Supporting our nation’s heroes isn’t just a passion for Emma Slagle and her family — it’s a successful business. Called Honor and Respect, the organization sells shoes and other merchandise and donates its profits to help first responders and military veterans’ mental health.  

The idea started in 2018 when the Slagle family came together to design a shoe for people to show their support. Emma’s father, Ron, is a police officer and military veteran himself, so the cause is near and dear to the family. In July 2019, Honor and Respect was featured on Fox and Friends. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Since the exposure, the business has sold about 14,000 pairs of shoes.

Emma participated in the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center’s Early Founder Accelerator Program this past summer, partially funded by the RJ McElroy Trust and several UNI JPEC alumni. 

honor and respect apparelThe Early Founder program was an eight-week program, held virtually, that challenged business owners to focus on solidifying their business model.

For Emma, the program was a way to give the family business more meaning.

“[My family] doesn’t have any experience with any of this,” Emma said.“[My dad has] been a cop for 25 years, and I’m a college student and trying to figure out where I want to end up. We were able to grow the business and me as a person. It can be hard to be confident in the business sometimes, but having the help of the JPEC was really encouraging.”

Bart Schmitz, program manager at the JPEC, worked closely with Emma. He noticed her confidence and strengths, particularly in communication, grow. The program also allowed Emma and her family to refocus and brought her skills to the forefront.

“I think [the program] helped Emma and her family see the impact they are making, and that their reach is much bigger than just their hometown,” Schmitz said. “People want a product they can see and relate to. They also want to stand behind something that’s giving back.”

The future of Honor and Respect is continued expansion. As Emma puts it, “we don’t want to make a million dollars, but we want to help a million people.” A new shoe line is one the way focused on fire first responders and military veterans.  

“The future is always uncertain, but we have the drive to keep growing and expanding,” Emma said. “We want to make more connections and partnerships to continue helping people.”