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Inspiring Veteran-owned Business Stories

Get inspired this Veteran's Day with these incredible Veteran-owned business stories across the U.S.

This Veteran’s Day, November 11, let’s honor veterans for their military service to our country – and for their contributions to the world of small business in the United States (U.S.). In fact, did you know the famous Phil Knight of Nike is a veteran? He took a small shoe business and turned it into the most famous footwear on the planet. There are currently 2.5M veteran majority-owned businesses in the U.S. today. Some business models are small while some are major corporations like Nike. All have one thing in common: they’re veteran-owned and founded on perseverance. 

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the inspiring stories of veteran business owners who made the transition from military to civilian life while still honoring and supporting the veteran community:

Mike Brown, the Flying Locksmiths 

Photo of Mike Brown, owner of the Flying Locksmiths. Inspiring Veteran-owned Business Stories - Guidant.
Mike Brown, owner of the Flying Locksmiths, in his office. Photo from Guidant Financial.

Hard work and serving others have always been important to Mike Brown. He’s a U.S. Marine Veteran with 25 years of experience in marketing and sales. He’s also a successful business owner of a Flying Locksmiths franchise, where he uses that past experience to deliver locksmith services in his community of MetroWest, Massachusetts.

Brown’s upbringing in Western Massachusetts, with a father who served in the Navy and family members who are firefighters and police officers, shaped his values and career trajectory. He pursued a degree in media and advertising at Boston College and later worked as a sales manager in New York City. However, he realized that his lifestyle wasn’t sustainable and found himself burnt out and unhappy with the industry’s direction.

This is when Brown decided to pursue his dreams of business ownership, learning from podcasts and books, and researching different industries. He worked with a career coach to help him navigate the challenges and make the right career choice for himself: small business owner.

Brown’s career coach introduced him to Guidant Financial and helped him with Rollovers for Business Startups (ROBS) to get his franchise up and running. With Guidant’s help, Brown has experienced success with The Flying Locksmiths, the leading nationwide provider of commercial door security solutions. He not only runs his franchise but is also committed to creating a training center for locksmiths as well as helping other veterans with job support and training.

401(k) business financing is a rising small business funding method in popularity. But what is it and how does it work? Discover What is a ROBS? How 401(k) Business Financing Works.

Rob Offerman, Transblue 

Rob Offerman grew up working on his family’s dairy farm so he’s no stranger to hard work.

Offerman served as an Infantry Squad Leader in the U.S. Army and then received his education at Columbia Southern University, earning his Associate of Science in Occupational Safety and Health. From there, Offerman began working as a general manager at a landscaping company. But he wanted more financial success. So he moved on to a job at UPS with full benefits and a better salary. He worked his way up to the division safety manager after 19 years of hard work and promotions.

“For me personally, it was a no-brainer. When I first saw [the ROBS plan], I thought, Wow. I can start a business without going into debt.‘”

— Rob Offerman, Transblue

When UPS made staffing cuts, however, Offerman was ready to realize his dream of business ownership. He found a franchise called Transblue – a world-class general contracting business – and worked with Guidant to finance it with ROBS.

ROBS allowed Offerman to fund his business debt-free, and he was more than willing to invest in himself so this was the right choice for him.

With help from Transblue and Guidant, Offerman opened the very first Transblue location in Brighton, Michigan. He enjoys being a small business franchisee and feeling supported by Transblue, too. With his wealth of knowledge and experience, Offerman is in a prime position to succeed as a small business owner.

Pitch Johnson and Bill Draper, Asset Management Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures

Venture Capital Then and Now with Legendary Investors, Bill Draper & Pitch Johnson. Photo from Mission.org. Inspiring Veteran-owned Business Stories - Guidant.
Venture Capital Then and Now with Legendary Investors, Bill Draper & Pitch Johnson. Photo from Mission.org.

You can thank Pitch Johnson and Bill Draper for helping develop the foundation for Silicon Valley. While Johnson served in the Air Force, Draper served in the Army. Their backgrounds helped them with the drive to join forces and start Asset Management Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures, two of the earliest venture capital firms in Northern California’s Silicon Valley.

Early investments at Asset Management Ventures include Tandem Computers and Coherent Lasers, and the duo continued to invest in other technology and healthcare ventures over the last several decades. With Sutter Hill Ventures, the two quietly helped build small businesses into larger companies like Pure Storage, Snowflake Computing and Bracket Computing. Technology, business services, healthcare and pop culture are just a few of the industries Sutter Hill Ventures invests in.

Safe to say the veteran duo are legendary investors and paved the way for the next generation.

Frederick Smith – FedEx

FedEx Founder Frederick Smith. Photo from Commercial Appeal. Inspiring Veteran-owned Business Stories - Guidant.
FedEx Founder Frederick Smith. Photo from Commercial Appeal.

Everyone has shipped with FedEx – it’s one of the big three in the industry. But before achieving this popularity, Frederick Smith ran the shipping giant from his Yale University dorm room. 

After Yale, Smith joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served three years during the Vietnam War. Smith received two Purple Hearts, the Silver Star, and the Bronze Star.

While in the military, Smith learned more about logistics and took that knowledge to FedEx with him. 

Koka Sexton, Social Media Star, Social Selling Masters

Koka Sexton is a social media leader in the tech industry with a focus on social selling. He helps people and companies use social channels such as LinkedIn and Hootsuite to gain buyers. He also offers training and is a key speaker in the industry. 

But Sexton wasn’t always a social media superstar. In the past, he was an Army officer who served in the Middle East. He took his passion for digital marketing to the next level by leading social media roles at LinkedIn and being the founder at Social Selling Masters. 

Some say Sexton is credited with starting social media selling and making it what it is today. 

Appreciating Veteran Business Owners

Perhaps military veterans have a set of skills that predisposes them to be smart, calm, forward-thinking entrepreneurs and small business owners. Or maybe they possess the grit and drive to get it done. Or maybe it’s all of the above. Either way, remember to celebrate and honor veteran-owned small businesses this November 11. Their contributions to the U.S. are many – both in their former military careers and in their small business offerings. 

Are you a veteran looking to finance your small business dream? Look to Guidant Financial. Pre-qualify today to get started. 

Stephen Such from Falling Sky Brewing

“I owe a sense of gratitude to Guidant for helping me get here. It was a turning point for us moving forward.”

Stephen Such, Falling Sky Brewing

Read the stories of REAL small business owners who work with Guidant.

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