Members of the United States military are brave, selfless and strong individuals who put their lives on the line for their country. Once they leave the service, many veterans go on to become equally inspirational figures in the business world. According to data from the Small Business Administration, there are 2.4 million veteran-owned firms in America, and that number continues to grow.
Here are 14 inspiring veterans who translated their military experience into successful entrepreneurial endeavors.
Michael Burroughs, PuroClean
After serving over four years in the Army, Burroughs attended Azusa Pacific University and majored in business administration so he could eventually open his own business. At school, he started a club called "Veterans of APU" with others who worked together to serve their community. After college, he was an education consultant who helped job seekers earn certificates in IT, business, web graphic design, project management and more. However, he wanted to start his own business while channeling his passion for helping others. He researched franchises and eventually opened a PuroClean (known as "the paramedic of property damage") franchise, which allowed him to do both of those things.
Wayne Pare, Play It Again Sports
Three days after Pare retired from 24 years in the Army, he started a business with his wife, Erin. He leased a space and opened a Play It Again Sports franchise, a resale store that purchases and sells gently used sports and fitness equipment. His intentions were to earn enough money to support his wife and two kids, plant roots in one area after years of moving around, and help others in the process. Pare also served as a volunteer coach and Cub Scout leader in his community while his wife taught violin lessons, leveraging the Pares' continuous desire to help others.
Hannah and Tristan Ambrozewski, Anytime Fitness
Hannah and Tristan Ambrozewski, who met at basic training, were stationed together for four years at Fort Lewis and deployed together for one year in Iraq. After being discharged, the couple wanted to keep up with their health and physique. They became aware of Anytime Fitness's Operation Heartfirst Charitable Foundation, which provides grants to Tee It Up for the Troops. They applied, won, and were granted $125,000 and loaned an additional $125,000 to open their own Anytime Fitness, where they continue sharing their passion for fitness.
Bob Rosedale, Tutor Doctor
Rosedale is an Air Force veteran who has helped countless young officers become pilots. When opening the first Tutor Doctor business in Boise, which is now the flagship operation, he applied military training concepts to teach his students and developed a program called "X-Skills," which helps them build organizational and executive skills. Rosedale now serves as vice president of operations, helping other franchisees and students across the board.
Ty Clifton, Patrice & Associates
After 25 years in the U.S. Army, Clifton, former senior policy advisor for the secretary of defense, decided to retire and open a Patrice & Associates business. Owning a restaurant and hospitality recruitment business was Clifton's way of helping those returning from duty, pairing veterans like himself with jobs in the restaurant and hospitality industry. He was one of just 100 small business owners to visit the White House as part of the American Small Business – The Engine of the American Dream event, where he spoke with President Trump, Ivanka Trump and other White House officials.
Andrew Weins, JDog Junk Removal and Hauling
Weins served 12 years in the United States Army Reserves, with two deployments, and is still an army reservist. Earlier this year, Weins and his brother became franchisees of JDog Junk Removal, which sells franchises exclusively to military veterans. The franchise owners and employees wear military-style uniforms and operate camouflage-decorated vehicles and trailers. Weins says he is already looking to expand into more territories and hire local veterans in his community to work for his franchise.
Beth Graeme, Beth Graeme Photography, LLC
After serving in the Navy, Beth Graeme quickly realized that entrepreneurship was the best way to earn a living and be there to care for her children while her husband was in Afghanistan. She left a contracting job and launched Grambo Creative, now known as Beth Graeme Photography LLC, as a solo venture in 2012. She has developed her brand from strictly real estate to portraiture and weddings as well.
Pedro Cedeño, Real Property Management
Pedro Cedeño was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines Corps before beginning his career in real estate investing. He was soon attracted to co-owning a Real Property Management franchise because it required many of the same skills he acquired in the military, including adhering to processes, working as a unit, and understanding customer and competition. The business also provides him an opportunity to give back to his community and fellow veterans through a partnership with Homes for Our Troops, which builds mortgage-free, specially adapted homes for severely injured veterans.
Lou Scola, Carstar
After working as an aviation electronics technician for the Navy, Lou Scola worked for a fire department and in his dad's auto body repair shop on his days off. He now owns a Carstar collision repair center in Brookfield, Illinois, and hires other veterans because of their discipline and organization. Aside from the collision repair business, Scola works with veteran organizations to hold drives at his Carstar location for things like clothing, food and toiletries. These products get distributed to Fisher House, a network of comfort homes where military and veterans' families can stay for free while a loved one is receiving treatment.
Phyllis Newhouse, Xtreme Solutions, Inc.
During her time as a military intelligence sergeant for the Army, Phyllis Newhouse learned a lot about leadership, resilience and cybersecurity, which later became the basis for her business, Xtreme Solutions, Inc. Her IT services and solutions company helps its clients become more innovative and efficient by applying the latest information technologies to their security vulnerabilities. Forbes reported that Newhouse has learned to be goal-driven, and has evolved from a direct leader to a strategic one, "the same way you would if you advanced up the ranks in the military."
Don McGrogan, Popular Patch
Don McGrogan retired from the Navy after 26 years of service and started collecting military patches as a hobby. He realized these patches had commemorative value and turned his hobby into a business. Popular Patch, now run by McGrogan's grandson, has goals to expand Don's business to beyond the United States using eBay. The business designs, sources, and sells commemorative and custom military patches through eBay. The success of the business has allowed Popular Patch to provide military patches to veterans across the country.
Carlina Williams, Communion Juice
Navy veteran Carlina Williams wanted to do something creative with her training as well as become a role model to her twin boys. She started her mobile juice business, Communion Juice, formally known as Juice Hero, which serves locally sourced, cold-pressed, fresh juice and herbal shots. VetLikeMe reported that Williams connected with veteran advocate Eddie Ramirez, owner of Mama Art Cafe, while attending a two-day Boots to Business course offered by the SBA. The two started a partnership that allows Williams to test market her juices through Ramirez's cafe. The Juice Hero website says Williams hopes to eventually franchise her business.
Matthew "Griff" Griffen, Combat Flip Flops
Matthew Griffen served in Afghanistan and Iraq as an Army Ranger for five years. While deployed, he witnessed poverty due to a lack of education and employment, but he saw entrepreneurs working to make a change in their community. When he saw this, he wanted to help them. In a combat boot shop in Kabul, he noticed a boot sole with a flip flop thong and got the idea for Combat Flip Flops. The company's goal is make cool products in dangerous places to help people free themselves from poverty. Every product sold puts an Afghan girl in school for a day. Combat Flip Flops was recently selected to appear on Shark Tank.
Evan Hafer, Black Rifle Coffee Company
After serving 20 years in the infantry and as a Special Forces communications sergeant, Evan Hafer worked as a CIA contractor and was deployed to places like Afghanistan and Iraq. When Hafer realized he couldn't find a great cup of coffee on his deployments, he began roasting his own beans and taking them overseas. He decided to combine his two passions and opened Black Rifle Coffee Company in 2014, with the mission of providing higher-quality coffee to the veteran community.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Post and Nicole Fallon.