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Despite the uncertainty that comes with any major career move, thousands of Veterans make the shift from soldier to civilian every single year. Why? One reason is the civilian sector is brimming with entrepreneurial opportunities that are enticing to Veterans. In fact, Vets are 45 percent more likely to start their own business than their civilian peers, leading to a massive network of Vetpreneurs.

If you’re a Veteran looking for encouragement, here are 15 Veterans we admire and what they’re doing post-separation.

1. Evan Hafer, Black Rifle Coffee Company
An Army Green Beret turned coffee guru, Evan Hafer opened Black Rifle Coffee Company in December 2014 as a combination of his two passions: firearms and coffee. Between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Hafer submerged himself in coffee research and roasting practice with the dream of one day opening his own coffee business. When he finally made the switch to civilian in 2015, all his efforts went to making his dream a reality. Five years later and Hafer’s once modest coffee shop now grosses $30 million a year. BRCC not only gives thousands of dollars annually to Veteran nonprofits, like Raider Project and Thin Blue Line, but also employs Vets at all levels of his business. Check out this video on how BRCC changed the life of fellow Veteran Mohammad Wali Tasleem.

2 & 3. Jake Wood and William McNulty, Team Rubicon
In response to the 2010 earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, former Marines Jake Wood and William McNulty formed a small group of volunteers to go and aid relief efforts. Empowered by their successful mission to help many in the underserved areas of Haiti, the Veteran vigilantes founded Team Rubicon, a disaster relief organization that has been growing ever since. Today, Team Rubicon utilizes the skills of Veterans and medical experts to aid disasters domestically and abroad, a mission that is proving to build stronger communities while also supporting transitioning Veterans. That’s a mission we can get behind!

4. Emily Núñez Cavness, Sword and Plough
With her sister, Besty Núñez, Emily Núñez Cavness opened Sword and Plough in 2014 with the ambition of bridging the civilian to military divide. A military brat and former Army captain herself, Emily knows the struggle many military Veterans face post-separation. She and her sister are helping to improve job opportunities for Veterans by incorporating them into every stage of Sword and Plough’s business: from the design and sewing to the sales and modeling of their upcycled line of repurposed bags and accessories. Their products — which are made from military surplus fabric, leather and hardware — have been featured in publications such as Redbook, Martha Stewart Weddings, and Women’s Health.

5. Adam Bird, Heroes Media Group
Founder of Heroes Media Group (HMG), 10-year Army National Guard Veteran Adam Bird is passionate about giving a voice to Vets and those who support them. Opening in 2015, this digital media media branding platform provides education, entertainment, and empowerment to everyday heroes; including active duty soldiers, Veterans, firefighters, first responders, law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, and clergy. By getting the word out about what these community heroes are doing, he’s hoping to bridge the gap between our country’s heroes and the citizens and communities they protect.

6. Mark L. Rockefeller, StreetShares
StreetShares co-founders Mark Rockefeller, an Air Force Veteran, and Mickey Konson have revolutionized how small business owners do business. In 2013, they launched StreetShares, a business funding option that offers a suite of specialty finance products to the small business and veteran markets. These products include business loans, lines of credit, and account receivables financing for the government contract community. Currently, StreetShares employs 10 Veterans, has more than 67,000 members, and has helped countless Vets get the funding they need for their business to succeed.

7. Derek Sisson, Merica Bourbon
Here’s a quick history lesson: In 1964, Congress recognized bourbon as “a distinctive product of the U.S.A.” That means that bourbon can only be made in the United States. With that in mind, it’s hard to think of anything more American than the Veteran-owned Merica Bourbon. Founded by Marine Veteran Derek Sisson, Merica Bourbon was born from a desire to create a patriotic brand that promoted American ideals and Veteran camaraderie. Teaming up with Grunt Style, another Veteran-owned brand, Sisson has gone on to turn Merica Bourbon into a booming business — even winning the silver medal in the 2017 Whiskies of the World Award.

8. Eli Crane, Bottle Breacher
Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL, and his wife, Jen, founded one of the fastest-growing Veteran-owned businesses in all of Arizona. Part of their success came after a 2014 appearance on Shark Tank, when they secured investments from business masters Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. What was so enticing about their Bottle Breacher company? The couple made bottle openers from decommissioned .50 caliber brass. Their unique, upcycled product has garnered a lot of attention since their TV airing, and today Bottle Breacher includes an ever-expanding product line of everyday products made from repurposed military gear. With such success, the Cranes like to give back. To date, they have donated to nearly 300 Veteran causes, including The Navy Seal Foundation and the Chris Kyle Memorial Benefit.

9. Daniel Alarik, Grunt Style
Pride in self, in military, and in country. This is what Founder and CEO Daniel Alarik is striving to instill in his Grunt Style patrons, and it’s working. A former Army Drill Sergeant, Alarik opened for business in 2009 and has turned his initial $1,200 investment into a $100 million business. The company, dubbed the lifestyle brand of the warrior class, employs only those with as much fervor for the country as Alarik, including many fellow Veterans. On the side, Grunt Style holds massive fundraising events and gives to charities like The Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, Fisher House Foundation, and Toys for Tots, among others.

10. Robert Dyer, RuckPack Combat Nutrition
Another Shark Tank winner, RuckPack Combat Nutrition got its big break in 2012 when founder Robert Dyer made it on the big screen. Like previously mentioned Bottle Breacher, Dyer scored two investments and has since become one of the most aired companies in Shark Tank history, according to the RuckPack website. The idea for RuckPack, a combat nutrition company that makes supplements designed for soldiers, came around a campfire in the battlefields of Afghanistan by Dyer and his Marine Special Operations Forces buddies. With their blessing, Dyer went on to turn the idea into a real-life business, which has now become a household name in the energy drink industry.

11. Jason McCarthy, GORUCK
Founded by former Green Beret Jason McCarthy, GORUCK is an American brand exuding excellence, toughness and adaptability. Their goal is to make the toughest, most durable fitness apparel and footwear around. In addition, GORUCK puts on 1,000-plus fitness events each year that encourage team building and living active lifestyles. The very last line of McCarthy’s bio says a lot about what this company is trying to emulate: “If there’s a nobler way to live a life than in service to others, I’ve not yet seen it.”

12. Michael Ogden, Pinnacle Leadership
A retired Army pilot from small-town Indiana, Michael Ogden founded a unique military-style training experience that has caught the attention of athletics teams, big corporations, and more. Pinnacle Leadership, started in 2013, takes sports teams or other large groups and turns them into cohesive teams prepared to succeed in complex environments and ambiguous situations. To date, Ogden offers half-day, full-day, and overnight retreats for various organizations including Indiana University Athletics, Indiana University Kelley School of Business, US Women’s National Wrestling Team, and Arizona State University Athletics.

13. Tim Kennedy, Sheepdog Response
A household name in the fighter and Special Forces world, Tim Kennedy is leading the pack in accolades. A Green Beret, sniper and former Top 5 UFC Middleweight, Kennedy also co-starred in the History Channel’s “Hunting Hitler” and the Discovery Channel’s “Hard to Kill.” Add to that list founder of Sheepdog Response, a self-defense company offering full-scale, high-level defense training courses. If the world is full of violence, Kennedy wants his clients to be prepared to handle themselves. The more Sheepdogs we can train to be truly ready to respond to violence, he says, the more good guys will survive.

14 & 15. Roy B. Sartin and Eli Williamson, Leave No Veteran Behind
Leave No Veteran Behind (LNVB) is a nonprofit focused on helping Veterans successfully transition to the civilian world by providing Veteran employment training, transitional jobs, and a Veteran educational debt relief scholarship. Seeing what a solid education and secure job could do to combat the many challenges Veterans face during transition, Army vets Roy B. Sartin and Eli Williamson founded LNVB in 2008. They have gone on to help countless Veterans successfully transition by helping pay thousands of dollars in student loan debt. What’s more impressive is the mark this organization is making on a community level. As most of their executive team is from Chicago, LNVB teamed up with Chicago Public Schools to provide safe passage to and from school for the city’s most vulnerable youth. Read more about this incredible partnership here.

Seeing Veterans succeed post-military is what keeps us doing what we do at SAVI. If you would like to know more about how we can help your transition into the civilian sector, reach out today.

EDUCATION TRACK

Academic advising, walkthroughs of your VA education benefits … and everything in between.

All transitioning Veterans in SAVI’s programs gain access to our carefully developed tools for post-military students, including the SAVI Student Transition Incubator℠, Student Track Transition Program℠, and Student Benefit Assessment Service℠, as well as our personalized career path determination assistance.

These SAVI instructors and mentors, along with the entire SAVI team, understand that each of our services is vital to a whole life approach to the military-to-civilian transition. We take your unique goals, circumstances, and vision into account as we craft personalized assistance throughout your twelve-month journey with SAVI.  

EMPLOYMENT TRACK

Civilian workplace etiquette, the hiring process, job searches, performance evaluations...and everything in between.

SAVI’s Employment Track delivers start-to-finish support to help Veterans navigate a new career. From skills assessments to professional networking strategies, SAVI offers custom-built tools — including the SAVI Employment Transition Incubator℠, Job Networking & Search Service℠, and Employment Benefit Assessment Service℠ — as well as job retention and mentoring services to help you every step of the way.

These SAVI mentors have been in your shoes and have experience in the unique challenges Veterans may face as they seek employment after service. They are with you every step of the way throughout your twelve-month program, and provide ongoing professional guidance and mentorship throughout your career.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP TRACK

Value propositions, initial funding, branding, launch strategies… and everything in between.

All transitioning Veterans on this track receive our comprehensive tools for personal business success: the SAVI Entrepreneur Transition Incubator℠ and Entrepreneur Benefit Assessment Service℠, as well as our opportunity consulting and our funding exploration support.

Through your twelve month journey with SAVI, your mentors will guide you through the Entrepreneurship track while providing unique insight and guidance based on their own experience. Whether you are just starting a new venture, or expanding a passion project you created while in the military, our Entrepreneurship team is here for you every step of the way.

RETIREMENT TRACK

VA compensation and benefits, healthcare, financial planning… and everything in between.

All transitioning Veterans on this track receive comprehensive tools for a successful retirement: the SAVI Retirement Transition Incubator℠ and Retirement Benefit Assessment Service℠, as well as our one-on-one ongoing assistance and assessment services. We’re here to ensure you don’t have to muddle through the financial, personal, and emotional aspects of retirement on your own.

Our Retirement mentors know what it’s like to transition from a steady career to retirement, and want to use their personal and professional experience to help you have a smooth transition. Whether you have questions on finances or healthcare, or the more personal aspects of upkeeping emotional health, we are here for you every step of the way.


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Getting Connected with Your Local Veterans Organizations

If you’re a military Veteran, then you’re a part of a very niche group. Active military personnel make up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. population today, so it’s not surprising that so many Veterans feel isolated as they start their transitions into civilian life.

Yet this issue isn’t a new one. Since 1899, organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and The American Legion were created to offer Veterans a place for camaraderie, to feel empowered, and to help boost troop morale for those still in the service.

Fast-forward to today and Veterans groups have emerged in nearly every community in the country and boast a wide variety of scope and missions — such as the career program by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and the suicide prevention work by The Military Veteran Project. The benefits to getting involved with one of these local groups include much more than just gaining buddies to swap war-stories with. Veterans can also get assistance with job placements, career counseling, emotional support, and finding resources for disabled Vets.

Not sure where to begin to find your local Veteran connections? Here’s a list of a few national Veteran groups with various local chapters across the nation.

The American Legion ​
AMVETS
Disabled American Veterans
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America
Korean War Veterans Association
The Military Veteran Project
Paralyzed Veterans of America
Veterans of Foreign Wars
• Student Veterans of America
• Vietnam Veterans of America

For a more comprehensive list of military charities, organizations, and government contacts, click here.

Get Squared Away: A Comprehensive Checklist for Transitioning Service-Members

18 Months Before Your Discharge
• Review GI Bill and tuition assistance benefits
• Review GI Bill transferability requirements (Transferring your benefits may require re-enlisting or incurring an additional service obligation.)
• Use the DoD Online Academic Skills course to prepare for the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT Exams
• Take a skills/interest assessment through your local ESO or career counselor
• Consider taking CLEP exams to complete your general education requirements
• Reach out to your SAVI mentor for tips from someone who has lived through the transition experience -Start developing your personal and professional networks
• Review your post-separation budget, and start planning for your financial transition
• Register on LinkedIn to get ready for networking opportunities
• Research the job potential, affordability, and community where you plan to live

12 Months Before Your Discharge
• Start developing an Individual Transition Plan
• Review your Pre-Separation Checklist (DD 2648)
• Get your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET) document (DD 2586)
• Research the cost of living where you plan to live as a civilian-Learn about your VA home benefits -Make an appointment with your local Transition Counselor
• Attend a Transition GPS five-day workshop -Check job boards, and start exploring the right career options for you
• Start exploring the right degree and college for you -Request “house hunting orders”
• Enroll in a SAVI Transition Incubator℠
• Use a skills translator to begin developing a civilian resume

9 Months Before Your Discharge
• Continue building your networks through LinkedIn and elsewhere
• Consider an employment assistance program
• Start writing your resume
• Search for jobs in your field and area to see what’s out there
• Arrange for HHG transportation counseling -Research your healthcare options, including Employer-Provided Civilian Care, CHCBP, Transitional Health Care Benefits, and CHAMP
• Make a budget, and prepare to pay for health insurance coverage

6 Months Before Your Discharge
• Start applying for jobs -Start building a wardrobe for the civilian workplace
• Continue to expand your career networks
• Attend career fairs
• Review and update your will and financial documents
• Consider whether to take terminal leave or sell back your balance
• Schedule appointments for household goods (HHG) shipment and storage
• Schedule final medical checkups for all family members
• Visit the Legal Assistance Office for help updating your documents
• Determine if you’re eligible for separation pay or early retirement
•Begin your PCS and housing checkout procedures -Begin looking for VSOs to join

3 Months Before Your Discharge
• Consider job placement services
• Use the VA Pre-discharge program to determine your eligibility for VA Disability Compensation
• Review your finances to ensure your budget will work in civilian life
• Compare SGLI to VGLI and other life insurance options
• Get to know more about where you plan to live
• Contact your Military Treatment Facility, and get copies of all of your health records
• Complete a physical with your MTF or a VA Medical Center
• Take advantage of the two-day TAP GPS program for education and entrepreneurship support

1 Month Before Your Discharge
• Finalize your relocation appointments, and review your benefits
• Arrange for inspection of any government housing
• Choose your transitional healthcare plan

Enrolling in VA Healthcare

1. Make it easier on yourself: Start with support from VA’s Concierge of Care. Enrolling in VA care isn’t as tough a process as it used to be. In October 2017, VA launched its Concierge for Care (C4C) program to enhance its support for transitioning Veterans in getting VA healthcare. The C4C initiative educates and empowers Veterans while simplifying the healthcare application and enrollment process. This means that, shortly after you separate, you’ll get a phone call from a representative who can answer questions, process your VA healthcare enrollment application, and schedule your first VA medical appointment.

2. Get notified of your application status. After your application is submitted, you’ll receive another phone call from VA to let you know whether your enrollment is approved. VA will also send you a Veterans Health Benefits Handbook with information on your healthcare benefits, Enrollment Priority Group, copay status, and other information you’ll need as a new enrollee. Handbooks also include information for appealing a decision if your initial application is rejected.

3. Get your Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC). Only Veterans enrolled in the VA healthcare system can receive a VHIC. Once your application is verified, contact the enrollment coordinator at your local VA medical center to arrange to get your picture taken for the your card either in advance or at your next VA healthcare appointment.

4. Keep your information current after you enroll. Enrolled Veterans can update your personal information (such as income, address, and insurance information) by completing VA Form 10-10EZR online, by visiting a local VA facility, or by calling 1-877-222-VETS between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.

Project You: Top Self-Development Courses to Take

Create a Perfect Morning Routine
You will learn how to create a morning routine filled with purpose, presence, and peace. You’ll be more energized, productive, and content — all before the start of your workday. Start your morning by doing things that feed your soul and make you happy.

Finding Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
If you’ve been searching for your true purpose in life, Eckhart Tolle has some straightforward advice: Stop struggling. This is because the primary purpose of every human being is simply to be: Be fully engaged in this moment, and be aligned with the natural flow of reality itself.

Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential
This course is designed to show you how to look at what you’re learning, and your place in what’s unfolding in the society around you, so that you can be what you want to be. You’ll see that by using certain mental tools and insights, you can learn and do more than you might have ever dreamed.

Achieving Personal and Professional Success
You'll learn how to find your passion and core values, how to apply these values to your own life, how to work well with others, how to communicate effectively, how to set goals, how to use influence to achieve these goals, and even how to say you are sorry. Through exercises, self-diagnostic surveys, quizzes, and many case studies, you'll discover how to define not only what you want, but also the best way to get it. These courses provide key insights into successful personal practices, whether you are in the office or in your home. We all bring ourselves to work every day, and these courses will help you be your best self wherever you are.


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Adrianne Phillips is a service-disabled veteran, who founded Strategic Alliance for Veteran Integration (SAVI) as a reaction to the immense need for support of veterans transitioning to civilian life. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a combat service-member and Security Forces, Adrianne transitioned out of the military and into civilian life. During this time, she realized that veterans often make the transition with little or no structural support or guidance. This prompted her to spend over 11 years working in the veterans benefit sector, including working in development, adjudication, training, presenting, quality assurance, and division management. In 2011, she started a corporation focusing on event travel management and corporate business travel. In 2017, she harnessed her experience as a veteran, benefits manager, and entrepreneur to found the Strategic Alliance for Veteran Integration with the goal of supporting every service-member’s transition.

Eddy Hansen

Eddy is a retired Marine and a service-disabled veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He currently manages the development of emerging technologies in the Mission Systems division of General Atomics - Aeronautical Systems Inc.

Having experienced first hand the challenges of transitioning from the military, Eddy is passionate about supporting others through the process. He has spent time volunteering with several veterans support organizations and mentoring veterans individually. He was drawn to SAVI through a deep belief in the mission and to focus his efforts toward a larger impact on the community.

In addition to the SAVI board, he sits on the Board of Directors of BIANCA (non-profit supporting autistic children). Eddy holds a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business. He lives in San Diego with his wife, two teenagers and a Bullmastiff.

Adrianne Phillips

Adrianne Phillips is a service-disabled veteran, who founded Strategic Alliance for Veteran Integration (SAVI) as a reaction to the immense need for support of veterans transitioning to civilian life. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a combat service-member and Security Forces, Adrianne transitioned out of the military and into civilian life. During this time, she realized that veterans often make the transition with little or no structural support or guidance. This prompted her to spend over 11 years working in the veterans benefit sector, including working in development, adjudication, training, presenting, quality assurance, and division management. In 2011, she started a corporation focusing on event travel management and corporate business travel. In 2017, she harnessed her experience as a veteran, benefits manager, and entrepreneur to found the Strategic Alliance for Veteran Integration with the goal of supporting every service-member’s transition.

Aloysius Teo

Aloysius is an advisor, project manager, mentor & consultant in business & technology strategy. He works with early-stage startups to develop their Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and guiding ideas and concepts into commercially viable solutions. His partnerships with established businesses result in the creation of new verticals and opportunities.

Creative strategist/technologist across multiple industries - healthcare, entertainment & music, MMR, travel, print production, blockchain, crypto-currencies, Big Data & AI. 20yrs technology industry experience and certified AWS APN & mobile technology.

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