Jordan Haines can tick off each employee’s connection to the military, whether prior service, retired, son or daughter of a service member or married to a service member. It’s a connection his customers value and has ultimately brought a great deal of credibility to his company, Coinforce.com.
Challenge coins designed by his employees can be found in the pockets of soldiers serving in Iraq, on the desks of congressmen, in the hands of Purple Heart recipients and displayed at the White House. Orders come from elite military unit commanders and high-ranking embassy officials, state leaders and CEOs.
“We’re a veteran-owned and operated business,” he said. “We love the military and are passionate about still being around the troops.”
Jordan Haines and his wife Donna started Coinforce.com out of a small spare bedroom in Georgia after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Donna Haines had opted to come out of retirement and put her Air Force uniform back on to serve her country again. She was serving in Oman, when the Iraq war kicked off.
Jordan Haines, also retired Air Force, had started a small Web design and marketing company. On a whim, he was asked if he could design challenge coins for a unit. He wasn’t necessarily set up for challenge coin design and distribution, but he quickly saw the opportunity.
He set up a Web page for challenge coins and before long, he was getting inquiries from around the globe.
“I didn’t really go full-speed with it until I got this e-mail from a first sergeant in Iraq,” Jordan Haines said. “It said that these little pieces of metal – these coins – had the ability to shape morale for his soldiers. That’s when I kicked it into high gear.”
He started as a one-man show, but after returning to the Pacific Northwest, was able to hire additional graphic design and sales help. Today, Jordan and Donna Haines are growing their small enterprise into a phenomenon that’s expected to earn $2 million in sales this year.
Perhaps most thrilling to Jordan Haines, is that these keepsake coins are of great value to soldiers who receive them, and they will be kept and reflected on for years to come. He can pick up any coin and tell the story behind it.
One coin was ordered via satellite phone from Afghanistan. Jordan Haines offered the calling commander his condolences for four Marines who had just died in combat. The voice on the other end of the phone said, “Those were my men.”
“It tore me up that those four guys never got their coin,” Haines said. “There was another one I did for a family to commemorate the loss of their son. They presented it to all of the people who supported them, while they grieved.”
While the couple’s main mission is to serve veterans and military troops, their business has already expanded to serve other organizations. Microsoft, Tall Ships Tacoma, KBR, the Rockettes and the Seahawks are just a few customers of Coinforce.com.
“Our coins have been presented to the President of the United States and here we are in Lakewood. Our reach is global,” Jordan Haines said, “and it is all through the power of the Web.”
The company’s headquarters, a cramped office space in front of McChord Air Force Base, is rapidly becoming too small for the thousands of coins, patches, stickers, flag boxes, shadow boxes, T-shirts and other memorabilia. The Haines have purchased a house behind the storefront to use as a gift shop and storage area, but they have plans to build a new, larger facility within the next five or so years.
The gift shop will include plaques and engraving services, a new venture for Coinforce.com. Additional promotional items could be added to the company’s menu in the near future, as well.
At the end of the day, though, the money means little without a community to be a part of, said both Jordan and Donna Haines. The couple puts a great deal of emphasis on supporting military activities, from Freedom Fest at Fort Lewis to sponsoring military grants for annual awards at McChord AFB.
“We just really love what we do,” Jordan Haines said. “We get a lot of thank you’s and it makes it all worthwhile.”
During World War 1, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck.
The pilot was captured by German soldiers, but was able to escape. Unfortunately, he had no identification. The pilot made it to a French outpost, but was thought to be a saboteur. He was set to be executed by French forces when his capturers discovered the medallion. One of the French soldiers recognized the unit insignia and the man’s life was spared.
Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. Challenge coins continue to be a rich part of military history and remain widely used to this day.