Supporting veterans can take a lot of forms, direct and incorrect. Spending your dollars at local, veteran-owned small businesses is pretty direct.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, there are around 2.5 million
veteran-owned businesses in the United States, and veterans are 45% more likely to own their own business than non-veterans.
These three Memphis-based entrepreneurs have launch their own businesses—Norie Shoes, The Compost Fairy, and Critter Sitters In-Home Pet Care—to serve their communities again.
Natasha Norie Standard | Norie Shoes
Natasha Norie Standard’s Norie Shoes
is an online luxury shoe company that offers fashionable, high-end footwear concepts.
Standard designs the shoe lines, which include heels, sneakers, and ballerina flats.
“I am as serious about my shoes as I was about my military service. My goal is to provide cool, sexy, and wearable shoes that are comfortable," said Standard.
Originally from Indianapolis, Standard’s journey started with a love for fashion at the age of 12.
“I chose [to design] shoes because my grandmother said, 'You can tell a lot about a man when you look at his shoes.' I now believe that about men and women," she said.
Standard served in the United States Army for 20 years. She lead VIP missions, special operations, and airfield logistics. She retired with the rank of major. While serving, Standard was deployed in Italy, Iraq, and Germany. She spent downtime observing culture and fashion.
After retirement, Standard earned a bachelor's and master's in business fields then a second masters from the Savannah College of Art and Design. She topped off her training with a year at the Arsutoria School in Milan, Italy for footwear design and pattern making.
“The skills I learned in the military are part of the reason I have the level of success I have achieved thus far,” Standard said. “I have attended several programs for veteran entrepreneurs that provide the fundamental basics for business. That has been helpful.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Norie Shoes had agreements with two national retail chains, but those agreements are on hold. Her online retail shop,
which serves customers far beyond her Memphis-area headquarters, is still open.
Standard wants her customers to know that she puts her heart and soul into her calling. From designs to materials, her commitment to quality, aesthetic, and comfort is paramount.
"It kills me when I see woman walking around in beautiful shoes that are killing their feet," she said.
Mike Larrivee | The Compost FairyMike Larrivee is a United States Air Force veteran and owned of The Compost Fairy. (Submitted)
Mike Larrivee is better know as The Compost Fairy
. He specializes in keeping good dirt from going bad.
Founded in 2014 as a project for Cooper Young residents, The Compost Fairy now serves the entire metro area.
For a small monthly fee, households and businesses can drop off their compostable waste and Larrivee's team will pick it up. In exchange, customers receive a delivery of high-quality compost in spring and fall. They can also choose to donate their share of the compost to Larrivee's partners like Memphis Tilth and Green Leaf Learning Farm.
The Compost Fairy's goal is to offer Memphians simple ways to reduce waste by increasing resources for sustainable gardening and connecting people in the community.
Larrivee served in the United States Air Force from 1994 to 1999 and credits his time in the service with helping him get more focused.
“I was a pretty rambunctious kid. Military service toned me down some,” said Larrivee.
After his service, Larrivee went to work for other people before founding The Compost Fairy as part of his personal commitment to serve his community's people and physical environment.
“I left a better paying consulting position because I didn’t feel that work was the highest use of my skill set,” Larrivee said. “I go to work every day grateful for the opportunity to have such a significant impact on the ecological health and sustainable future of Memphis.”
Most recently, Larrivee entered into a formal contract with the city's division on solid waste. Over the next year, he'll divert tens of thousands of tons of compostable waste from landfills.
Larrivee said business is continuing during the pandemic. The work is mostly outside and can be done in small work teams and individually.
“We’re solid waste removal. We’ll run as long as the sanitation trucks do," he said.
Madeline Lee | Critter Sitters In-Home Pet CareMadeline Lee is an United States Navy veteran and owner of Critter Sitters In-Home Pet Care. (Submitted)
Critter Sitters In-Home Pet Care is a one-stop-shop for all things pet sitting and even some housekeeping tasks.
For virtually any sort of domestic pet, Critter Sitters offers in-home day, overnight, and vacation care services, as well as dog walking and a pet taxi. They'll even water plants and grab the mail while clients are out of town.
With social distancing a requirement and heightened concern for high-risk Memphians, Critter Sitters is now offering curbside pickup for dog walks and a taxi service.
“Especially for our older clients, we now offer a taxi service to take them to the vet or the groomer," said Lee. "Anything related to their pets, we will help [them] out.”
Owner Madeline Lee is long retired from the United States Navy but never stopped using her last name as her first.
Lee served from 1970 to 1992 and knew she wanted to start a businesses after retiring. Her time in the service taught her some business acumen and a lot of discipline, drive, and strategic thinking. She put them together with something she'd always loved.
“I’ve always wanted to do something pertaining to animals,” said Lee. “When retirement was approaching, it just hit me that this was what I wanted to do.”
Lee's business started through word-of-mouth. She approached her veterinarian who said they preferred clients' pets not be boarded and agreed to promote Critter Sitters as an alternative.
Lee now has five full-time employees serving the Mid-South.
“We are here to take care of you and your animals and to make your life easier,” said Lee. “We can eliminate your stress. [You'll] know your animals—that’s dogs, cats, birds, fish and more—will be taken care of while you are away."
Even the ones she doesn't like.
“Oh no, not snakes. I’m scared of snakes,” Lee laughed.
Luckily, one of Lee's critter sitters loves snakes.
Click here for a directory of more veteran-owned business across Shelby County and beyond.