Daymond John — Turning Heroes into CEOs

Daymond John speaking into microphone on stage

The Shark Tank’s Daymond John encourages veteran entrepreneurs to make waves in business.

By Lori Denman

Entrepreneur extraordinaire Daymond John has cast a pretty large net in the realm of business.

John, otherwise known as, “The People’s Shark,” is a busy man—leading his multi-million dollar FUBU clothing line and hosting the popular reality ABC hit, “Shark Tank,” that’s celebrating its 11th season.

But he never hesitates to take time to help a promising entrepreneur—particularly those who have served our country. “I’m working with veterans as much as I can,” he said.

John is in his third year of partnering with Bob Evans Farms to host an entrepreneurial contest called “Heroes to CEOs.” Finalists receive a free trip to New York City for a personalized, 45-minute session with John to help them perfect a pitch that could win them a $30,000 grant for their business.

John says the same traits that make veterans successful in combat—courage, teamwork, overcoming challenging obstacles, taking inventory of a situation—also apply in the boardroom. A veteran’s large network of supportive comrades is a further advantage, he added.

“I call it OPM, or other people’s manufacturing, mind power or marketing,” he said. “Meaning if you want to start up a business, make a list of friends and acquaintances who can assist in the mission. Soak up their knowledge and insight.”

Still, there’s a few personality traits characteristic of the military that may actually hinder a veteran entrepreneur, according to John in a recent interview for The Motley Fool.

Shark Tank panel seated together
Panel: (L-R) Lori Greiner, Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Kevin OLeary, and Daymond John of Tribeca Talks: Ten Years of Shark Tank poses for a portrait. MATT DOYLE/GETTY IMAGES

“Vets were brought up to think about everybody else and stand in the line of fire. They don’t always put their needs first.”

There’s been more than a few veterans who have heeded John’s advice. Last month, Jonathan Norton, founder and CEO of Peak Safety Systems, was voted the winner of the third annual “Heroes to CEOs” program. A former Army Ranger, Norton invented the RopeSafe Edge protection system—life-saving equipment for military, first responders, and rope access professionals.

Norton says his company was born out of personal experience. ““I witnessed a student nearly fall to his death while he was repelling because the edge protector that we were using failed,” he said in a recent interview on

“It was a scary moment and created a lot of fear, doubt and uncertainty. But it inspired me to find a solution. That was the impetus for developing the product.”

Although RopeSafe just launched, Norton has successfully sold to several areas throughout the U.S., including FDNY, NYPD, Dallas SWAT and more. Even a window washing company in Rochester, New York.

Daymond John books on display at book signing
Books on display during Daymond John book signing ” Rise and Grind: Outperform, Outwork, and Outhustle Your Way to a More Successful and Rewarding Life”. JOHNNY LOUIS/GETTY IMAGES

When asked about entrepreneurial qualities he acquired during his time in the military, Norton says, “In spite of the hardships or the bumps in the road, it’s really about commitment to the mission and knowing I am serving a bigger purpose.”

John says he was blown away with Norton’s creativity, innovation and solid business plan. “He really rose to the top as an exceptional leader who is ready to take his business to the next level.

With several successful ventures under his belt over the last 30 years, John says he’s often asked what advice he gives veterans and others who wish to start their own business.

“I would say don’t mortgage your house for 100K,” he joked recently on, citing his own personal experience as John did indeed get his start by mortgaging his mother’s house.

After that, John started his successful clothing line but considers the risky move very lucky, adding, “It turned out for all the better, but knowing what I know now, I was very close to losing the house and everything we had.”

Daymond John standing wearing a gray suit

His top 5 tips to veterans wanting to start a business as well as other entrepreneurs on Shark Tank:

  1. Set goals to know where you’re headed

By age 16, John had told himself he’d be a millionaire by age 30. But when he turned 22, he was broke and struggling to make a buck by buying and selling cars.

“I didn’t know how to properly execute goal-setting. It’s not just visualizing of a number or a certain age,” said John.

When the idea for FUBU came along, he decided to reshape the goal he set for himself. Instead of committing to making a million dollars by age 30, John instead made it his goal to outfit the hip-hop culture. Designing a clothing line became less about earning money and more about dedicating himself to a community — one that he thought would turn into future consumers.

“My goal became doing the best I can for the company I love,” John said.

  1. Homework — you still have to do it

After sneaking his way into a menswear conference in Las Vegas, John proudly showed off early prototypes of T-shirts emblazoned with the logo of his budding company, FUBU, an acronym that means “For Us, By Us.” He secured $300,000 worth of orders, and after his mother took out an equity line on their house in Queens, he took $100,000 to outfit a factory to get production going.

Just one problem: He hadn’t done any research on what it would cost to start a clothing line and get production going. In the process, he nearly lost his mom’s house and ended FUBU before it got off the ground.

Knowing what you need to launch a venture is something John stresses to the hopefuls who appear before him on Shark Tank. He has to see that an entrepreneur looking for funding has done their work to know what their market is and who their competitors are — and that they’ve used that knowledge to not only start driving sales but also improve on their track record.

  1. Adore what you do, and success will follow

A true entrepreneur must love what they’re doing—a seemingly trite lesson that John said is crucial for any successful entrepreneur. It’s passion for a project that will allow a person to push past failures and feeling burned out.

“Do what you love, and success will follow. Money may follow; but I can’t promise that it will,” he said. “But money’s more likely to follow when you’re doing something you love, because you’ll do it for 10 years or 20 years.”

  1. Remember, you — not just your business — are a brand

These days it’s easy to manufacture a personality using social media. But building a business is as much about how you carry yourself as it is about meeting quarterly sales figures or developing new products.

“Be very honest with yourself, especially today with social media. At any given time, your employees can see you,” John said. “So you have to know what the DNA of the brand is. It only takes your employees two weeks to treat your customers the same way they’re being treated.”

  1. Keep swimming, no matter what

John’s final point makes use of what he calls the power of positive thinking. Even as FUBU grew into a bigger company, he maintained a “healthy paranoia” about running a clothing company.

“I always said fashion brands are hot for five years and then they’re gone,” he said.

But keeping a persevering attitude spurred him to come up with solutions to problems instead of giving up. As John wrote in his book, The Power of Broke: “You have to be relentless, nimble, moving ever forward. No matter what.”

Testing My Mettle to Earn My Medal: A Ragnar Trail Experience

Heath Hansen and buddy kneeling on ground holding an Airborne flag

By Heath Hansen

November 1st, 2017, I get a call from my buddy – my buddy rarely calls me; when we communicate, it’s through text messages. “What’s up, bro?” I asked. “Hey, my Ragnar teammate just got called for duty, he can’t make the race. We need a runner.” I didn’t know what a Ragnar Race was, but the name sounded interesting and I accepted the invitation. “Oh yeah, one more thing, every person on the team was in the Marine Corps. You and me are the only Army vets.” “Great.” I sarcastically replied.

I decided to read up on the Ragnar Race. The info revealed I had nine days to train for a race that required roughly 14 miles of running on my behalf. The race was located at the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, a 25,000 acre preserve in the middle of Southern California mountains, and would occur over the course of two days. The terrain would be treacherous – up and down mountains, patches of thick vegetation and rocky paths. On top of this, I wasn’t a runner – in fact, I hated running, with a passion. Luckily I did CrossFit workouts regularly and had a pretty clean diet. At least I wasn’t starting from rock bottom.

The next day I decided to go for a four mile run near my house in south San Diego. It sucked, but I finished without stopping and maintained a pace of about 8 minutes per mile. The next two days I was extremely sore, but managed to do a few more short runs leading up to the 10th of November.

On race day, we arrived at the venue and I realized the scale of a Ragnar Race. There were over a thousand people present across the area. We arrived at the campsite and made our way over to the team tent. Between the 8 of us, there was a broad age (and fitness) range. I knew I would perform above average, but still wanted to crush this competition. Every single one of them had Marine Corps tattoos. Being a former paratrooper, I knew I had to prove myself. They didn’t care whether I had time to train or not, this was still about inter-service rivalry and finding out who was the best. I extended my arm and shook each of their hands. “Hey, you know what ARMY stands for,” one of them asked? “Aren’t Really Marines Yet,” the dumbass laughed. “Do you know what USMC stands for,” I asked him. He looked at me quizzically. Pointing at him, I said, “U Suck My Cock,” and smiled. I wasn’t going to be the weakest link among a bunch of crayon eating Jar-Heads; the race had begun.

We would all be running a total of three legs during the competition, and, collectively, covering about 114 miles of trail. In between legs, we would have about eight hours of downtime to hangout in the team area, rest, eat and hydrate.

My first leg was starting – 8 miles. The hill I was climbing seemed to never want to end. I knew ascending for this long at a running pace would burn up my lungs quickly, so I took my time. It kept going, and going, and going. After what seemed like an eternity, I made it to the top and got back on a faster, longer stride. During my descent, I gazed off onto the horizon, the mountains looked incredible. The scenery made this one of the most gorgeous runs I had ever been on. As I progressed further, the sharp pain in the arches of my feet made it apparent that they needed some attention. I made my way down the mountain and found the finish line. Once there, I handed off the electronic tracker (to log our progress) to the next runner. He seemed surprised by how soon I had made it back. There were about eight hours left before my next section of the trail would begin, so I made my way to the first-aid tent to get checked out.

Heath Hansen running through camp with large backpack on
Heath Hansen during Ragner Race

I arrived at the tent and waited behind about half a dozen other competitors who also needed some work. Once they got to me, the paramedics were happy to help me out with the blisters that had formed on both of my feet. After disinfecting the sores, they patched me up quickly with moleskins and I was back on my way again, heading towards the campsite.

Once at the encampment, my buddy and I decided to grab some dinner from one of the Ragnar sponsors. From pizza, to potatoes, to pasta, we had a large selection to choose from; I decided to load up on carbs with pasta and meatballs. The meal was delicious and gave me plenty of energy for the rest of the race.

My next leg started at about 9 PM and was roughly three miles. Compared to the eight miles I had finished a few hours earlier, this felt like a walk in the park. It was nighttime, so my body temperature remained cool the entire time and I kept a fast pace throughout. I made it back to the finish line and headed to the team campsite for some rest. My next leg would start at around 6 AM. I sat under the team tent and talked to a couple of the guys who were preparing for their next part of the run. In between taking swigs of water and snacking on trail mix, I got to know a few of them pretty well. After a while, I walked over to my camping tent, got into the fart sack , and caught up on some sleep.

“Hey, Heath, get up, it’s almost time for your final leg,” my buddy uttered. I could barely move. Every muscle in my body was sore, my feet were swollen, and I had a headache. I didn’t want to do the last leg – just over three miles. But I had to prove myself and I knew all of my teammates were counting on me. “Let’s go, Army. Pain is weakness leaving the body,” one of the Marine veterans jabbed. Slowly, I slipped my shoes on and made my way to the fire (at Ragnar Village) near the starting line. Near the flames, I stretched and got myself limbered up for the last bit of this race. It was going to hurt, but I was going to do it. I was going to finish.

Heath Hansen
Heath Hansen

My teammate handed me the sensor as he finished his leg and I was off. The blisters on my feet ached and made every step excruciating. It reminded me of my time as an infantryman in Afghanistan, making my way up and down the mountains, regardless of how much it hurt. On deployment, I focused on the next step, every step, and just kept going. With this mindset, I maintained my pace for this final leg and tried to concentrate on the goal instead of the pain. Eventually, I could see the tents and the fire again. I was almost there. I made my way closer and closer to the finish line. I could see my team – all of them. They had made their way to the finish line to cheer me on. I had finished. It was over. I was done.

We walked back to the tent. It was now November 11th, 2017 – Veterans Day. We were all former servicemen and decided to celebrate the holiday, and the race, with a beer. There was no longer a sense of rivalry, we were just friends trading war stories about difficult spots on the trails we had just conquered. I was glad I had come out and helped these guys. The team, Los Chavos Del Ocho, made it all worth it. When I got home that night, knowing that I had not stopped a single time on the trail and kept a consistently fast pace, I slept better than I had in months.

A few weeks later, my buddy told me the final results of the race had been posted. Out of dozens and dozens of other competitors, our team had finished third overall in our division. He handed me the medals we had won as a unit – our effort had paid off, and my Ragnar experience was complete.

Heath Hansen was an airborne infantryman with the 82nd Airborne Division and is a former police officer. After serving combat tours in both Afghanistan and Iraq he left the Army and received his B.S. in Business Financial Services at San Diego State University. He now resides in San Diego and travels extensively in Europe.

Mission Roll Call Launches Social Media Campaign for Military Veterans to Connect During COVID-19 Crisis

woman veteran searching online with her laptop on table

Crowd-sourced video series will empower veterans to maintain supportive communities as social distancing practices continue

Mission Roll Call recently announced the launch of “Be A Leader,” a new crowd-sourced social media video series that will empower veterans, their families and caregivers to virtually connect with each other and share their experiences during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Content shared using the #MRCBeALeader hashtag on social media will highlight stories and advice from veterans to encourage personal growth, optimistic communities and responsible behavior in the months to come.

“With a wealth of experience handling critical and stressful situations in a calm, positive manner, military veterans are ready to lead by example in this time of uncertainty,” said Garrett Cathcart, executive director of Mission Roll Call. “This campaign will give all veterans an opportunity to share how they are checking in on their buddies, entertaining their families, and staying active so others will be inspired to do the same as the nation continues to practice social distancing.”

In addition to videos created and shared by followers of Mission Roll Call’s social media channels, the series will feature insights and words of encouragement from individuals such as Medal of Honor recipients Sal Giunta and Clint Romesha, as well as retired NFL player and U.S. Army veteran Nate Boyer.

The “Be A Leader” campaign is an extension of Mission Roll Call’s goal to provide veterans with a platform where they can make their voices heard on the key issues impacting their lives. Mission Roll Call is a program of national nonprofit America’s Warrior Partnership that has connected with more than 535,000 veterans, family members, caregivers and advocates since launching in 2019.

Veterans and community members who wish to participate can post content and follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by using the #MRCBeALeader hashtag and tagging @MissionRollCall.

About Mission Roll Call

Mission Roll Call is the first-ever movement of its kind — one dedicated to giving every veteran a voice in advocating for the issues that are important to them. The program created a digital community where veterans, their families and caregivers can make their voices heard. Veterans can share their stories through comments on our social media pages and respond to online polls about the most urgent issues facing veteran communities. These messages, views and insights are delivered directly to policymakers and civic leaders with the goal of enacting lasting, positive change.

For more information, visit Mission Roll Call is a program of America’s Warrior Partnership. America’s Warrior Partnership is a nationally recognized nonprofit with a Platinum Guidestar Seal of Transparency.

Source: America’s Warrior Partnership

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!

10 Most Affordable Cities in America for Veterans

Close up of male hand packing cardboard box with spouse in the background

Numerous cities in America offer a high quality of life, but sometimes those cities are not always the most affordable for veterans looking to utilize their VA home loan.

Finding a balance between affordability and economic wellness is important whether you’re a young professional fresh out of college, or a service member looking to relocate.

Veteran’s United has compiled a short list of affordable places for veterans to consider when relocating to help avoid breaking the bank. Let’s take a closer look at the areas that topped the list.



10 Most Affordable Cities in America for Veterans

Laredo Texas

#1 – Laredo, TX

Laredo is a small Spanish villa that is located in South Texas. Laredo managed to secure the top spot on the list this year. Many people are drawn to the city because of its rich culture and affordable cost of living.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 90.7
  • Veteran Population – 5,080
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.40%
  • Median Annual Salary – $37,890
Corpus Christi

#2 – Corpus Christi, TX

Various residents are able to stretch their dollar a bit further living here due to the low cost of living. Corpus Christi is a city on the Gulf of Mexico that has tons of beaches and other attractions to enjoy.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 94.3
  • Veteran Population – 25,153
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.60%
  • Median Annual Salary – $43,325

#3 – Lubbock, TX

Lubbock is a city in West Texas that is known for is music, and its culture rich museums. Lubbock is also home to Texas Tech University among other colleges in the area.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 93.7
  • Veteran Population – 12,018
  • Unemployment Rate – 4.80%
  • Median Annual Salary – $36,653
El Paso

#4 – El Paso, TX

El Paso is a city with a lot to offer. Some of those things include hiking in some of the local parks, enjoying some music at the Don Haskins Center, or enjoying a day at the El Paso Zoo.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 87.4
  • Veteran Population – 44,580
  • Unemployment Rate – 6.90%
  • Median Annual Salary – $39,379
San Antonio

#5 – San Antonio, TX

San Antonio is a vibrant city in South Texas that offers a unique sightseeing, shopping, outdoor activities, and historic sites to visit. Luckily for those looking to call San Antonio home, it also a really affordable place to live.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 88.7
  • Veteran Population – 107,359
  • Unemployment Rate – 6.40%
  • Median Annual Salary – $40,978
Oklahoma City

#6 – Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma City is the capital of the state of Oklahoma and offers a great cuisine, cultural attractions, and outdoor activities to enjoy.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 85.4
  • Veteran Population – 42,000
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.20%
  • Median Annual Salary – $40,920

#7 – Arlington/Fort Worth TX

Arlington is another great affordable city to consider when looking for places to live. There are amusement parks, and you can even take a tour of the Global Life Park, which is home of the Texas Rangers.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 108.90
  • Veteran Population – 19,153
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.50%
  • Median Annual Salary – $43,264

Forth Worth is an affordable city for those who may be looking to settle down in a place with rodeos, sports and much more.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 95.3
  • Veteran Population – 42,375
  • Unemployment Rate – 5.80%
  • Median Annual Salary – $43,877

(Note: These two areas were combined due to their close proximity.)


#8 – Columbus, OH

Columbus is that capital of the state Ohio and offers great coffee, local music and dining.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 92.0
  • Veteran Population – 41,428
  • Unemployment Rate – 6.30%
  • Median Annual Salary – $35,384

#9 – Tulsa, OK

Tulsa is the second largest city in Oklahoma. Tulsa offers a a large range of activities such as visiting that Tulsa zoo, the Philbrook Museum of Art and many other attractions.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 86.0
  • Veteran Population – 24,324
  • Unemployment Rate – 6.70%
  • Median Annual Salary – $36,050

#10 – Jacksonville, FL

Jacksonville is typically known for it’s sandy beached and great fishing, but it also serves as a great place to call home.

  • Cost of Living Index (based of U.S. Average of 100) – 91.3
  • Veteran Population – 79,192
  • Unemployment Rate – 7.60%
  • Median Annual Salary – $39,775

Factors that Affect Affordability

To determine the top affordable cities in America for veterans, Veterans United analysts collected data from the 100 most populated cities in the United States and compared the following dimensions (Economic Wellness, and Affordability).

We evaluated the strength of each city across those dimensions using 4 relevant variables. Each city was then scored and ranked in each of the 4 variables by multiplying the city’s rank by that variable’s weight. The final rankings were determined by the city’s total score, with the lowest score representing the best city for Veterans to live.

Here’s a quick run-down of each metric:

  • 2018 – 2019 Q3 Cost of Living Index (Double Weight)
  • Veteran Unemployment Rate (Full Weight)
  • 5 Year Rate of Job Growth (2013 – 2018) (Half Weight)
  • Median Veteran Income (Double Weight)

Final Thoughts

The places on this list are not only affordable, but they also offer a rich culture and history with tons of attractions to enjoy. Use our affordability calculator to estimate your loan pre-approval amount based on your income and expenses.


Data was collected from the US Census Bureau – American Community Survey, Council for Community and Economic Research, US Census Bureau – American Community Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Employment Statistics (CES-SA), and Veterans United Home Loans.


Rogue Warfare:The Hunt movie promo poster with images of the cast

When the leader of an elite team of soldiers is captured by terrorists, it is up to the team to find and rescue him before it is too late..

In theaters and On Demand digital April 3, 2020.

Will Yun Lee, Jermaine Love, Rory Markham, Bertrand-Xavier Corbi, Katie Keene, Fernando Chien, Gina Decesare, Michael Blalock Essam Ferris, with Chris Mulkey and Stephen Lang

Directed By
Mike Gunther

Written By
Andrew Emilio DeCesare






Tips on how to contract with the government

Yolanda Clarke MBA, PMP, CEO/founder of Powder River Industries

By Yolanda Clarke

Doing business with the government is still business. Everything any other start-up has to do, you will have to do as well. You’ll have additional requirements to satisfy, regardless of whether you are a woman, minority, veteran or otherwise.

The benefit of being a veteran is some preference to compete for contracts with the Veterans Administration and a small percentage of work other agencies may set aside for veteran-only competition.


What Unique Requirements Do You Need Complete as A Veteran for That Advantage?
Complete the steps at U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Small Business Utilization Vendor Information Page Apply for verification as a veteran owned or service-disabled veteran-owned business. Call (866)584-2344 or (202)303-3260 or email VIP@VA.GOV if you have questions. There is no cost to be verified.

What is the value of doing this for you and your success as a veteran competing in government contracting?
You must complete this verification to compete for veteran set-aside contracts with the Veterans Administration. In other government agencies, some contracts are set aside to only be competed by service-disabled or veteran-owned businesses. If you have not been third party verified, your competition could protest a contract award to your company causing delays in operations and contract funding (read “your business cash flow”). Also, if all things are equal between your proposal and another company’s, being third-party verified makes the contracting officers’ jobs easier. Who would you choose?

Resources to Help You Get Started
One of the best places to get started in government contracting is your nearest Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). They will point you in the right direction on the basics for government contracting. Another great resource is your local Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). One of my other favorite resources is a volunteer organization called Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). All of these organizations provide free or low-cost support to small businesses. The exact types of offices near you may vary from region to region, but these will get you started as you gain confidence and traction to ask more questions leading to more valuable resources.

You may find that the support you can receive at each office varies. That’s okay. You’re still learning something. If you find you know more than the counselor assigned to you—fantastic! You’re ahead of where you need to be. If you find yourself in friction with someone at the office, it’s a good opportunity to pause and ask yourself, “why?” Frequently, the friction comes from not hearing what you want to, but that’s entrepreneur life. In business, obstacles and competition always appear to take you off your path. Your job as a leader is to identify those and find ways to successfully navigate your business around them. This starts first in managing yourself and figuring out what you will do with all the knowledge you gain from these great resources.

Finally, I would encourage you to find a non-equity requiring startup incubator to join. Entrepreneur life is lonely. As a service member, you rarely did anything on your own and accomplished impossible things working on teams. Your entrepreneur journey can be the same! You can find incubators and accelerators on university campuses and by searching local business resources. Many will be regional, however, there are a few national programs emerging, such as Patriot Boot Camp powered by Techstars and Bunker Labs.

Being a veteran will only get you so far. The resources and motivation you will get from working with other motivated entrepreneurs will help you through the hard times. Remember, there’s always another card in the deck. Being a part of your community can help you find your next move.

About the Author
Yolanda Clarke (pictured above) is the founder/CEO of Powder River Industries. She has served both in active duty and reserves for 24 years, most recently in the U.S. Army Reserves. Powder River Industries provides cyber and data science services to various U.S. government agencies. Her firm has received the following awards: Certificate of Special Congressional recognition from James Panetta, Award of Excellence from Monterey County Business Council, Monterey County Board of Supervisors Certificate of Recognition, California Legislative Assembly Certificate of Recognition for 2017 Small Business of the Year Honoree by the Monterey County Business Council, State of California Senate Certificate of Recognition for being honored as a recipient of the Monterey County Business Council Small Business of the Year.

Best and Worst States for Hiring Veterans

Soldier with tablet standing in front of a blurry map

During the Great Recession, the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan Vets hovered between 13%-15%. Thankfully, that number as of December 2019 decreased to 2.8%. today released a study on the Best and Worst States for Hiring Veterans using the most recent data from state and federal governments, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau and the Veterans Affairs Administration.

The rankings were determined by analyzing government hiring practices, unemployment rates, median income, veteran business ownership and job training investment per veteran in every state.

Here are key national findings from the study:

  • The 10 best states for hiring veterans include: New Jersey, Alaska, Virginia, California, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Dakota, Georgia, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
  • The 10 worst states for hiring veterans: Ohio, Michigan, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Wyoming, West Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
  • Highest average salary is in Virginia ($56,140) and the lowest in Arkansas ($33,584).
  • Only six states saw vet unemployment increase in the last five years: North Dakota, Ohio, Idaho, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Vermont
  • Four states put vets on the front of the line for civil service jobs: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
  • Veteran-owned businesses are most prominent in Oklahoma and South Carolina

Read the complete breakdown of the Best and Worst States for Hiring Veterans here.

Navy Veteran Builds Successful Second Career as a Franchise Business Owner

Ronald Finch veteran business owner

By Rhonda Sanderson

Ron Finch doesn’t need Veterans Day to remind him he’s in select company. A career Naval officer who served 22 years, Finch is a franchise owner with Enviro-Master Services, North America’s leading health and safety-focused commercial cleaning service that has doubled in size since 2012. A favorite among veterans, Enviro-Master offers a 25 percent discount to former military members. Conversely, veterans are a favorite among franchisors, and with good reason.

“I would tell any veteran to keep their nose to the grindstone, because it’s going to be a lot of work. However, the reward is great; the ability to make a difference in others’ lives, to make a difference in the community where you live and financial independence and autonomy for yourself.” Finch, a Mobile resident who purchased an existing Enviro-Master franchise in July 2018, serves commercial businesses throughout the Florida Panhandle and the Gulf Coast regions of Alabama and Mississippi.

Enviro-Master is focused on making a difference in the health of communities around the world with 78 franchise locations currently servicing thousands of retail and restaurant locations weekly. Enviro-Master provides a comprehensive disease prevention, odor control and sterilization program for commercial businesses. In 2018 Enviro-Master International Franchise was ranked for the fifth year in a row by Inc. 5000 as one of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies, and in 2019 for the seventh year in a row by Entrepreneur Franchise 500.

Having spent more than two decades as a Naval Aviator, Finch said he was fortunate to hold many leadership positions in his former career. Among them, returning from his last deployment, Finch became the Maintenance Officer of a failing maintenance department at his squadron, responsible for 11 helicopters and approximately 200 personnel.

“I had to work to instill a culture of excellence and integrity, and that’s a philosophy I carried with me when I bought my existing franchise,” Finch said of Enviro-Master, which provides unique processes and products that disinfect and sterilize surfaces that serve as breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses, such as the flu, Hepatitis, Norovirus and MRSA. Enviro-Master’s commercial restroom hygiene service, which is applied with EPA-registered, non-toxic products, ensures 99.99 percent of germs are killed. “Our brand had low recognition in my territory,” said Finch, whose majority of customers are restaurants and convenience stores. “It is very exciting to be out on the sales road telling businesses what we do. I’m adding customers because most thought they only had one or two big-name, high-priced choices until we met.”

After retiring from the Navy, Finch considered several options, but they involved relocating, something Finch wanted to avoid for his family. A franchise coach introduced him to Enviro-Master, a company that is a recognized leader in the $61 billion commercial cleaning industry, which is expected to grow by an additional two percent in 2019 alone, according to experts.

Finch offers these three lessons he learned in the military that he translated to his new business:

  • Integrity is paramount. In the military, shortcutting a procedure can result in loss of life. In this business, doing things the right way every time keeps the customers happy and aids in retention.
  • These next two fall under leadership. Every military leader knows leading by example is vital to creating a high-performing culture. With my business, I have to hold myself to the highest standard if I am to demand excellence from my team and expect them to execute.
  • Also, under the broader leadership category is taking care of your people. Those who are working hard have to know their boss (leader) cares for them. If the boss is setting the example and caring for the employees, they feel valued and respected from the top and are much more willing to perform at a high level. Overall, these lessons result in accomplishing the mission of customer retention, business growth, and gaining more business from customer base (Retain, Grow, Gain).

Currently targeting growth in major markets throughout North America, Enviro-Master’s continued growth is fueled by five basic fundamentals: 1) Large, identifiable markets; 2) Lack of competition; 3) Recession resistance; 4) Recurring revenue model; and 5) Service that can’t be displaced by technology. “I considered a few different franchises at first, but Enviro-Master was my favorite choice based on their business model,” Finch said. “After my discovery weekend with Enviro-Master leadership and staff, I knew it was the right choice.”

Rhonda Sanderson is founder and president of Sanderson PR, a Chicago-based marketing and public relations firm specializing in franchising since 1986.

Photo Credit: John Amato

Milo Ventimiglia Brings the Impact of War Home

Milo V. Featured-Shaking hands-USVM

By Sara Salam

Understanding the effect war can have on an individual and their family is something Milo Ventimiglia knows intimately. His dad, Peter Ventimiglia, served two tours of duty as a soldier in Vietnam.

Ventimiglia has friends who served more recently, and he almost went into the Navy himself at age 18. This military connection has retained its significance in his life, though he ultimately has pursued a different path.

This path includes a career in the world of Hollywood, where Ventimiglia has earned fan acclaim for roles such as Jess Mariano in Gilmore Girls, Peter Petrelli in Heroes, and most recently, Jack Person in This Is Us. He’s even spent time behind the camera in a director capacity.

Now in its fourth season, This Is Us is an NBC series chronicling the lives and families of two parents, and their three children in several different time frames. Ventimiglia’s character, Jack Pearson, is the protagonist and late husband of Rebecca; the couple are the parents around which the main storyline centers. Jack is also a Vietnam veteran.

Inspired by his father’s service, Ventimiglia weaves sentiments conveyed to him by his father into Jack’s character.

“It was very easy to reflect on stories I’d heard from my father and then kind of tie things together,” he said. “It very much informed who Jack became – coming from combat, coming from war, looking out for his brother and really looking after the guys that he served with.”

Ventimiglia himself is active in expressing and garnering support for military service members.

Last year, Ventimiglia spent time with military leaders and Defense Department personnel at the Pentagon, with the goal of developing new ways to strengthen the civilian-military connection.

Several months ago, Ventimiglia took part in the 21-push-up challenge, in which 21 push-ups are executed to bring awareness for veteran suicides. He is actively involved with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization (IAVA), which supports veterans who need help when they return home from war.

He has performed in USO shows for deployed troops and been visiting military bases for about a decade.

“We did 10 shows over six days, covering 17,000 miles, 18 flights, five countries and eight time zones,” the actor said of a recent USO tour. “It was the first tour that I’ve been on where we were actually putting on a show.”

When it was his turn to perform, he would ask a service member to join him onstage to act out a scene from This Is Us.

Milo Ventiglia and cast of This is Us
This Is Us: (L-R) Ron Cephas Jones, Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Chris Sullivan, Siddhartha Khosla, Justin Hartley, Mandy Moore, Susan Kelechi Watson, Michael Angarano, and Milo Ventimiglia attend NBC’s This Is Us attend event in Hollywood. PHOTO BY RACHEL LUNA/GETTY IMAGES

Themes of War

Season 3, for example, delves deeply into how Jack’s time in Vietnam as a solider shaped him.

Season 4, in contrast, focuses on more of Jack and Rebecca’s story before they became parents. However, the themes of Vietnam are present in their love story.

“The Vietnam stuff informs the new love, let’s just say, because it’s fresh in Jack’s mind, it’s fresh in Jack’s heart,” Ventimiglia told The Hollywood Reporter. “He is someone who’s just home from war, but yet he wants to move forward in his life, he wants to embrace this feeling of home he’s getting from this woman…It’s a bit relieving to be away from the war moments and play new love, but at the same time it’s heartbreaking, too, because we know how that story ends. Jack dies in his 50s. So, the whole is basically just one big heartbreak.”

Preparing for Combat

As part of his preparation for the Vietnam-specific scenes, Ventimiglia participated in a boot camp that taught the basic operating procedure of a solider and a solider of the Vietnam era. But he notes that the process and protocols are but a fraction of the required research to fully embody Jack’s character.

“Emotionally understanding what was going on at that time in the world, but in particular in the U.S.—young men being drafted and really how the draft was going to drastically change someone’s life and put them on a course that a lot of guys just couldn’t recover from—that was something that was as much preparation as learning how to operate an M16 rifle, protocol in military, and battle scenes.”

Ventimiglia also leveraged Tim O’Brien’s personal account of the war to inform his character. O’Brien is the author of The Things They Carried, a collection of linked short stories about a platoon of American soldiers fighting on the ground in the Vietnam War. This work is based on his own experiences as a soldier in the 23rd Infantry Division.

While Ventimiglia synthesizes the soldierly aspects of battle from primary sources, like his dad and O’Brien, he makes sure to parlay the sentimental undertones that shape who Jack is.

“There’s always an emotional touchstone that I have to be aware of within the technical aspect of playing war,” Ventimiglia said. “Because of who Jack is and what he’s going through, I can’t just dive him into ‘super-militaristic guy with the golden heart’; he’s the guy with the conscience. But in this case, the guy with the golden heart is attached to a rifle.”

Most of the Vietnam narrative was shot at Lake Piru in California, but production also took place actually in Vietnam.

Milo Ventiglia at premiere
Milo Ventimiglia attends “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” New York Premiere in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/WireImage)

“For me, I was very aware,” Ventimiglia said of shooting in Vietnam, “and maybe a little self-conscious of wearing an American uniform over there.”

The actor pointed to a particularly striking moment during a break from shooting near two lotus fields. Wearing the full battle dress uniform—complete with a rifle slung on his shoulder—Ventimiglia was standing in place when an older man on a bicycle came upon him.

“He kind of looked at me, looked at me again and said something to himself and kept riding,” Ventimiglia said. “And Dustin Nguyen, who was my costar who played Bao, he starts laughing … I guess the guy [said], ‘An American soldier, what the hell is he doing here again?’”

A Personal Battle

Ventimiglia’s character doesn’t like to talk about his experiences in war, because he doesn’t want anyone to bear the burden of knowing.

“[Jack] doesn’t want anybody to have to shoulder that or be concerned for him, because Jack and who he is and being a man of that era, I think he bottles it all up and he shoulders it. He gets through it for himself. He doesn’t want anybody else to have to help him deal with it. He just will keep it concealed forever, which ultimately he does.”

Ventimiglia understands this personal paradox, and does his best to convey how these emotions can play out amongst family and friends. He sees it in his dad.

“My dad is such a great man,” he told PEOPLE’s Jess Cagle. “I know even though he presented himself as put-together, I know that war impacted him and affected him; I would start to pull those feeling I saw from my own father into Jack.”

Organizations like America’s Warrior Partnership are committed to empowering communities to address issues like veteran mental health. It fills the gaps that exist between current veteran service organizations by helping nonprofits connect with the veterans, military members and families in need: bolstering their efficacy and improving their results.

For example, Community Integration is an America’s Warrior service model that emphasizes holistic support inclusive of mental health, ensuring veterans are empowered to achieve a better quality of life.

“He may be past physical war, but it doesn’t mean he’s not in private war—personal war,” Ventimiglia said of Jack in an Entertainment Weekly (EW) interview. “Those fractures and cracks that you just never recover from. We’re going to see him go through that experience post-war, really trying to reconnect and restart. What is life after Vietnam?”

Actor Milo Ventimiglia laughs with Air Force Lt. Col. Elizabeth H. Scott during a visit to the Pentagon
Actor Milo Ventimiglia laughs with Air Force Lt. Col. Elizabeth H. Scott during a visit to the Pentagon.

Directorial Debut

Ventimiglia, who was recently nominated for his third consecutive Lead Actor Emmy, has expanded his role with This Is Us to include director. His directorial debut, episode five of season four, “Storybook Love,” follows his own character and his pregnant wife as they host their first family get-together in their new house. The episode also follows a still-grieving Rebecca a year after Jack’s death hosting a dinner after Kevin – her son –shared his marital news.

Ventimiglia leveraged his role as the actor embodying Jack as well as Jack’s own proximity to the characters. He says this gave him a depth of understanding and appreciation for their roles in the narrative.

“I watch the show from almost a studious place where I’m focused on the making of it, the look of it and the feel of it. Aside from acting on the show, I’m a fan.”

Because of the anachronistic approach the show takes to storytelling, it’s crucial the stories and timelines are consistent throughout the narrative.

“I love the working backwards of this show,” Ventimiglia told The Hollywood Reporter. “We know that Jack lost his life in a fire. How are we going to get there? It’s informing where we’re going to be going.”

Announcing the new home for Sky Ball!

Sky Ball announcement promo poster

Arlington, Texas —  The  Airpower Foundation  is proud to announce the new home for the upcoming  Sky Ball XVIII ; at the brand-new, state-of-the-art,  Texas Rangers Globe Life Field  in Arlington Texas. On the weekend of August 21 st  and 22 nd  2020, the largest and most impactful civilian military support event in the nation joins the Major Leagues.

“We are ecstatic to welcome the Airpower Foundation and their world-famous Sky Ball event to Globe Life Field. The work that the Airpower Foundation does for our military is truly extraordinary and we are honored to be their host for 2020 and beyond.” Said  Sean DeckerEVP, Sports and Entertainment, Texas Rangers Baseball Club.

Since its inception as the premier fundraising event for the Airpower Foundation, an all-volunteer organization, Sky Ball has raised over $20 million. Thanks to generous sponsors, Sky Ball has grown from a single evening fundraising dinner to a weekend of tributes honoring our nation’s military and their families. Activities over the weekend’s festivities include educational outreach programs to local schools, a Friday evening concert dedicated to our military and families, a portrait presentation-luncheon honoring a fallen military hero, all of which culminates with the Sky Ball Saturday evening Gala.

“The Airpower Foundation has displayed an unwavering commitment when it comes to supporting our military veterans across this great country,” said  Jeff Williams ,   Mayor of   Arlington . “The foundation’s legacy of recognizing their sacrifices, and taking care of military families, is an inspiration to all Americans. We’re incredibly honored to welcome the prestigious Sky Ball to Arlington, the home of the future National Medal of Honor Museum, and we’re grateful for the instrumental leadership of Airpower Chairman Sid Eppes for helping us showcase why The American Dream City has a patriotic spirit that’s second to none.”

“We couldn’t be more excited with this opportunity to host our 18 th  annual event at the brand-new ballpark with the Texas Rangers.” Said  Sid EppesChairman of the Airpower Foundation . “This extraordinary new venue will allow us to raise more funds than ever before, making an even larger impact changing the lives of our nation’s military, veterans, wounded, their families, and the families of our fallen military heroes.”

Over the past twenty years, Airpower Foundation has grown to fund more than 72 programs across the country annually, ensuring the funds raised directly impact and support those who need it the most.

For more information on individual and sponsorship opportunities, please visit

Airpower Foundation

The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit with its roots dating back to 1958, when Air Force General Curtis LeMay and businessman/philanthropist Frank Kent created the Fort Worth Airpower Council dedicated to supporting the military community at Carswell Air Force Base.

The mission of the Airpower Foundation has grown since its formation in 1999 and is now a nationwide, all-volunteer program dedicated to supporting active duty, reserve and National Guard families. Airpower also supports projects to assist wounded service members, children of our fallen military, veterans of previous wars and educational projects to make sure the next generation understands the honor and sacrifice of wearing the cloth of this country. Thanks to our generous sponsors and supporters, the Airpower Foundation currently funds over 72 grants annually nationwide.

The Airpower Foundation board of directors is a diverse group of professionals who volunteer their time and are dedicated to the proposition that freedom is not free. It is their noble mission to assist deployed military families, wounded service members, and veterans of past wars. They spend countless hours visiting military installations and families, assessing needs and grant requests. They are instrumental in providing leadership to organize and execute numerous projects every year in support of military families.

Sky Ball

Sky Ball is the premier fundraising event for the Airpower Foundation and has raised over $20 million since its inception thanks to our generous sponsors. Sky Ball has grown from a single evening fundraising dinner, to a weekend of events honoring our nation’s military and their families. Events over the weekend include educational outreach programs to local area schools, a concert for military and families Friday evening, a portrait presentation luncheon honoring a fallen military hero, which all culminates with the Sky Ball Gala Saturday evening.

Providing Business, DVBE. Employment & Educational Opportunities For Veterans