Ask any small business owner about a typical work week, and they will likely share that they log more hours than the average employee. Next, add in the commitment of serving the country, and you may wonder if that is even a possible feat. Now, meet the reserve component entrepreneurs showing how it can be done.
“My business is entirely online, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, especially when I went through my tech training. I’m working a full military schedule and I’m still responsible for my business during my off-hours,” said Guina.
The Military Wallet was born out of his own confusion regarding the military transition. He encountered more questions than answers.
“My business started as a way to document the transition (from the military) because at the time there weren’t a lot of resources. It started as a hobby, a way to try and help myself. Then, I started seeing a lot of traffic, and people started asking me questions. I would research things. Eventually, I reached a critical mass and revenue where I was able to quit my day job and do this full-time,” Guina shared.
‘You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know’
Business owners often experience some sort of a learning curve in getting started and at different stages of the business. From marketing and budgeting, to accounting and human resources, there is a lot to know. Guina says for him, it was the technical and administrative sides.
“I’d say the biggest thing was the technical aspect of running websites. I’m not very technical savvy so I had to find some resources and references, and people to help out when I hit roadblocks,” he said. “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
He credits the Small Business Administration’s SCORE program with being helpful, but says connecting with others in the same boat proved to be the greatest asset to his business.
“Find a group — what they would call a mastermind group — where you get into a group of other entrepreneurs, business owners and it could be veterans, it could be non-veterans…People who are doing something very similar to you and through that we get together from all over the U.S. and compare notes and learn from each other,” he said. “We can reach out to each other in the middle of the week or whenever, but just having access to other people who are going through the same thing as you is probably one of the most valuable things I did as a small business owner.”
No Hidden Secret
Rod Rodriguez, owner of After Action Review, served 11 years in the Active Army before transitioning to the Texas National Guard. He says he used to be intimidated by the idea of owning a business until he worked on a venture with other veterans that made entrepreneurship seem attainable.
“It started when I first got out, I went to work for a civilian company … basically they brought together a bunch of veterans who were interested in business and innovation, and I started working in the contract world. It made me realize that entrepreneurship is no huge secret,” Rodriguez said. “I think before that I thought, entrepreneurs hold some kind of secret knowledge. They knew something that the rest of us didn’t, that’s what made them business owners. That job really gave me the look behind the curtain and I said, ‘oh, I could do this.’ And it took me a couple of years afterward to gather the courage to figure out first what I wanted to do, then actually to execute.”
He adds that small business ownership is a very natural fit for those who served in the military.
“I saw that, for veterans, entrepreneurship seems to be something that kind of connects all that. There seems to be a common thread most veterans want to become: their own business owners, their own bosses. That itself really interested me, so I began a podcast called the After Action Review and that’s all I talk about — veteran entrepreneurship.”
It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect — Just Launch
Rodriguez explained that there is an overarching lesson he has learned during his entrepreneurial journey that he would share with others considering this path.
“Every CEO, every business owner — small or big — they all say the same thing … it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to launch,” he said. “And that’s what I had to do.”
During his weekly podcasts, he interviews veteran entrepreneurs at different stages of their business life cycle, including CEOs who appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank and TED Talks. More recently, he evolved into YouTube. He shares that he is continually fine-tuning his operations and has seen a dramatic improvement from the infancy stage of his business to present day.
Listeners can tune in to the After Action Review every Monday to gain insight from other veteran entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses: https://theaarpodcast.com/.