From Service to Startup: Veterans Making Their Way as Small Business EntrepreneursCarolyn Crummey
Keel Russell, Founder and CEO
UMBREE Rain Gear
A retired U.S. Army veteran, Keel Russell feels the most important thing is action. Great ideas without action do not matter. This belief is what drove Keel to found Umbree Rain Gear, a company that is certified as both veteran- and minority-owned, providing high-quality durable and fashionable umbrellas., a veteran-certified Minority Owned company that provides high-quality, durable and fashionable umbrellas.
“While being a veteran (and certifying your business as veteran-owned) can give you a head start in terms of marketing, PR and recognition,” notes Keel, “the quality of your product or service is what sets you apart from your competition [and determines your ultimate success].”
A socially conscious company, beyond being profitable, Umbree sees its mission to enrich the lives of military veterans and the community. Umbree does so through community outreach programs, job placement and social campaigns such as “Prosthetics for Heroes” and “Veterans Against Domestic Violence.” Keel believes it is his duty to help change the lives of others and give back. He is passionate about brightening the days of others, no matter how cloudy or stormy the skies. That’s why he donates 10 percent of all sales to worthwhile charities and offers assorted colored umbrellas, each supporting a distinct charitable cause.
Blue: Anti-Bullying Awareness
Green: Environmental Protection
Orange: Feeding Hungry Kids
Pink: Breast Cancer Awareness
Purple: Domestic Violence Prevention
Red: Equality for All
Yellow: Support for the Troops
Keel’s advice to other Veterans considering starting a business: “Action is key. If you aspire to start your own business you have to get going. Don’t wait for the perfect timing or moment or situation. Starting the process is the single most important thing. If you don’t start, you will never have the opportunity to fail or succeed.”