Former Marine Paul Miller couldn’t sleep. As the recession of 2008 took its toll across the U.S., so too did the economic downturn affect his restaurant franchises. At age 53, the veteran needed to find an alternative way to make a living.

Paul’s fears often woke him in the middle of the night. To fall asleep, he would reach for his headphones to listen to entrepreneurial podcasts until he drifted off. The problem was, neither his earbuds, nor the “sleeping headphones” he purchased, were actually optimized for sleeping.

“So I decided to make my own,” Paul said. “CozyPhones really is a born-on Amazon brand and for us has been life changing.”

The original idea for Paul’s CozyPhones began with headphones embedded in a simple fleece headband, but the demand for new styles and materials for activities like yoga and running quickly grew. Eventually, Paul’s small business evolved into comfortable headband earphones for kids. The first Froggy design, created by Paul’s daughter, went on sale in November 2015 and quickly sold out. Four years later, after adding many more styles and characters, hundreds of thousands of units have sold.

“We’ve heard from hundreds of parents of kids who love our CozyPhones,” Paul said. “And we’ve even found a great niche in Autism and Sensory Disorder communities. We’re so happy to be able to provide a great solution to all kids—and especially pleased to serve special need kids who struggle with normal headphones.”

Children in Paul’s neighborhood in Ashburn, Virginia are his unofficial, but expert, product testers. Paul keeps his actual employees close to home, too. “We employ local people, we add to the local economy, and we serve local customers as well as national and international,” he said.

Service is a state of being for Paul, who devoted 11 years to active Marine duty as a combat photographer, Marine Corps drill, and water survival instructor.

“I think most service members will probably tell you the best thing about being in the service are the bonds with the brothers and sisters that you make while you're on active duty,” he said. “I still keep in touch with many of the Marines I served with today.”

Paul’s bond with one former Marine makes him beam.

Like father, like son

Paul’s son, Jake, always wanted to be a Marine. He joined the corps at his earliest opportunity—right after high school. Earlier this year, at the end of four years of military duty and fearful of adjusting to civilian life and the lack of a steady paycheck, Jake considered his father’s path.

“My dad was doing Amazon by then. He was really good at it, very successful,” Jake said. “And he's asking me, well, what are you going to do when you get out?"

While still in the military, Jake took a "Business Boot Camp" and launched his own Amazon small business called Coastline Vine. In the first year, Jake’s line of wine tumblers and wine growlers made tens of thousands of dollars, allowing him to focus on the business full time.

"There are a lot of stories about veterans who get out of the service and struggle. The military taught me to be confident, take initiative, and follow through—and Amazon allowed me to do that," Jake said. "Seller Central, where you manage your inventory, gives you a full rundown of everything you need from advertising tools, to coupon tools, lightning analytics, business reports, and anything else."

Amazon’s investment in infrastructure, tools, and services has made starting your own business easy. Amazon has empowered more than 1.9 million U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses, content creators, and developers, including veteran-owned businesses. Independent small and medium-sized retailers make up more than half of sales in Amazon’s stores, and in 2018 alone tallied $160 billion in revenue.

"Amazon gives us a turnkey solution with all of the tools wrapped up into one platform," Paul said.

As veterans, Paul and Jake celebrate their country and the men and women who served along side them. As entrepreneurs, the father and son hope their military family will continue on a path with purpose in a civilian world. They are among thousands of veteran, active military, and military family-owned businesses (including businesses with family members in the military) selling in Amazon’s stores in the U.S.

"I'm passionate about seeing veterans succeed as entrepreneurs," Paul said. "And I think that Amazon is one of the best vehicles for them to succeed."

A man gives a high-five to a child sitting in a rocking chair.
Children in Paul Miller’s neighborhood in Ashburn, Virginia are his unofficial but expert product testers of CozyPhones.