his family farm in Fulton County where, with the help of Cogans’s Construction, veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, may find a retreat.
“There was all that ground down there wasn’t doing anything,” Decker said. And in January, he came up with the idea to build small homes for veterans who gave so much to their country, he said. “It’s time to start treating people the way they should be treated.”
He also collects clothing at his store to give away free to others in need: clothing of all sizes, toys, and other items.
“I’ve had so much help from the community,” Decker said. He wanted to help others who have helped him daily with his PTSD and the “dark place” he was before he started his business.
“The apparel line came from a mistake I printed for one of my friends, and now I have a clothing line,” he said.
At Black Valley Farm, south of Everett, Joe Capricci is working through his paid internship through Troops to Tractors, part of the state’s Veteran Farming Project.
Farm owner Alana Foor has welcomed Capricci’s help as she attempts to run the farm and its product lines and raise four children. In fact, he will be crucial in the farm’s next step.
Foor plans to open up a shop on Main Street in Everett in the summer of 2020.
Capprici’s unique internship will end in August of 2020 but he will be a part of the operation of the shop — which will offer the farm’s pork, lamb and poultry products plus other items.
“Joe will continue to partner with me outside the program when it’s completed,” Foor said.
Black Valley raises industry-honored kunekune pigs as well as poultry and lamb, all raised on pasture in a sustainable manner. Foor also produces broths, handcrafted soaps and other niche items.
Foor said the farm has been able to benefit from Capprici’s training as an Army engineer, first on active duty, and now as member of the Army Reserves.
“You get to bring on another set of capable hands,” through the program, Foor said.
Capricci’s internship is 4,000 hours over two years. The state Department of Education signs off on the sites for the Pennsylvania Veteran Farming Project.
Trexler said veterans bring their unique training to a business such as discipline and the mindset that “failure is not an option.
“I think they make for a phenomenal entrepreneur, he added.”
Decker, a 2007 Everett Area High School graduate, was in the Air Force for six years, wanting to serve as his grandfather, Joe Foor, had in the Navy. A survival equipment specialist, he served one deployment in Qatar and taught land and water survival.
He was discharged in 2013 as a senior airman.
Now, he and his dog, Bubba, are sharing their store and their experiences with other veterans.
“They come into my shop and that’s the best kind of therapy. The veterans in this area, I can’t thank those guys enough,” Decker said.
As he gears up to open his doors, which should happen in the near future, Decker’s work to assist others with his donation center and “tiny house” initiative, have attracted the attention of a the Pennsylvania Academy of Physicians who chose him as the local nonprofit they will promote during their conference at Omni Bedford Springs Saturday. Decker will be selling his apparel and items through the day until about 8 p.m., he said.
“I can’t take any credit for it,” Decker said. “If it wasn’t for the community’s support, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. Everyone rallies around a good cause. I’m just the one doing it right now.”
For more information on Black Valley Farm, visit blackvalleyfarm.com. For more information on Last Line, visit the Facebook page. Decker plans to have an internet site, also.
To watch the Startup Alleghenies’ livestream of the visits Monday to regional veterans’ business operations, visit the agency’s Facebook page.