Rags of Honor’s Mark Doyle
Rags of Honor is a silk-screen operation whose t-shirt logo, as Founder Mark Doyle once told The Chicago Tribune, “pretty much sums it up”: “They had our backs. Let’s keep the shirt on theirs.” The nonprofit, now a year and a half old, employs homeless veterans, providing screen printing training and jobs. And it’s wholly the brainchild of Doyle, who started it from his car after returning from a year on an anti-corruption task force in Afghanistan. There, he “watched billions spent building that country, while our veterans were living under bridges, in their cars and in shelters.” Now, Rags of Honor is providing jobs to many of those veterans from its West Side location and with clients who range from Walgreens to Rutgers University to individuals across the city of Chicago, Doyle is optimistic that Rags of Honor will continue to grow in impact. We talked to Doyle about Rags of Honor’s mission and how the organization has been able to tap into Chicago’s rich “community spirit”.
Why did you choose Chicago?
Chicago is my home. I have worked at the White House and on two presidential campaigns, lived in Arkansas, Delaware and even Afghanistan, but this place is like no other place, and I always wanted to be back here. This city has embraced our mission whole heartedly. Every time we hire one homeless veteran he or she becomes a more complete person again and that makes that individual more engaged with family and community.
If you could go back in time before you started this project and share one piece of advice with yourself, what would you tell yourself?
I would probably tell myself to be prepared for a slow build. I’d tell myself to ramp up in a more gradual way.
What are your next steps?
This project is in its infancy. My goal is to be the largest employer of homeless veterans in America. To do that, I need to keep adding customers, building an infrastructure, defining the verticals I want to grow into, developing a sales and marketing strategy and establishing a retail presence to take this nationwide.
We want to be in the know! Name one person, place or thing that you think is one of Chicago’s best-kept secrets—a secret until now, of course.
The best-kept secret of Chicago is the depth of character and amazing will of Chicagoans to help those in need. To a person, everyone who has come in contact with us has always asked the same question: What can I do to help? Chicago is truly a place where the community spirit is not just present, it is thriving.
Q&As are edited for clarity and length.