DC bakery helps veterans find purpose after military service

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Photo credit Photo courtesy of Dog Tag Bakery Inc.
By Connecting Vets

The military automatically gives you a purpose, serving your country. So, what happens when the military is no longer there? How do you find your purpose and avoid doing something 'just to do it'?

If you’re a transitioning veteran, military spouse, caregiver, or any combination of the three, Dog Tag Bakery Inc. is here to help you answer those questions.  

Started in 2012, Dog Tag Bakery is more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee or the now-famous “Captain” sandwich (thanks to a recent visit by Barack Obama and Joe Biden). You may not see it when you walk through sliding doors to the café but baked into the very framework of the business is a fellowship program focused on supporting the military community.

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Dog Tag hosts a five-month fellowship program twice a year, with an expansive variety of experiences geared towards opening the fellows’ eyes to new ways of defining life and success on their own terms. With two Warrior Transition Units in the area as well as a number of military installations, the fellowship program is well-versed in meeting fellows where they’re at—creating a safe environment for everyone accepted into the program, regardless of rank, disability or any other personal challenge you may be going through.

“The fellowship is just the beginning. It’s the launching pad that allows the fellows to start the process of finding their purpose,” explains Meghan Olgivie, CEO of Dog Tag Bakery, Inc. “Dog Tag intends to be there every step of the way, long past when you graduate the fellowship. We’re here while you determine your own elements of success, from passing a class or completing a presentation to figuring out who you are outside of the military whether that be a boss, student, leader, follower, [etc.]”

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Intent on keeping a high-touch, tailored program, they look for applicants that are honestly dedicated to the next steps in their lives—those that don’t already have the right answer but are looking for it.

“We’re never going to sacrifice or compromise the integrity of the program just to have more fellows in the classroom,” promises Meghan. “Long term we are looking towards expanding to reach more of the veteran community, but our program’s effectiveness depends on creating a tight-knit community with the ability for one-on-one coaching throughout the fellowship.”

The fellowship operates in three realms, first giving you the experiences of others through the learning labs --which Dog Tag uses as an opportunity to show what it really takes to be an entrepreneur, working within the corporate environment or pivoting to an entirely unplanned path. Second, fellows are given the experience of running a small business, without the stress of starting their own (or using their own finances).  Finally, there’s an educational focus; through their partnership with Georgetown University, the fellows tackle a series of courses that land them with a Certificate in Business Administration if they successfully complete the fellowship.

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“It’s like its own little boot camp,” Meghan continues. “Like in the military there are standards and sometimes it can be tough but there are more times when you’ll find yourself learning about and experience more opportunities than you ever expected.”

“This fellowship is more than a professional development program, its personal,” said Claire Witko, Program Director at Dog Tag. “There’s a holistic aspect that emphasizes the fellows defining progress and success for themselves because there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer or definition for those terms.”

As the Dog Tag Alumni network continues to grow, so do the success stories and life lessons that are brought into the classroom. From those who have decided to go work in the corporate world, go back to school, or start their own business in any capacity, all of them prove that you can redefine yourself to be seen as an individual because you are not defined by what’s on your ID card or DD-214.

“The most important thing to remember is, we have connections…we can help connect you so you don’t have to figure it out on your own,” says Meghan. “At the end of the day, you’re going to do it all, but you don’t have to do it alone.”

(The fellowship application can be found here.)


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