Air Force veteran Tim Klund (aka TK) wasn’t even 30 years old when he got a life-changing wakeup call—one that taught him not to take anything for granted. Following a terrible car accident nearly killed him, Klund decided that life was too short to not savor every moment and follow his dreams.
He left his corporate job, set out on his own, and in 2018 introduced a line of CBD-based products through the company he cofounded, Verve Forever. Klund’s experience in the Air Force not only helped him mature but also served as the building blocks for his success in the civilian world.
One thing is clear—from his military service to his high-paying corporate job to representing and helping professional athletes promote their brands—he’s come full circle.
Tim describes some of the twists and turns of his fascinating career, and shares his story with Annie Nelson, founder of the American Soldier Network:
The Military Way
I wasn’t planning on going into the military. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to go to college to play college football and chase girls. I must have been really good at it, because I did a little too much chasing and my grades slipped to the point where I would need to attend junior college before I headed off to a four-year college. My dad was smart enough to realize that I needed structure and discipline in my life, so he told me he was going to take the next day off work and take me to get a job. He said he knew some GREAT companies that were hiring. The next morning, we pulled up in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Offices!
Parking the car, my dad said to me, “The good news is that all four branches are hiring. And the other good news is that I’m going to let you pick!” After an hour of back and forth, we went into the Air Force Recruiting Office. My dad had to sign for me, because I was still just 17 years old.
By September of 1988, I was in San Antonio, Texas, at Lackland AFB for basic training. After, I went to Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, to train to become an electrician. After graduating from tech school, I was off to Clark AFB in the Philippines. I had a great time during my stay in the Philippines, mostly working and playing sports, on both the base soccer and softball teams. In 1996, then-President Bill Clinton issued an order for early outs from the military—with a year and a half of my service left, I decided to apply to get out early and go play college football.
The early out was approved, and a week and a half later, I was a veteran. I served honorably for six and a half years, and as I look back, I thank my dad for being smart enough to get me into the military. I honestly believe every American citizen should serve for a minimum of two years and by doing so, their college education would be free. We would have a lot more patriots and a lot less student debt! (Just my opinion.)
Dreaming of Playing Ball
When I left the Air Force, I’d been accepted at Southeast Missouri State and was granted the opportunity to walk onto the Southeast Missouri (SEMO) football team that fall. It was something I’d always wanted to do, and at twenty-four and a half years old, I felt this would be my only opportunity. I was training for football and working a part-time job… but most of all, I was enjoying being a civilian and now a soon-to-be a college student/athlete. One day a friend from high school asked me what I was going to college for. I told him I’d like to go into sales and marketing. He told me I should come to work for him. He said, “I’m selling mobile homes, and they’re selling like hotcakes.” After catching my breath from laughing, I said, “Bro, I’m going to college, I am NOT selling trailers!” He laughed and said, “Klund-boy, come by my office tomorrow. I want to take you to lunch and show you what we do.”
I figured, hey, it’s a free lunch … what do I have to lose? When I arrived at his office the next day, I immediately saw that today’s manufactured homes were nothing like the trailer I’d grown up in. My friend took me through a couple, and I was blown away. We went back to his office, and he pulled out his pay stubs—he was making about $90,000 a year selling mobile homes. I asked, how soon can I start?
I spoke to the head coach of the SEMO football team, Coach John Mumford, and he said, “Klund if you can make that kind of money and you don’t have to rack up all the student debt, go get to it!” He also said, “If you’re going to do it, I expect you to give 110 percent every day, just as if you were on this football field.” That was all the incentive I needed, and my career in sales was off!
A Stark Reminder
The world of mobile homes put me on an escalator to success in life. I had great mentors throughout, I listened to what everyone had to say, and I worked hard. I knew that being the first person in the office and the last to leave would help me succeed. In spring of 2000, my family and I moved from Southeast Missouri to Fort Worth, Texas, where I took a position with a Fortune 500 company that sold manufactured homes. My star continued to rise until one fateful day in October of that year. I had a terrible car accident where I almost died. I fell asleep while driving home late one night. I was unconscious and not breathing when paramedics arrived and had to be brought back to life four times as I was airlifted to Harris Methodist Trauma Hospital in downtown Fort Worth. All the first responders—the State Highway Patrol, local firefighters, EMTs, helicopter medical team, nurses, and doctors— ALL played a role in saving my life that night, and I am forever grateful.
A Flash of Inspiration
While recovering, I was worrying about my position at the company. While talking to my mom about it, she said the company should be more worried about losing me as an employee. “With your income, you must be making them truckloads of money!” For the first time, I took a good look at myself and realized my value to the company. I began to consider what I really wanted to do with my life. Watching the movie Jerry McGuire one afternoon, I was suddenly struck with inspiration. I told my wife, “THAT’S IT! That’s what I want to be—a Jerry McGuire!” If you could have seen the look on my wife’s face, I’m not sure if you would have laughed or cried. In disbelief, my wife said, “Tim, get serious! You are not college educated and you don’t even know any professional athletes!” I knew she had a point, but this was what I wanted to do. Months later, I met my first professional athlete, Lemuel Stinson from the Chicago Bears. We grew close, and he taught me how to be a sports manager, and the two of us did very well. Stinson began introducing me to his circle of friends, and before long I was working with professional athletes and celebrities, managing their name brands. I was also recruited to a bigger corporation as an executive vice president. In 2008, I decided to go out on my own and build my own company.
Entrepreneurship Pays Off
I cofounded Verve Systems LLC in 2018 with my partner, Kiran RajBhandary (aka Raj). We have products coming to market in 2020 that will change people’s lives in sports and recreation. While Raj and I were working on those products, in early 2019 the Farm Bill was passed, legalizing hemp and CBD products across the United States. I knew what CBD was doing to help our veterans escape the over-medication of prescription pills and that it was saving lives. We looked at all the healing properties of CBD and we created three lines of products: Athletic, for athletes of all levels; Veteran, for our veteran community, to offer an alternative to prescription medications; and Neuro, which focuses on helping individuals with Parkinson’s disease, Down syndrome, autism, and the epileptic community. It was amazing to see the results of what CBD was doing to help these communities. We prepare our products with the highest levels of CBD, so the user will get a better ROI for their investment when they use Verve products.
My Advice to Veterans
My advice to other veterans who want to pursue an entrepreneurial career is to do your research.
Start volunteering in the civilian sector while you’re still serving. Build your personal brand and build your personal relationships. Even if you’ve served 20 years in the military, that doesn’t ensure that you’ll be given the opportunity to start at the top with a private company. We forget that people who are mid-level managers and executives have also worked 20+ years to reach their current position, too. The number one thing I’d advise you to do is just get yourself hired at a company and get to work! Come early, stay late and you’ll discover as I did that cream always rises to the top!
If you want to learn more about Tim or Verve Forever products, visit verveforever.com