When looking back at our careers since leaving the military, both Hal and I realized that our success was tied to two common threads — the first was our support network and the second was our military backgrounds. Hal and I met each other while I was working for an organization that helped veterans transition from the military into the corporate world, and Hal was building Military Stars, the country’s largest and most successful veteran-exclusive job fair company.
It was during this time I realized that I wanted more than just a job; I saw what Hal was doing and his work inspired me to start down the entrepreneurial path. But where was I supposed to begin? I knew others like Hal were successful, but how did they get to where they were? Just like you, I had to start somewhere and lucky for me I found out about the Kauffman FastTrac program, which was being run locally by the Council of Entrepreneurial Development (CED).
The FastTrac program introduced me to an entire network of successful entrepreneurs, future mentors, and partners. The intensive entrepreneur training course helped me to build a business plan for my future venture, PrepChamps. I also learned how to pitch, analyze markets, and create financial models. More importantly, I built relations with all my peers and together we helped each other lay the foundations for our businesses.
The next step for me was to build a team. Naturally I approached Hal after he recently sold Military Stars. Hal and I partnered with another veteran, Jay Kerr, and we all founded PrepChamps together. As our company grew, we stayed active within the CED community and soon PrepChamps was nominated for and later awarded the 2007 FastTrac Tech Company of the year!
We initially bootstrapped the company with $150K of our own money; however, the relationships we established through FastTrac connected us to several local investors and venture capitalists. After a few months we raised $300K in seed capital and ultimately we raised over $2.2M in startup funding.
As a team, we worked to build PrepChamps into one of the top companies in the country for high school athletes to get recognized and recruited. Since that time, we have worked together on several ventures, some good and some not-so-good. But all the while we continued to build our support network of veterans and we never stopped giving back to the veteran community.
Over the years, we have thought long and hard about how we could leverage our experience and network of successful veteran entrepreneurs to build a nationwide community of vetrepreneurs who were looking to make an impact. A community where successful vetrepreneurs would have the chance to share their knowledge and together we would all work as a team to train the next generation of vetrepreneurs.
You see we realized that as entrepreneurs, we got better and learned more when we sought out others who had achieved success. We also understood that veterans who have achieved success always give back to and support their fellow veterans.
What frustrated us over the last few years was seeing the veteran community get hit extremely hard by our country’s economic troubles. When looking at this problem, we quickly saw that most of the resources being allocated to fix this problem were focused on helping veterans find jobs. Clearly a noble cause; however, it’s an effort that only addresses half of the problem. Veterans throughout our country’s history have helped to form the backbone of our nation’s new business creation. 49% of veterans following WWII started their own businesses after returning home. In 1996, 12% of new entrepreneurs were veterans and by 2012, just 6% of new entrepreneurs had military experience.
Entrepreneurship is like any other career; you need to have people and organizations that are willing to increase awareness, provide training and bring the veteran business community together to help solve the problem. Looking at the big picture you can see that there really has never been an organization focused exclusively on bringing together the entire community of Veterans in a way that encourages entrepreneurship as a viable career path.
This realization inspired us to create Startup Veterans. We believe that if you give more veterans a chance to become entrepreneurs by learning from other successful vetrepreneurs, together we could solve many of the problems facing our veteran community.
Imagine thousands of motivated, talented and successful veterans working on building businesses together across the country! Veterans have always helped to shape our country and there is no doubt in our minds that veterans can once again reshape our country’s economic future. They just need a chance, and Startup Veterans aims to provide the opportunity to do just that!
If this sounds good to you, please join us in giving our veterans every chance they need to succeed and become the builders and job creators we need them to be. There are many ways you can contribute, you can join the program as a vetrepreneur, mentor, facilitator, or partner. We believe that the more support we receive and the more time you can spend, the more our veteran community and country will prosper!