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Tactical Veteran: Vet entrepreneurs give advice to startup hopefuls

Jan. 6, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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Separating from the military is like beginning a new life, with seemingly infinite new choices.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is how to earn an honest living. Many of us veterans simply will take the traditional approach, applying for positions and waiting, hoping that a company will hire us.

But others decide to put everything on the line to start their own businesses.

You may not have given something like that serious thought while you were in uniform. And even if you did, you may have dismissed it. Let’s face it, the model in our society is that most people, from a very young age, prepare to work for someone else.

And even if you had thoughts about starting your own business, they likely were accompanied by concerns — long nights, crazy schedules, high startup costs, legal issues, employee issues.

But people do it all the time. And there are plenty of veterans among them, some with interesting business ideas. Here are a few veterans who have become their own bosses ... as entrepreneurs:


Army veteran Justen Garrity, owner, Veteran Compost, Aberdeen, Md.

Mission: Turning food scraps into high-quality organic compost for all types of gardens. www.veterancompost.com/.

Advice: “Just like a successful mission in the military: make a good plan, understand your enemy and friendly forces, adapt to changing conditions, and stay positive.”


Navy veteran Brian Jones, owner of the original “A Christmas Story” house in Cleveland

Mission: Give fans a chance to walk the very house that was completely restored to its original movie setting; online store sells the famous “leg lamp.” www.achristmasstoryhouse.com/


Army veterans Thomas Wilder and Neil McCanon, founders, Young Veterans Brewing Co., Virginia Beach, Va.

Mission: Brewing good beer for America’s taste buds. http://vbcopper.com/yvbc/index.html


Naval officers Rob Hastings and Ron Luning, CEO and co-founder of OnLessons.com

Mission: Create a central hub where students and instructors, both locally and online, can come for any type of lessons. https://onlessons.com/.

Advice from Rob: “Create value for your customers first, and the valuation of your company will follow.”

■Marine Corps veterans Mark and Denise Beyers, owners, Beyers Maple Farm, East Aurora, N.Y.

Mission: Producing all-natural and organic maple syrup in their own backyard. http://beyersmaplefarm.com/home.html

Air Force veteran Maryann Makekau, founder and president of Hope Matters Productions

Mission: To make a world of difference for families going through cancer, deployments to war, Alzheimer’s disease and more. http://becausehopematters.com/v2/

Advice: “You can’t grow a business if you’re not also growing professionally; make time to regularly read, learn and absorb.”

All of these veterans not only have a drive to make something of themselves, but they are passionate about what they do. For these veterans and all veteran entrepreneurs, passion will be the driving force behind their success. Whether owners of a small or big business, veterans are finding ways to take ideas and bring them to life — earning the title of entrepreneur.

This is just a small list of the thousands of veterans who have chosen the entrepreneurial route while serving in uniform or after separating. If you’d like to see more examples of veteran-owned businesses, check out Buy Veteran at www.buyveteran.com/Search.aspx.

Next time, I’ll talk about some of the many information sources to help you learn more about becoming a veteran entrepreneur.

Steven Maieli is the founder of http://transitioningveteran.com/, which highlights links to federal, state, for-profit and nonprofit veterans benefits and other resources. He also writes a blog on transitioning veterans’ issues at www.transitioningveteran.com/wordpress.
Send questions and comments to http://tacticalveteran@militarytimes.com/.

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