This month, Havok Journal is featuring “vetrepreneurs,” veteran businesses who are making it in life after the military. We are also featuring stories about veteran charities, to highlight those who are making a difference in the veteran community. This story was originally published 20NOV14
For many veterans the lifestyle transition from the military into the civilian world is long and arduous. Over 60,000 veterans are homeless today, and even more are unemployed. Further complicating the situation, mass media outlets amplify the incorrect notion that being a veteran is synonymous with PTSD and suicide, painting an erroneous picture of potential workplace liability when hiring a vet. Additionally, most civilian companies lack an understanding of the capabilities that most veterans can bring to the work force. Unaware of the the vast scope of technical military careers, many hiring managers today fail to see how “carrying a gun” translates to a functional skill set.
What is occurring behind the scenes is a different story altogether. What many people in the media fail to comment on the uprising of a new breed of veteran entrepreneurship. The precision utilization of the “improvise, adapt and overcome” mentality many veterans learned during their time in service is a resurrected battle cry as they attempt to assimilate into the workforce. These “vetrepreneurs” might just become the next “Greatest Generation.”
Case in point: the veterans of Article 15 Clothing. You have to have been living under a rock for the past six months to have not seen one of the dozen viral videos that these men put out. From Army Ranger vs. Navy SEAL rap battle or How to Workout Like an Operator, Article 15’s unique brand of humor strikes a chord with the military/veteran community. Their Instagram adds another 1,000 unique followers every week and their YouTube videos have averaged nearly 750,000 views each. The six-man team has over fifty collective years of military service. Each brings his own unique skill set to the group, yet all carry a level of dedication and work ethic that is mandatory in the military.
During a random late night Skype conversation, I was invited to the “ART15” home office for a weekend of beer drinking and bs-ing. What I discovered was so much more than a few guys hanging out with beautiful women while drinking whiskey and making T-shirts.
Navigating the threshold of the den of debauchery, I heard the faint cracking of beer cans in the back of the house. Circled around a fully stocked cooler sat the co-creators of one of the fastest rising companies of 2015. Laughter permeated the conversation as the group batted ideas back and forth like ping pong balls. It was bachelor party meets board meeting. Anecdotal stories flowed into T-shirt concepts and potential new business ventures. It was 11 pm on Saturday night and despite having a great time doing it, these guys were still working.
By the time I woke up the next afternoon, Jarred (Article 15 Chief Marketing Officer) and Cody (Chief Financial Officer) had already negotiated a handful of business deals. It felt reminiscent of the days in Ranger Battalion of drinking until 3 am and standing tall in formation two hours later. Each member of the team made themselves accountable for the task of the day and executed that responsibility appropriately.
Still removing the sleep from my eyes, Jarred asked me something that no one ever had before, “Hey you wanna go fly the helicopter?”
“You guys have access to a helicopter?”
“Of course! You don’t?” Cody interjected with a crooked smile.
“We’re pretty much done for the day, let’s go screw off.”
I wasn’t going to pass up a life opportunity like flying a little bird, despite my hangover. We arrived at a small airfield where I was introduced to the founder of Little Bird LLC. It became clear to me very quickly that there was a great relationship established between the heads of these companies. The mutual respect went beyond an understanding of one another’s business, it extended to the desire to be around like-minded individuals with similar personality types.
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