Sub Spouse Small Business: 16Submarines

If you’re a submarine spouse, you no doubt have heard of 16Submarines. And likely, own at least one item of apparel or FRG fundraising item. We sat down with owner Devon Phillips to get the skinny on how she started her business!

And as a heads up – their biggest sale of the year is “Navy Friday,” coming up tomorrow, November 19. Shoppers can save up to 50% off selected items a full week ahead of Black Friday sales. Make sure you’ve signed up for the newsletter and follow 16Submarines on Facebook and Instagram.

Name: Devon Phillips

Hometown: Carmel, CA

Current Duty Station: Groton, CT

Q: Tell us about your business.

16Submarines is an officially licensed Navy pride shop. This submarine way of life is hard; we try to make it fun, or at the very least, try to encourage our Navy family to keep going when deployments are long and the time between PCS moves are short. We create high quality submarine force pride apparel, housewares, and gifts to provide encouragement, and hopefully, some laughs along the way. We make sure to celebrate the good times, and poke fun at the bad.

As a licensed Navy vendor our products remain true to the values of the fleet, with a percentage of all licensed sales going to support Navy Sailors. We also provide free design services, creating custom merchandise for Commands, FRGs, Commissioning Committees, MWRs, Submarine Associations, Veterans’ Groups museums, fundraisers, and more. We are humbled and honored to serve our fellow Navy families.

Q: What made you choose this type of business?

I spent a decade working as a curator and manager for arts institutions. In that role, I created collections using art to tell stories. After the birth of my daughter in 2015, I knew I needed a change. We were living in Oahu- our fifth duty station in seven years. I realized it was vital for me to engage in creative work that could withstand moving every two to three years. I also craved the opportunity to tell the stories of my own community- the submarine force and their families. So much of what submariners do is unsung and unseen. Their service, along with the sacrifices submarine families make to support their service, are worthy of celebration.

Q: What motivated you to start your business?

My dear friend Alisha Weiss and I met in Washington State in 2009 when our spouses were assigned to the same boat. We were constantly on the hunt for submarine merch, but much of what we found in the retail space was created by companies without a connection to the Navy, let alone the Sub Force. Licensed products authentic to the submarine experience were missing. Fast forward to 2015, and 16Subs was born.

Every day, active-duty Sailors and their families miss holidays, special occasions, and the sweet mundane of everyday life to contribute to the greater good. As part of the Navy family, we have the unique opportunity to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Our mission at 16Subs is tell the stories of Sailors and their families from the point of view of Sailors and their families. We hope our products resonate with you!

Q: How do you manage the work/life balance as a submarine spouse?

16Submarines is a small but mighty crew. Alisha, Allison, Ally, Amy, James, Jen, Mike, Theresa, and I support one another and collaborate to bring our products to life. We are all connected to the Navy- as veterans, spouses, and family members. We have lived with the inconsistencies and uncertainties of Navy life and are better for it.  For me personally, this year was particularly challenging not only with the pandemic, but with a spouse out to sea, and a brand-new baby. Knowing they all had my back kept me going.

Q: Any advice for fellow submarine spouses who want to start their own business?

Find a way to make your submarine life your own. It might feel like you’re just a passenger on this wild ride, but you’re not. Empower yourself with information, training, and knowledge. Military OneSource and Fleet and Family Support Centers have free career coaching and professional development, as well as resources to help make the most of Navy life.  Most importantly, give yourself some grace. Being a military spouse always has unique challenges, and a once in a century pandemic has made most things more complicated.

Q: Favorite thing(s) to do in your current duty station?

Groton may be the Submarine Capital of the World, but the coastal gardens of New England have captured my heart.  As an avid gardener I love visiting local nurseries- especially Stonington Gardens. I shop for plants while my littles feed goats and play with chickens. The gardens at Harkness State Park are another favorite spot. The landscape is stunning, especially when a sub transits past Ledge Light!

Q: Where can we support and learn more about your business?

16Submarines entire product line can be found online at The showroom and production facility are located at 19820 7th Ave NE Suite A Poulsbo, WA 98370. It’s open Tuesday-Friday, 9AM-2PM. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter at to learn about our new product releases as well as upcoming holiday sales.

New subscribers get 16% off their first order. Our BIGGEST sale of the year is “Navy Friday” on November 19th – in the true Navy fashion of early being on time. Save up to 50% off selected items a full week ahead of Black Friday sales. We’ll have a special limited product release available on Black Friday only and once it’s gone, it’s gone! Make sure you’ve signed up for the newsletter and follow 16Submarines on Facebook and Instagram.

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