From Service to Startup: Veterans Making Their Way as Small Business EntrepreneursCarolyn Crummey
Yolanda Tinsley, Owner
Yolanda Tinsley is a retired Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army who worked in human resources. During her first deployment in Iraq in 2007, Yolanda experienced battle first-hand when the helicopter she was traveling in came under fire. After two decades of service, and this brush with death, she decided to retire from the Army and go back to school to get her business degree so she could start her own business.
Yolanda is now the proud owner of Snowie Shaved Ice, a franchise that operates at Fort Bragg and at nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina events and private venues. Yolanda’s battle didn’t end when she left Iraq, though. She’s now on the business battlefield, using the skills she learned in the military. She not only manages her business, but her personal life: she’s the full-time mother of three while her husband is still on active duty, and she still struggles with PTSD and physical disabilities. Despite it all, Yolanda has earned a dedicated group of customers who love her personality as much as her shaved ice.
Yolanda has certainly faced many challenges since starting her business, including being diagnosed with colon cancer in August of 2014, which sidelined her during a prime summer sales time for her seasonal snow cone business. Despite this major setback, Yolanda remains an optimist, “while I sometimes wish I had more money coming in than I know what to do with, I love what I do. As an entrepreneur you have to love what you do so you can keep going even when sometimes you feel overwhelmed or just don’t feel like pushing on.”
Yolanda’s advice to Veterans considering starting a business: “Don’t be afraid to pursue your dream of success. You already have the skills to make it work. Take your dream and make that your goal. As you did in the military, break your mission into actionable steps and make it a reality, course correcting along the way.”