A Female Veteran Curated Holiday Gift Guide Featuring Veteran + Military Spouse Owned Businesses
Story by Liesel Schmidt | Photography by Jonathan Thorpe
Gift Guide Courtesy of Shamena Nurse-Kingsley of Cowo & Crèche
Shamena Nurse-Kingsley has spent the better part of the past 20 years serving her nation—first, in five years of active duty with the US Air Force, followed by 14 years as an employee the federal government. As a female Veteran, time in active duty gave her a unique experience that she carried with her into her new journey as the founder and owner of Cowo & Crèche, a coworking space that offers childcare. “In the mosaic of experiences that the military offered, I found resilience and a tenacity that can't be taught in any classroom,” she explains. “The discipline, the unwavering commitment to a mission and the camaraderie spirit became the foundation upon which I built my business acumen. Every challenge and every high-pressure situation in the service was a lesson in leadership, strategy and adaptability.”
Shamena Nurse-Kingsley, CEO of Cowo & Crèche + United States Air Force Veteran
Strategy and adaptability, in fact, were two very important factors in her development of Cowo & Crèche. “I recognized a gap, a need,” Nurse-Kingsley says. “I've always believed in the power of community and collaboration. Marrying that with the necessity of childcare, especially in today's fast-paced world, felt relevant and revolutionary. I’ve found that coworking bears similarities to the military in that, at the heart of both, there is a shared sense of purpose. There's a rhythm, a mutual respect and an understanding that everyone brings something unique to the table. It's about collective growth, not just individual achievement.”
"I've always believed in the power of community and collaboration. Marrying that with the necessity of childcare felt relevant and revolutionary." - Shamena
Much like Nurse-Kingsley herself, a great many Veterans choose the entrepreneurial life when leaving the military, which she feels is the result of the “intensity of commitment, the rigor of discipline and the exhilaration of overcoming adversity” that Veterans experience during time in the service. “Entrepreneurship, in many ways, mirrors that,” she says. “It's about carving a path, shouldering responsibility and turning vision into reality. It's a realm where ideas are birthed, challenges are met head-on and where every small victory echoes the triumphs of service.”
Nurse-Kingsley and her husband are raising three children, ages four, five and 18. Naturally, gift giving at Christmas can be a challenge. “Gift-giving, for me, is all about intention and meaning,” she says. “I lean towards experiences or keepsakes that tell a story. A gift isn't about price tags. It's about the emotion it evokes and the memories it creates; something that stands as a testament to the relationship.”
As a Veteran, Nurse-Kingsley strongly advocates for supporting local businesses and Veteran and Military spouse-owned businesses. “It’s supporting dreams, passion and community,” she says. “Supporting Veteran and Military spouse-owned businesses is a salute to their service, their journey and the spirit of perseverance they embody.”
On Shamena’s list of “Favorite Things for Gift Giving,” you’ll find some very special items from very special companies with a story of their own.
Love and Lettering by Katie. As a military spouse, the home and personal accessories designer, Katie, knows what every military family needs to make their house feel like home.
Olive Bridge Company. Ashleigh, the heart behind the décor company, is a military spouse who's all about those farmhouse trends. Her Christmas ornaments are a must have!
Designs by Katie Leigh. This isn't just a jewelry business; it's a passion shared by a military spouse and her dedicated husband. They're not just about selling—they believe in giving back, especially to military programs.
Akazi Jewelry. This is jewelry with a cause, and they are doing wonders. Their pieces are more than just beautiful—they're a lifeline for women in Africa.
Charliemadison Originals. Inspired by owner and jewelry designer Wendy Hively's two angels, Charlotte and Madison, each piece holds a story.
Operation Cookies. If you've got a sweet tooth like I do, these will be your heaven. Not only do they have an array of drool-worthy cookies, but they also support our Vets.
Southern Elegance Candle Co. Whenever I light one of their candles, it's like taking a journey down memory lane. They encapsulate the essence of the south in the best way possible.
Sword & Plough. These totes and bags are perfect for fashion-forward folks, these products also give back to our Veterans.
Naturally London. On the skincare side, they have me covered from fingertips to toes. Their hand and foot care line is simply divine.
The Skirted Soldier. Being a tea lover, this is right up my alley. Every sip takes me back to tea-time chats with my family. It feels like home in a cup.
Cowo & Crèche. If you know a parent who could use a quiet workspace that includes childcare, a hot desk pass or monthly flex membership is a unique and thoughtful gift!
Southern, Sweet and Sassy Coffee. A Roasted to Table Company that is passionate about connecting military families one cup at a time.
Nomadico Shop. Local Army Vetera, Tameika, creates concrete designs because it's an unassuming material. She enjoys taking a hard, seemingly unyielding material and making useable objects that fit anywhere.
All About Change: How To Successfully Make Personal Life Changes by Sarah Carter. This book, written by a powerful US Navy Veteran, will teach you how to turn change into an opportunity to get you closer to the ultimate vision of yourself.
Building Momentum. This veteran-owned company offers STEAM-education field trips and Innovation Academy offerings for kids, making it he perfect "experience" gift this holiday season.