5 Things Veterans Should Know When Considering Entrepreneurship

career
AP photo by Jessica Hill

Veterans know that the hardest job they’ll ever have is in the rearview mirror, but that doesn’t mean entrepreneurship is a cakewalk.


Undoubtedly, your active-duty experience — especially in a combat zone — prepares you for a lot of the challenges that entrepreneurs face. The “hard work” of entrepreneurship pales in comparison to filling sandbags in 100-degree heat while in Mission Oriented Protective Posture 2.

You also don’t know uncertainty until you’ve heard the air crack when some myopic local with a grudge starts taking potshots. Financial risk seems insignificant when compared with flesh and blood hazards.

But there are many entrepreneurial elements that are more challenging than you may think.

I am a former Marine Corps infantry officer and Iraq veteran. Now, I am an entrepreneur. I’ve launched successful products within other companies, and I’m now the CEO of INVICTA Challenge — a new kids’ product line that launches Nov. 2 at retailers across the country as well as on Google Play and iTunes.

Here are the five things that veterans should know when considering a career in entrepreneurship:

1. Entrepreneurs must imagine both the mission and the executional concept.

For entrepreneurs, there is no higher authority for making decisions. Instead, it’s completely up to you to identify the customer pain and the problem you want to solve, and then figure out the solution — and how to make it work profitably.

2. Starting your own business can be lonely.

We have a team behind INVICTA now, but it wasn’t that way at the beginning. If you are lucky, you have one or two other people to help out at the beginning. There is no pre-organized team in entrepreneurship.

3. You won’t have a lot of resources.

In Iraq, there were times that we were short on water and MREs, and I rolled north without armor plates for my Kevlar.

But entrepreneurs have to provide everything by themselves, especially at the beginning. In the early days of INVICTA, we went to dozens of different business plan competitions to win enough cash to keep going. We maxed out credit cards and found ways to reuse assets. We had to make it happen with less.

4. No one cares if you fail.

I don’t mean to minimize what failure means in the military, of course. It’s much worse than having a business fail. However, there is a tremendous support system in the military for when disasters happen.

When a business fails, no one really cares other than your close friends and family. It can be very hard, but if it doesn’t work, you just move on.

5. There is no end date.

My business partner threw her hands in the air the other evening, exasperating, “I suddenly realized that even once our product sells through, and Barnes & Noble and Amazon are happy, we will be working like maniacs for the next six months to get the next few games ready!”

For the most part, folks on active duty are always working toward a calendar goal. Their training, deployment schedule and separation date are all pretty well set in stone. There have been exceptions in the last 15 years of war, but in general, you can always count on an end date to all your striving. Entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury.

The best card that veterans carry through entrepreneurship is a “never quit” mentality. That said, it’s important to recognize that the challenges are very different here than the ones you might have faced on active duty.

Every once in a while, we run across a photo in The Times-Picayune archives that's so striking that it begs a simple question: "What in the name of Momus Alexander Morgus is going on in this New Orleans photograph?" When we do, we've decided, we're going to share it — and to attempt to answer that question.

Read More Show Less
Members of the Syrian Democratic Forces control the monitor of their drone at their advanced position, during the fighting with Islamic State's fighters in Nazlat Shahada, a district of Raqqa. (Reuters/Zohra Bensemra)

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) following the planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, provided the group keeps up the pressure on Islamic State, a senior U.S. general told Reuters on Friday.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump claims the $6.1 billion from the Defense Department's budget that he will now spend on his border wall was not going to be used for anything "important."

Trump announced on Friday that he was declaring a national emergency, allowing him to tap into military funding to help pay for barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Read More Show Less

Long before Tony Stark took a load of shrapnel to the chest in a distant war zone, science fiction legend Robert Heinlein gave America the most visceral description of powered armor for the warfighter of the future. Forget the spines of extra-lethal weaponry, the heads-up display, and even the augmented strength of an Iron Man suit — the real genius, Heinlein wrote in Starship Troopers, "is that you don't have to control the suit; you just wear it, like your clothes, like skin."

"Any sort of ship you have to learn to pilot; it takes a long time, a new full set of reflexes, a different and artificial way of thinking," explains Johnny Rico. "Spaceships are for acrobats who are also mathematicians. But a suit, you just wear."

First introduced in 2013, U.S. Special Operations Command's Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) purported to offer this capability as America's first stab at militarized powered armor. And while SOCOM initially promised a veritable Iron Man-style tactical armor by 2018, a Navy spokesman told Task & Purpose the much-hyped exoskeleton will likely never get off the launch pad.

"The prototype itself is not currently suitable for operation in a close combat environment," SOCOM spokesman Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty told Task & Purpose, adding that JATF-TALOS has no plans for an external demonstration this year. "There is still no intent to field the TALOS Mk 5 combat suit prototype."

Read More Show Less

D-Day veteran James McCue died a hero. About 500 strangers made sure of it.

"It's beautiful," Army Sgt. Pete Rooney said of the crowd that gathered in the cold and stood on the snow Thursday during McCue's burial. "I wish it happened for every veteran's funeral."

Read More Show Less