Don’t Be Afraid to Bet on Yourself
How Two Veterans Started Their Own Business and Achieved Their Life Goals
By Carole Ottenheimer | April 28, 2023
In honor of Military Appreciation Month, we sat down with veteran and business member Joe Maioriello to hear about his journey from the military to business ownership and how owning a business changed his future.
As Joe and his best friend Mark Pembleton approached retirement from the Navy, they had lots of opportunities to consider. Together, they realized they wanted the next chapter in their lives to include satisfying, meaningful work. And, neither was convinced working for others was right for them.
Finding the Perfect Solution
After much thought, they decided, “We should start a business!” So, in 2017, they kicked open the doors to Veteran Built HomesTM. Originally, they wanted to be real estate investors and decided to start off small. Since they had developed expertise in construction during their time as Navy Seabees (also known as United States Naval Construction Battalions), it seemed only natural to start by flipping distressed properties. An added bonus—Joe’s wife was a real estate agent who could help them when it came time to sell the properties they had rehabbed.
To get their business going, both borrowed against their retirement accounts and purchased their first investment property. They felt that since the interest was low and “you’re basically paying yourself back,” it would be a sensible way to get the start they needed. They did a bit of everything to market their new business—putting up signs, using Google® click ads, using the app Thumbtack® and listing on Angi® (formerly Angie’s List). Little by little, the residential side of their business grew. In time, they also took on government contract work, partnering with a larger firm to work on bigger projects.
Taking It to the Next Level
Eventually, Joe and Mark wanted to take their business to the next level and decided they needed a business loan. They didn’t want to take on a lot of debt and felt a single business loan was the right move. Joe explained, “I’d been with Navy Federal since boot camp, financing vehicles and a home. I was very impressed that during the government shutdown, they offered to float our paychecks. They were awesome! We never had a problem, so it was a no brainer.” They took out a business loan from Navy Federal and, according to Joe, “They made it super simple.” Things were going well…and then COVID hit.
And Then … COVID Hit
You’d think that like many other businesses, Veteran Built Homes might have had a downturn. Surprisingly, they experienced just the opposite. While things were a little difficult in the beginning, the network of contacts they had built with others in the same business became an unexpected source of work. Those folks were very impressed with Joe and Mark’s high quality work and fast turnaround time. Joe laughed, “We had people banging our door down to build their flips. We thought, maybe we should become contractors!”
So, the two switched gears and became general contractors. Now, Veteran Built Homes is a thriving, family-owned construction and remodeling service that specializes in both residential and commercial construction. They have managed hundreds of projects worldwide, including residential projects, hospitals, schools and federal buildings.
How Military Experience Helped
Joe credits his military experience for developing his business management talents. “I credit the Navy 100% with providing me with the skills and knowledge I have. We learned from hundreds of exceptional leaders, setting us up to thrive and be successful.” In addition to their training on various trade disciplines, the military showed them how professionalism looked and taught them self-discipline and how to track and stay on top of everything they do. Plus, since they spent a lot of time working with senior officers, “It assisted me in what I’m doing now—talking to contracting officers, customers and potential clients. I have no problems in a room full of people, introducing myself and having conversations with folks.”
2 Great Things About Owning a Business
Joe explained one of the challenges of being a small business owner is “when your office is in your home, it’s hard to have good work-life balance. It’s like the old joke, ‘I didn’t want to work 9-5, so I started my own company. And, now I work 24/7.’” But, he notes, there are 2 things that make owning a business so rewarding. The first is the opportunity to have an impact on people and to help guide them not just for work, but also for their life’s goals. The second is the flexibility you have. “If there’s something I don’t like, I don’t have to do it. I can turn down a project.”
Best Advice for Others
When asked if he has any suggestions for those considering going into business, Joe exclaimed, “Hire an accountant! We hired a bookkeeping service and an accountant, and that made life much simpler.” He concluded with this inspiring advice, “Don’t be afraid to bet on yourself. If you have a passion or something you want to do, don’t be afraid to bet on yourself. If you keep the same tenacity and drive that you had when you were in uniform, it’s very hard to not be successful in whatever your endeavor is.”
Veteran Built Homes is a trademark of Vet Built Homes, LLC. Google is a registered trademark of Google LLC. Thumbtack is a registered trademark of Thumbtack, Inc. Angi is a registered trademark of Angie's List, Inc.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.