Army veterans Sean Drake and David Millner met in the early 1990s while serving as lieutenants in the 7th Infantry Division at Ford Ord, Calif. More than two decades later, Millner heard that Drake was managing a “veteranpreneurship” venture capital fund, and he immediately signed on to become an investor.
Wilton, Conn.-based Stony Lonesome Group is an emerging leader in the veteran entrepreneurship sector and is one of many veteran-owned businesses that provide investment opportunities for both veterans and everyday civilian investors. Austin-based Tenavox, headed by West Point graduate and Iraq War veteran Marissa Limsiaco, is a veteran business owner whose wartime experiences are helping her better navigate the many challenges of running a startup.
These companies, along with many others, share one common thread: They are run by veterans whose leadership skills often set them apart from other entrepreneurs.
Service experiences build a powerful toolbox for veteran business owners
Marissa Limsiaco co-founded Tenavox to fundamentally change the way businesses find, select and occupy space. Using an industry-first approach, Tenavox combines a cutting-edge web platform with an innovative SMS lead generation solution that aligns the needs of businesses to agents and owners in real-time.The company is eyeing an expansion to the Dallas area, as well as beyond the state of Texas.
While serving in Iraq, Limsiaco commanded more than 80 soldiers while stationed at the Army’s busiest fueling depot. Her service experiences routinely help her execute in business.
“Veteran leaders are trained to lead and execute in constantly changing environments and scenarios,” Limsiaco says. “We are fast learners and trained to lead any team. These skills are valuable to any industry, especially as entrepreneurs.
Marissa Limsiaco ( Image courtesy of Arnold Wells, Austin Business Journal)
“Ultimately,” Limsiaco adds, “veterans need purpose. One of the toughest things about the transition is finding something to work for that’s bigger than yourself. I’m lucky to have that same drive and purpose with my own company and the team we are building. My experiences as an Army commander align with my role as President of Tenavox, including the importance of having a vision, communicating and delegating to my team effectively and clearly, and motivating and inspiring teammates to work towards a common mission.”
Veteran leaders inspire greater confidence and trust
When veterans invest in veteran-owned businesses, they do so with a higher degree of confidence, says Millner, CEO and co-founder of A/D Partners.
“There is a certain level of trust and understanding you get knowing that a business owner is a veteran and has gone through similar experiences,” he says. “These people are patriots who share a commitment to the United States. Their service gives you a higher level of baseline trust, sight unseen.
“When I found out about Stony Lonesome, it called out to me as a perfect fit for my mission-focused investment philosophy,” Millner adds. “Rocket Dollar enabled me to invest in Stony Lonesome simply and at a very reasonable cost.”
(Image courtesy of https://www.linkedin.com/in/seandrake/)
Drake, Stony Lonesome’s founder, says the venture capital firm often helps veteran entrepreneurs better execute on their ideas and capital raises by providing business mentorship and guidance along with investment dollars.
“Veterans have great ideas and drive, but they often need capital,” Drake says. “Stony Lonesome provides mentor capital along with many of the investments we make.
“Entrepreneurship is difficult and challenging,” he adds. “One of our extremely successful entrepreneurs was an infantry platoon leader in Afghanistan, and he says his first year as an entrepreneur was harder. But veterans bring certain qualities to the table that set them apart: Determination, the ability to accomplish a mission, reliability and just plain old grit. Veteran entrepreneurs are more likely to be successful because entrepreneurship is challenging, and they are used to meeting challenges head-on.”
Rocket Dollar salutes these veteran entrepreneurs and other veterans whose shared values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and courage are helping them succeed as business owners.