IBM just appointed the first African-American woman to command a US Navy ship to its board


IBM appointed Admiral Michelle J. Howard, the first African American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, to its board, the company announced Tuesday.

A former U.S. Navy officer, Howard was the first woman to become a 4-star admiral in addition to becoming the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, according to IBM’s announcement. In July 2014, she became the first woman and African-American to be named Vice Chief of Naval Operations, IBM said, and she retired from her 35-year career in December 2017.

Howard now teaches cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University, according to the release.

Howard’s board appointment will be effective March 1.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said in a statement in the release, “Admiral Howard is a groundbreaking leader with a distinguished career in military service. Her leadership skills, international perspective and extensive experience with cybersecurity and information technology will make her a great addition to the IBM Board.”

For the complete article, continue on to CNBC.

From the Corps to Corporate America

Headshot of Laurie Sayles

U.S. Veterans Magazine asked Laurie Sayles, president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions (CivilityMS), and Jackson Dalton, president and founder of Black Box Safety, Inc., to share what it was like for them to transition out of the military and into the boardroom.

Laurie Sayles with Civility Management Solutions

Founded in 2012, CivilityMS provides professional consulting services as an SBA 8(a) certified, verified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), Economically Disadvantaged Woman and Woman Owned Small Business (EDWOSB/WOSB). The firm’s status as a SDVOSB is verified with the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE) and the Veterans First Contracting Program.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Laurie Sayles (LS): I am from Chicago, IL, and have always sought out a means of having my own money or supplementing my income. I was a baby-sitter to single women in the low-income projects complex I resided as a young girl and I modeled professionally during high school, all before I joined the USMC. So, I often say that I have always been an entrepreneur.

But after getting out of the USMC, I returned to supplementing my income. I tried medical billing as a home-based business only to learn it was a scam. I also became a wellness coach and a bootcamp fitness instructor, to name a few.

My journey was long after transitioning because there was no outreach during the 90’s for military personnel leaving the USMC. For example, TAPS didn’t exist, and no one in the marketplace really cared that you were a veteran. Also, the Internet was not what it is today and there was no support to help translate your MOS. It was a more challenging time.

But I wanted to work in corporate America, so I took a job for $17,000 in 1989 as a receptionist. With that, the journey began to learn the difference of being a civilian in this space as an African-American woman with no degree. Within a short period of time, I began to take English, grammar and speaking courses to help me modify my means of communication.

I climbed the corporate ladder from receptionist to administrative assistant, to an executive assistant, to an operations director to a project manager over a 20-year period. Then in 2012, I became president and CEO of Civility Management Solutions.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

LS: My experience from the military has a huge influence in my skillset as a business owner. Again, being an African-American woman in business adds more challenges that many cannot identify with unless they belong to this ethnicity. But, thanks to being a woman that served in the Marine Corps, I am accustomed to operating in a man’s world and a world that is full of alpha males! The Marine Corps is not known to be, “The Few, The Proud, The Marines,” just as a slogan—it’s a culture and a lifestyle. As I often say, if you re-enlist in any branch of the military, it really speaks to you adapting and accepting that culture completely, otherwise you get out after first term. No one—and I do mean no one—that knows me personally walks away not knowing that I served in the Corps. It shows up in my demeanor and my strength as a business owner.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

LS: Make sure you start your homework early when you know your end date. There is so much to offer us when we get out of the military, and finally this country is beginning to recognize this fact. Our discipline, leadership, resilience and determination set us apart from anyone else who never served. So, with running anything … you’ve been trained while you wore the uniform; trained to operate in high integrity; and trained to leave no man behind. All three of these lead to you being a strong leader willing to take full responsibility for your actions. Help others be successful as you become successful.

Do take advantage of all the training being offered by the SBA in your State, affiliates of the SBA, and programs offered to veterans of the military. Get yourself affiliated with associations and advocacy groups that focus on the type of work you want to do as a business owner.

Lastly, network, network and network some more to find people that you can engage with. And get yourself some mentors! Each one will add different values and you can call on them as needed.

Jackson Dalton and Black Box Safety, Inc.

Headshot of Jackson DaltonBlack Box Safety, Inc. specializes in the prevention of serious injury in the workplace by supplying safety equipment for government agencies and organizations. Dalton is a Board-Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and holds a Master’s degree (MPH) in public health—only 17 percent of CSPs hold both (Board of Certified Safety Professionals, 2017) —as well as a Bachelor’s degree in business administration.

USVM: Tell us about your transition from military life to one as a business owner.

Jackson Dalton (JD): I was injured while serving in the Marine Corps. As a direct result of the injuries I sustained, I went through 3 leg surgeries and was not able to walk for a year. While serving, I was hurt at work—essentially an occupational injury. From this experience, I have made it my mission in life to ensure that others aren’t hurt at work, so that they can continue to do the things that they love to do.

As a direct result of my Marine Corps experience, I transitioned from the military into a career in occupational health and safety. I pursued a Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Public Health, and spent over 10 years working as a Safety Engineer. Three years ago, it was my desire to help more people in a more meaningful way so I left my job at 3M and started my company, Black Box Safety, Inc., which is a supplier of safety products and safety training to government agencies and organizations that are looking for ways to reduce risk and help their employees stay safe and healthy.

USVM: How did your experience in the military influence your skillset as a business owner?

JD: My experience in the Marine Corps instilled two traits: Grit and bearing. Grit is the ability or decision to persevere in the face of extreme hardship and danger. Bearing is the ability to maintain a calm and confident demeanor in the face of adversity and uncertainty. I learned that the most contagious thing in the world is not infectious disease—it’s human emotion. As a leader, if I lose my bearing and communicate emotions of fear and stress, those emotions will be transferred to those I’m leading. I served as a squad leader in the Marine Corps and today I serve as President of Black Box Safety, Inc., where I am responsible for the health and welfare of 2 full-time employees and 4 part-time employees.

USVM: What advice would you give someone transitioning from the military into becoming a business owner?

JD: This is the advice that I would give to someone transitioning from the military to entrepreneurship

  1. Take advantage of every educational opportunity available including but not limited to: Post-secondary education funded through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and Dept. of VA Vocational Rehabilitation Ch.31,; free business start-up courses offered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) [SBA offers free business courses online at]; apply for a free SCORE mentor; podcasts featuring business start-up advice; and finally an often-overlooked resource that proved to be of great value and benefit to me, Shark Tank and YouTube.
  2. Join an incubator that is composed at least partially of active-duty and veteran business owners. I benefited greatly from the camaraderie I found by applying to a veteran incubator called Tactical Launch. I went through this incubator 2 years ago, and I am still close friends with many of the members of the cohort and many of us continue to be successful in business. The camaraderie is necessary when starting a business, especially if you are the sole founder. It’s actually the number one thing that servicemen and women miss the most when transitioning out of the military.
  3. If you are able to do so, start your business now. Many business startups require very little in the way of capital and expense. Most can be started out of your home with a phone, a laptop and a lot of determination. The biggest mistake I see in other founders is the desire to have everything ready prior to launch. A good plan executed today is better than a perfect plan executed tomorrow.

How to Land a Government Contract

A headshot of Katie Bigelow

By Katie Bigelow, founder, Mettle Ops

Government contracting is not for the faint of heart. The barriers to entry are high and the regulations are complicated and overwhelming. If easy money is the goal, government contracting is not the way to get it. We lose 99 bids out of 100. Can you take that kind of beating and keep going?

The first steps to government contracting are pretty simple. Register with Dun & Bradstreet. Don’t pay them or anyone else to do it. Regardless, of how it seems, it is a free service. They will give you a DUNS number. Use that to register in Sam.Gov where you will get a CAGE code. Don’t skip the opportunity in to complete the SBA Dynamic Small Business search. Read all the regulations that you are committed to follow. Next, register with and look for opportunities to bid. When you find something that looks good, read the whole thing. That’s right. Read all 76 pages paying particular attention to the Performance Work Statement, Section L, and Section M. Submit your bid per their instructions. That’s it. Too easy.

I don’t actually know anyone that has made any real money doing it this way. No doubt there are people out there that simply followed the prescribed path and struck it big. More often, there are people that followed the path and ended up in the pokey, too.

The hard truth is that nobody in this business is rooting for you. I have never found a Government Small Business office that did anything other than put your name on a list and provide a PowerPoint presentation.

Government Contracting Officers, as a general rule, don’t want to do lots of small contracting actions for small businesses. They want to execute fewer contracting actions for big businesses with big dollar amounts. One of my first customers tried to offer me a $14 million contract. The contracting command gave us all a giant “NO!” We were too small, too new, too much of a nuisance.

“Go work for a prime for 5 years,” is the verbatim advice we’ve received from contracting officers. Large government primes have lots of attorneys, lots of money, and lots of shareholders to please. They use small businesses, strip the name of the small business off the work and offer it as your own. It’s not illegal. If you don’t mind, this may be the route for you. It’s not the route for me.

Here’s my secret sauce: Work really hard. Do all the things I mentioned in paragraph 2 and then work hard. We take every opportunity we can afford to meet people, to shake hands, to share what we’ve learned. We don’t shy away from making referrals, even if we get nothing in return. We wear our character on our sleeves, our business cards, and our websites. We were warfighters and always will be at heart. There is a standard of values that comes with that.

We are students of our industry. Take DAU classes. We read and connect and learn. We reach out personally to potential customers every single day. Our goal is to understand more about government contracting than even our customers know. We aren’t trying to outsmart them. We are trying to provide great value to them.

To date, I have only won 4 government contracts since 2015. The first was for $70,000, then $14 million, then $19 million, and the most recent another $19 million. Since I told you we won 1 out of 100 or less, you can do the math to see how many times we lost. Decide if this is the industry for you. If it is, call me. Maybe we can do it together.

Katie Bigelow is the founder of Mettle Ops, a woman-owned, service-disabled, veteran-owned, disadvantaged small business. WBE, WOSB, EDWOSB, NVBDC, CVE, VOSB, SDVOSB, U.S. Small Business Administration 8(a) Certified 2027

5 Ways Veterans Can Leverage Facebook to Grow their Career or Business

Payton Iheme smiling at the camera

By Payton Iheme, U.S. Public Policy Manager, Facebook

Each year, an estimated 200,000 service members return to civilian life and for some, this brings uncertainty to what’s next in their career, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

However, these service men and women continue to contribute to their country, even when they return, albeit in a different way.

I have spent more than 15 years on active duty and continue to serve—from being an officer in the Army’s Special Operations Command and a White House Senior Policy Advisor to currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard. In addition, as the co-owner of a home remodeling business, I know firsthand how important it is to have the right tools and support, whether it’s in the military or as a veteran small business owner.

Everyday Facebook serves as a platform for veterans to find and be a part of groups that help them build community. In fact, more than 900,000 people in the US participate in more than 2,000 groups for military members, veterans and their spouses on Facebook. As a proud supporter of the military-veteran community, Facebook has also made it easier for veterans transitioning into civilian life to find career opportunities and draw on their unique skills to start their entrepreneurial journey.

That’s why we recently announced the launch of the Military and Veterans Hub to provide an all-encompassing resource for veterans to continue to build their community, find job opportunities and enhance their digital skills through Facebook to grow a business or a career.

Facebook also partnered with SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer expert business mentors, to provide business education and mentoring to military members, veterans and their families who want to become entrepreneurs. I utilized SCORE’s resources during my transition into civilian life and it helped me not only build on my experience and skills to find a new career, but it also gave me the confidence to start something new. I’m particularly thrilled about our partnership with SCORE and the opportunities it will unlock for fellow veterans.

Whether you want to build a business or a career, here are five ways military members, spouses and veterans can use Facebook’s Military and Veteran Hub to their advantage:

1. Connect with a mentor from a cohort of SCORE’s experienced business mentors, who are also U.S. veterans themselves, through the Mentor Match program.

2. Access our veteran-focused educational toolkit for launching a business that includes steps for developing a business plan.

3. Attend a veteran-focused interactive workshop to receive guidance on starting a business. We’ll be working with ten local SCORE chapters to bring these in-person workshops to cities that we’ve determined to have a high concentration of military members and veterans.

4. Find employment opportunities through the Facebook Jobs Tool. Frank Diaz, an Army veteran and owner of Tin Hut BBQ, uses the Facebook Jobs Tool, for example, to source employees at his mobile restaurant with an objective to hire discharged veterans in need of work and mentorship.

5. Test out the Facebook Military Skills Translator, designed to help people find careers on Facebook relevant to their military experience. As the Public Policy Manager at Facebook, I’m proud to be a part of a company that values my experience and allows me to use my military skills to make an impact on the business.

Facebook’s Military and Veteran Hub make it easier for military spouses and the military community to find and access Facebook’s resources, tools, events and groups. For more information, visit our website here 

Payton Iheme (Facebook US Public Policy) focuses on policy issues on a range of topics, but works closely on issues related to the Internet, digital economy/small business, counter terrorism, cybersecurity, data privacy, and partnerships. Previously, she served as the Senior Policy Advisor for Communication Technology at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She holds honor degrees from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in Government Policy from the George Washington University. Iheme currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army National Guard.

Meet Brittney Nicole: Navy Veteran Turned Fashion Entrepreneur

A clothes hangar filled with women's coats

Transitioning from military life back into civilian life is a challenge for any veteran. While there are many different approaches in choosing a career, one U.S. Navy Veteran decided that she would approach her career choice by following her passions.

Always having a love for fashion, Brittney Nicole decided to open her own clothing business, Coco’s Wardrobe, upon her retirement from the U.S. Navy. The New Orleans based boutique designs, manufactures, and sells women’s clothing that is meant to look as good as they feel, blending comfort with style. All of the clothing in Nicole’s shop has a women’s desire to feel confident and comfortable at the forefront of everything that is produced.

In addition, Nicole has also began selling uniquely designed face masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How Wells Fargo is Prioritizing Veterans

An American Soldier with his wife and young son, smiling for the camera

By Natalie Rodgers

In 2012, Wells Fargo and Company founded its Military Affairs Program, with the goal to connect with current and past military personnel and their families, and provide them with the proper resources to succeed in their day-to-day lives.

Through this program, Wells Fargo has repeatedly reported the importance of connecting and understanding the concerns of our troops to better serve their needs. This past week, Wells Fargo has gone the extra mile in improving its program by hiring a new head of military talent external recruiting and enterprise military and veteran initiatives—Sean Passmore—who will also oversee the Military Affairs Program. Passmore will officially take this title on May 11, 2020.

Passmore’s resume could not be more impressive. He served in the U.S. Army for over 22 years and has an extensive background in helping military veterans to transition from the battlefield to the workforce. Enforcing Wells Fargo’s desire to better connect and understand its military clients, Passmore’s experiences will help to better cater the program to the needs of its participants.

Passmore has also worked as the executive vice president of strategic initiatives and military affairs for the Perfect Technician Academy (PTA) and as the military hiring advisor for United Services Automobile Association (USAA). In these positions, he became an expert in the recruitment and hiring of military personnel into the workforce. Passmore also served at the White House as a senior presidential officer.

“Sean comes to Wells Fargo with exceptional experience,” Indirhia Arrington, Wells Fargo’s head of Targeting Sourcing and Passmore’s point of report, said. “Sean will be a tremendous asset overseeing this program and building a stronger relationship with the military community at large on behalf of the company.”

To learn more about Wells Fargo’s Military Affairs Program, visit

From Navy Officer To Millionaire

Grant Page Navy Officer headshot

Grant Page, a Latino Navy Officer, is the proud owner and engineer of Magna Imperio Systems (MIS), a clean water manufacturer. The company currently values at $118 million and opened only six years ago.

When Page was only 17 years old, he conducted an experiment on water in which he discovered how to remove salt from water simply by-passing water molecules between two alloys. This idea would not resurface into Page’s life again until he was working on his thesis in his engineering undergraduate degree at the U.S. Naval Academy. His thesis explained a new water treatment technique that would allow for clean drinking water to be easily produced.

Within the next two years, Page would begin to grow his company, all while serving in the U.S. Navy. Page graduated from the academy and started his business in 2014, which he often worked on from the garage in his off-base home’s garage. Page then served as an ensign for the U.S.S. Mason and led a team of 40 men on a six-month deployment to the Middle East, where he performed boat operations and search and rescue.

While Page was earning his title of Lieutenant Junior Grade, all of his spare time went to managing his business. In its first year, the company was valued at $2 million, putting him in charge of a seven-member board at age 23. Before requesting to discharge early in 2017, Page’s business raised $6.6 million on a $20 million valuation, despite never having marketed a product.

Once discharged, Page worked full time at running MIS. The company began distributing clean water to restaurants, industrial manufacturers, municipalities, and disaster crises, and quickly began to surpass the competition. MIS can clean some of the dirtiest of water and does so with technology with a 60 percent energy savings compared to other companies.

Today, at only 28 years old, Page is the president and chairman of the growing company—producing one million gallons of water a day from his Houston headquarters—and credits his time in the Navy to his success. In an interview with Forbes, Page says, “The Navy made me realize that life is a game that’s 90 percent mental. And they made me appreciate the small successes that come when you invest your time and hard work.”

From Air Force to Fortune: One Woman’s Flight to Success

Kathleen Hildredth, West Point graduate, U.S. Army veteran and success story pictured in office setting

Kathleen Hildredth, West Point graduate and U.S. Army veteran, has been penned as one of the most successful women in the world, with a backstory that is just as incredible as her accomplishments.

Having been raised by commercial airplane pilots, Hildredth has always had a close connection to aircraft. Upon graduation from West Point, Hildredth went on to serve in the Army’s aviation branch as an officer, helicopter pilot and maintenance test pilot, and traveled throughout various countries during her service.

When her time with the Army came to an end, Hildredth decided to channel her passion and knowledge for aircraft into her own business venture. In 2001, she founded M1 Support Services, an aviation maintenance company in Texas. The company mainly deals in maintaining fighter jets and almost any kind of government aircraft, its biggest clients being the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as NASA.

The inspiration to start the company came from Hildredth’s past experiences with contractors, believing she was better equipped to serve their needs. Hildredth currently serves as the owner, executive, and financial leader of the entire company, which is now made up of 6,500 employees worldwide. This makes Hildredth a part of the 10 percent of women that make up the aerospace defense industry’s executives.

As impressive as their resume sounds, their revenue clearly speaks for itself. M1 Support Services pulled in $680 million in revenue in 2018, putting Hildredth at an estimated $370 million in personal fortune. This revenue earned her 57th spot on Forbes2019 list of “America’s Most Successful Self-Made Women”, and she is the first veteran to ever debut on the list.

V-E Day Remembered: U-Haul Celebrates WWII Veteran Ralph C. Shivers Jr.

Ralph Shivers and L.S. Shoen pictured in older black and white photo

V-E Day on May 8 marks the 75th anniversary of the Allied victory in Europe. Veterans such as Ralph C. Shivers Jr. returned home to start a new life after the war, and in doing so planted the seeds of prosperity for U-Haul®, a product of the peace for which they fought.

U-Haul is also celebrating 75 years of service. WWII Navy veteran L.S. “Sam” Shoen and his wife, Anna Mary Carty Shoen, conceived U-Haul in June 1945 when they recognized a basic need while moving up the West Coast, having abandoned most of their belongings since one-way trailer rentals did not yet exist.

From that idea, an industry was born and a new level of mobility became attainable for every American family.

To commemorate both events, U-Haul is celebrating former Team Members and U-Haul neighborhood dealers who served in WWII, such as Portland native Ralph Shivers, (pictured left with Sam Shoen).

Man of Service

Shivers was born in January 1926. He attended West Linn High School, graduating in 1943. He and a friend spent the summer of 1943 hitchhiking around the country, hopping rides on a couple of freight trains in the process. That fall, he returned home to Portland and worked as a welder’s assistant. In January 1944, he enlisted in the Naval Reserve.

In October 1944, Shivers was assigned to the USS Craven (DD382), a Gridley-class destroyer, as a fire controlman. He boarded the Craven in Pearl Harbor while it was undergoing an overhaul. In January 1945, the Craven transitioned to the Atlantic Theater through the Panama Canal.

The Craven performed convoy duty from New York to France until the war in Europe ended that May. Afterward, the Craven ranged throughout the Mediterranean Sea on escort, training and transport duties until January 1946.

For his service, Shivers was awarded the Victory, American Theater, Asiatic-Pacific Theater and European Theater medals. He was honorably discharged in May 1946.

Shivers went on to enroll at Oregon State University and began working part time for U-Haul, doing repair work and hooking up trailers in Portland. He graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in geography and transportation.

U-Haul Career

In January 1951, Shivers began working full-time for U-Haul on an Oakland, Calif., rental lot. That August, he became one of only three U-Haul fieldmen, blanketing the entire U.S. for his route. Shivers and his bride of four months, Mary, embarked on a nine-month “honeymoon” servicing U-Haul neighborhood dealers across the country. Mary did her part by learning how to repair electrical wiring on trailers.

Over the next 20 years, Shivers served in a number of key capacities, including field director responsible for establishing and developing U-Haul companies in various parts of the country. He established the first U-Haul Traffic Department in Portland; served as U-Haul Company of Alabama president; U-Haul International vice president; U-Haul International president; and vice president of distribution services – the title he held upon leaving the Company in 1974.

The Shivers have been married for 68 years and live in Hood River. They have a son, Steve, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The Shoens started U-Haul upon Sam’s discharge with $4,000 of accumulated Navy pay and the courage formed by the cauldron of WWII. With the help of other veterans, the young couple forged their new enterprise from the freedom that victory produced.

Veteran Initiative

Today, U-Haul serves all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces, helping an estimated 11 million families move every year. Shivers is one of the many of veterans who laid the foundation for the present prosperity U-Haul enjoys.

U-Haul continues to aggressively recruit veterans and gives them preference in the hiring process, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s topUHaul logo 75 year anniversary veteran-friendly employers. U-Haul is also committed to honoring veterans and supporting veteran causes. This is accomplished through direct assistance to veteran groups, as well as participation and sponsorship of Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades, and Pearl Harbor tributes.

These 2020 tributes will peak triumphantly with the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum’s dedication of the renovated Ford Island Control Tower on Aug. 29. U-Haul Pacific Theater veterans’ bios and photos will be displayed in the tower lobby. The tower will offer a new elevator, gifted by U-Haul CEO Joe Shoen, providing public access to the observation deck where America’s lone WWII aviation battlefield can be revered and our heroes remembered.

U-Haul is one of a myriad of companies built by these incredible veterans, who are to be saluted and remembered during this 75th anniversary celebration. Thank you, Ralph.

Find more veteran tributes in the History and Culture section of

About U-Haul

Since 1945, U-Haul has been the No. 1 choice of do-it-yourself movers, with a network of 22,000 locations across all 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. U-Haul Truck Share 24/7 offers secure access to U-Haul trucks every hour of every day through the customer dispatch option on their smartphones and our proprietary Live Verify technology. Our customers’ patronage has enabled the U-Haul fleet to grow to approximately 167,000 trucks, 120,000 trailers and 43,000 towing devices. U-Haul offers nearly 697,000 rooms and 60.7 million square feet of self-storage space at owned and managed facilities throughout North America. U-Haul is the largest installer of permanent trailer hitches in the automotive aftermarket industry, and is the largest retailer of propane in the U.S.

For our COVID-19 information page, click on

Not Taking a Moment for Granted

Tim Klund pictured leaning on an outdoor railing smiling

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

My Journey from the Army Reserves to Starting My Dream Company

group of business people working together on an engineering project laid out on a table

By Crystal Xie

My name is Crystal Xie. I’m the president and founder of Crystallogy Engineering, a construction management and engineering design-build company. I enlisted in the Army Reserves when I was 17 years old, still a junior in high school.

Since then, I have done a tour of combat deployment in Iraq in the very beginning of OIF, completed three degrees while working full time, worked as an aerospace engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during Mars Science Laboratory build, and lead an R&D team at a major blue-chip company to develop patented technology, before finding my true calling in the form of starting and running my own company five years ago.

I have had more than a few detours and bumps in the road in my journey thus far; however, it is not immediately apparent that I have had the great fortune of standing on the shoulders of giants, organizations and mentors, without whom I would never be who I am today. So, it is my great honor and privilege to be able to give back to the veteran community and share some of my triumphs and struggles to help you to get to where you want to be a little faster.

I will start with what I consider the most important question before starting a business, or any career for that matter. We often are good at talking about what we do, in terms of communicating with potential clients and others in our lives. The question we negate to ask ourselves is, “why do we do what we do and how does it relate to others, to our family, clients and community at large?” I encourage you to take a moment to think about what motivates and invigorates you in your everyday life. Is it the opportunity do something you can do really well with skill and mastery? Is it the social aspect of working with others closely and build a network? Is it the ability to be close and flexible in your schedule so you could maximize your time with your family? For me, I love solving problems, helping others, and building a close-knit community that thrives over the years. So, it’s almost no surprise I became an engineer, got into consulting to help clients solve a variety of problems, and feel immensely blessed to be able to grow the company so we could help train the next generation of project managers and engineers.

How about you? Do you enjoy the technical aspects of delivering products/projects (working in the company)? Or do you enjoy solving systemic problems, building relationships and teams (working on the company)?

If entrepreneurship is your true calling as well, I’d like to share a few things that worked effectively in launching and growing my business. One of the barriers of starting your own business without the banners of a large organization is credibility. I’m a certified project management professional and a licensed professional engineer, and certifications not only help in drumming up business but also in guaranteeing quality in project delivery, which reduces client costs and improves our margin over time. As a matter of fact, investing in training and certification of our people works so well, now all of our project managers at Crystallogy are professional engineers and project management professionals today.

Another challenge start-up business owners often face is the burnout from the lack of a community of peers. It’s tremendously helpful and personally satisfying to join professional organizations in my field and small business owner training groups. Crystallogy Engineering does a lot of work in the alternative energy construction space; consequently, I joined the technical committee of NFPA 2, the Hydrogen Technologies Code, and served as the alternate chair for the 2020 edition, which is adopted to the California Fire Code.

I also recommend the V2V program to learn from other veteran business owners and receive coaching from Nelson Leadership. I am especially impressed with the

Crystal Xie
Certified Disabled Veteran-Owned Business (DVBE) and Small Business (SB) Crystal Xie, President and Founder of Crystallogy Engineering, with over 14 years of experience in market intelligence, business strategy, mechanical system design and project management.
generosity of fellow veteran business owners in selflessly sharing valuable business information and opportunities with me. The longer I’m in business the more I realize there are a lot of commonalities in business across industries.

As veterans, a lot of us are finishing our education later on in life, often with the pressures of supporting a family while working full time. You already know you could use the GI Bill for your undergrad, but have you considered saving your GI Bill eligibility for graduate school instead? Have you thought of going to a state school instead of private schools? I have been very blessed to have received grants and scholarships for my B.S in Aerospace engineering. For my master’s in mechanical engineering, since I was working in the area of structural engineering, I was once again fortunate to be sponsored by JPL. It is not until when I started my MBA program while working for UTC did I start struggling to pay a hefty business school tuition. Fortunately, a fellow veteran in my UCLA Anderson program told me that reservists who have served active duty deployments are also entitled to the 911 GI Bill, even when you didn’t pay into the program with your monthly reservist pay.

For those of you who are considering a career in STEM, I have enjoyed many aspects of engineering that I would like to share a few insights for you to consider if engineering the path for you as well. Early on, I knew that I had an aptitude for science and math, but I really did not know what engineering work would entail and whether I would be able to find life-long enjoyment of practicing hands-on. I was fortunate to land an engineering internship at JPL shortly after I came back from Iraq before the end of my junior year at UCLA. I had the pleasure of being mentored by senior engineers and experienced technicians, and it is through working hands-on in labs and machine shops that I discover the joy of designing, manufacturing, and testing mechanical systems I can visualize and touch! And it is the same joy that ultimately led me to build this company to design and build even bigger structures and systems!

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