From Boots to Boardrooms: Becoming an Entrepreneur After Military Life


While few may know veteran-owned businesses employ approximately 3.9 million employees and about $177.7 billion in annual payroll. For this piece, we spoke with Richard Richani and Chris Hoffmann, both entrepreneurs, and veterans about their experience becoming an entrepreneur along with a few tips for those looking to start a business.

Let’s start with your background, what branch did you serve in and what was your role?

Chris:

I tried community college but felt like uncle sams misguided child, so I joined the marine corps from 2008-2012. I Started in combat support but midway through my contract I was reclassified as a combat cook.

Richard: 

I joined the military in 2009, signed up as an infantryman, and was stationed at Ft. Benning got assigned to 101st Airborne, went overseas to Afghanistan, did a year of training, and went back.

What was the path like going back to civilian life and ultimately becoming an entrepreneur?


Chris:

It was insane, after going through the transition assistance and career readiness program. I was on my own in San Diego with a high cost of living, an entry-level position was just barely enough to get by. 

During that time I had many different jobs from sales to security,  they helped me develop the emotional intelligence to work with others that the military doesn’t typically require since everything is so regimented and organized.

Richard:

It was extremely challenging, coming from the infantry, my skill set in the army didn’t transition well to civilian careers. I knew I didn’t want to stay in the Army and wanted to see more of life. One of my friends that was a firefighter suggested it could be a good transition while also providing comradery and helping others.

I didn’t know that real estate would be my path but got sucked in after reading investment books and going through the process of buying my own house. For my first investment property, I used a realtor but realized that I did all the work and could do it myself.

I had no connections in real estate or mentorship but leveraged my network of military friends. It took me some time to be more open and utilize my network.

When you’re in the military, you get put into situations where you have to think on your own and be resilient. I’ve had times when I’m on the side of a mountain freezing my ass off, and nothing I face in life will compare to that hardship. I’ll start laughing when I compare that situation to my current woes. Being a problem solver is the biggest skill, which the military teaches you and can become your superpower in the civilian world.

“The world needs more decision-makers, and being able to take charge is an advantage, learning to transition to the methods of interacting in civilian vs. military life takes some time but once figured out is a game-changer”

How can vets transitioning back to civilian life get a leg up to become the success they want to be? 

Chris:

From my experience working and investing with veterans, emotional intelligence is the cornerstone to building communities and achieving their ambitions. Vets can be overly ambitious as to what their human capital can provide and need to find a network to help them. If you’re starting a business or looking to become an entrepreneur start with VBOCIX and go through the Boots to Business program as it will give you the best foundation possible.

“You have to find programs that help you slow-down enough, to identify your real skill sets, they know how to execute but need to find the proper path”

“You have to get good at finding what you don’t know, you can only do so much, and have to get good at finding your blind spots”

Richard:

One thing that would have helped me get further along would be to be more humble and ask for help, we’re told to be self-sufficient along with working in teams with very close bonds. Business requires you to adapt faster and doesn’t allow you the uniformity that the military has.

The most important thing is to stay humble and ask for help when you need it, the fastest way to fast-track your career. Instead of being stubborn reach out to resources like the VA, your veteran network, who doesn’t 

What are three tips for veterans that are looking to make the jump to entrepreneurship?

Chris:

1. The Biggest thing that drives veterans into depression is loneliness. Focus on your relationships and community-building skills, so you can have a support network.

2. Don’t underestimate your soft intangible skills, be proud of your vigilance and accept it.

3. Don’t focus on the notoriety, it’s easy to find that in your local community as a business owner. Don’t feed your ego but let your customers and discipline be your notoriety.

Richard:

1. Be patient, everything takes time, especially being an entrepreneur and starting something from scratch. Results won’t come overnight, this is a journey that could take 3-5 years!

2. Learn how to delegate tasks in areas that you don’t excel in, you can’t do everything by yourself. The sooner you realize this the faster you will grow. Focus on the parts of your business that you enjoy and then bring in team members to handle areas of business that you aren’t great at. Don’t worry about being vulnerable.

3. Don’t give up, as cliche as it is, of all people veterans, are hardy and can overcome extreme challenges. Use this experience in your day-to-day life, you will get through whatever you face.



About our Guests


Chris Hoffmann:

Is a Marine Corps combat veteran turned personal/professional development leader, sales trainer, experiential educational training content creator, podcaster, & best-selling author of the Ebook: 10 Steps to Predicted Success Out of the Uniform.

He founded VET Training & Coaching in 2017 while still in the corporate world- after realizing that while interview prep, resume writing, and job fairs serve a purpose they do not provide fulfillment, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of making an impact, veterans are used to feeling while serving in the military.

As we all know, numbers don’t lie. Here are the numbers according to a Syracuse study:

230,000 post 9/11 veterans are getting out every year currently and 43% will leave their first job within 12 months. To put that into perspective, that means that 98,000+ veterans will be without work due to “not being challenged enough” OR “underemployment.”

We call this 43%, Ambitious VETs, and since 2017 Chris and team have used a data-driven approach to launch The Ambitious VET Network, one of the largest global personal and professional development communities on the planet for professional post 9/11 veterans who are desiring more in life after the immediate transition tools expire and don’t deliver on their needs.

Richard Richani:

Is a Realtor, real estate investor, and veteran in the Central Texas area. He is a first-generation American who moved to Austin in 2007. His love for serving others drove him to join the U.S Army, where his ability to problem-solve under high-pressure situations allowed him to operate as part of a Sniper/ Recon unit. After his time in the military, Rich doubled down on serving others by joining the local fire department in South Austin. 

Shortly after, Rich bought his first home in 2017 and recognized the flaws with his and many of his friends’ experiences as real estate clients. This gap in real estate service solidified his motivation to be the dedicated, problem-solving agent who cares deeply about people and is passionate about taking care of his clients.

Since then, Rich has helped dozens of first-time home buyers, sellers, investors, veterans, and first responders improve their quality of life and has propelled them closer to their life goals. Rich enjoys the thrill of the competitive Austin and San Antonio markets, including his real estate investments in the Northeast corridor of San Antonio. He approaches each opportunity with equal conviction and vigor and works tirelessly to provide the best experience for his clients.

If you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur and you are interested in building or growing your business, Newchip offers Pre Seed, Seed, and Series A programs to help you take your business to the next level. 

Apply Today!