From Service to Startup: Veterans Making Their Way as Small Business EntrepreneursCarolyn Crummey
In 2003, 21 year old U.S. Marine Chris Albert was part of the initial wave of Operation Iraqi Freedom and helped run security mission protecting scientists traveling to and from Bahrain on the Euphrates River. He vividly remembers floating around in a tiny boat as artillery rounds went off in the distance.
Promoted to non-commissioned officer, then Sergeant Albert returned home after one tour. Sadly, for him, the war was not over as he battled alcoholism, homelessness and PTSD. He abandoned his goal of earning a doctorate in political science. Instead he turned to working out, using a focus on fitness to deal with the solitude and drug abuse that was plaguing his life. He helped open the now famous Metroflex Gym in Long Beach, but without the money to sustain his ownership, he found himself without an income. A friend gave him a computer, which led to him building an online training business. This gave him enough money to bootstrap his venture, Warrior Soul Apparel, a clothing company that donates 20 percent of its profits to organizations that fight veteran homelessness, depression and suicide.
Warrior Soul Apparel designs are fueled by the mind of a veteran – believing that there is a little bit of warrior in all of us and that anyone is capable of bravery, sacrifice and overcoming any obstacle. Drawing on his own experiences and battles, Chris lives his brand. Focusing on his passion, he used fitness to stop dwelling on the past and started living in the present, a challenge many veterans face when returning from combat tours of duty.
“Too many veterans out there suffer silently from the effects of PTSD. With up to 22 veteran suicides a day, many under the age of 35, something needs to be done,” says Chris. “If you are feeling depressed, there are people and organizations out there that can help you. Don’t be afraid to or too proud to ask for help. You are definitely not alone in your struggle. Seek out your purpose, your passion – when you find it, pursue it relentlessly. When you do, anything is possible. Organizations like Active Heroes (www.activeheroes.org), TeamVets and Ronin Veteran Network (www.roninvn.org) are also here to help you.“
Chris’s advice to other veterans considering starting a business: “Be as tenacious in business as you would be on the battlefield. Understand that you will make mistakes and that there will be some dark days of setbacks and self-doubt. Be honest with yourself about your misjudgments, learn from your mistakes, adjust, and keep moving forward. I failed big time before I found success, but the biggest thing I learned from my service in the Marine Corps is that the only way you truly fail is if you quit. Quitting is simply not an option, so remain focused on your mission and you will find a way.”