November is all about celebrating veterans. We were thrilled to (virtually) sit down with some of our Business Solutions Veteran Small Business owners to hear their stories. From serving to starting businesses, these veteran members share their inspiration, advice for future business owners and secrets to their success.
For U.S. Navy Veteran and Reservist Adam Clampitt, the idea to form DCG Communications came from his time working as a public affairs officer in the military. With a team of 90 employees, DCG Communications is a public relations and marketing firm that engages with the federal government on human interest and social impact causes, such as suicide prevention, anti-human trafficking and veteran small business owners.
“The opportunity arose to work with the Department of Veterans Affairs on suicide prevention, and it was very rewarding,” said Adam. “It was such good, important work that we were doing, and I thought maybe I could really grow a business out of this.”
A Natural Fit for Civilian Life
Learning communications in the military made it a natural fit for Adam to pursue communications when he transitioned to civilian life. Many of the values that servicemembers learn in the military—discipline, perseverance, commitment—translate well into business ownership. Personal satisfaction from doing meaningful work and creating a family of team members who are passionate about their jobs are key drivers of DCG’s success.
"We cannot stress enough how important it is to never give up," said Adam. "I think that’s an ethos in the military that also applies to the business world and has allowed us to achieve great success."
DCG is also primarily virtual, using shared office space when they need it. This has allowed the team to continue to thrive and seamlessly adapt to their work environment throughout COVID-19.
For future vetrepreneurs, Adam encourages you to go for it, “don’t be scared and dive right in.”
“You can really take your vision and make it a reality,” he added. “Furthermore, if you have a great outlook on life, that can tend to bleed into the rest of your staff and make them really excited about working every day. That’s what makes being a business owner so rewarding.”
Fostering Diversity and New Ideas
Todd T. Greenwood, founder and president of Titanium Cobra Solutions and a U.S. Navy Veteran, echoes this sentiment. Honorably serving over 20 years and involved in a number of overseas combat operations, he attributes much of his out-of-the-box creativity to his military experiences.
“Diversity is important for me and my business because it brings innovation,” said Todd. “People bring a variety of backgrounds, which helps us look at problems differently and solve our challenges more efficiently and effectively.”
Founded in 2010 and headquartered in San Diego, CA, Titanium Cobra Solutions provides quality project management support services, business information technology integration and C5I systems engineering solutions for government and commercial clients. They’ve mainly focused on the defense sector over the last decade and now are looking to expand nationally into other markets.
“To be in business for the last 10 years—contracts coming and going, reengineering services and retraining staff—reimagining ourselves has been both our greatest challenge and success,” he noted.
Considering entrepreneurship? Todd recommends making the most of your passions and pursue your next adventure.
“Set incremental goals, prepare for any setbacks, learn from your mistakes and try your best to differentiate yourself.”
Dream Big and Dream Often
That’s the motto former U.S. Navy SEAL Chriss Smith, Jr. and his wife Andrea Smith live by every day as co-owners of Misha’s Coffee House and founders of Trident Athletics in Alexandria, VA. The coffee shop and roaster has been around for 29 years—priding themselves on guaranteeing the coffee you have in their house will be the best coffee you’ll ever taste. “My wife has probably roasted every bean in our coffee shop,” said Chriss.
Trident Athletics, a community-based fitness facility, opened 10 years ago. They’re most proud of the ability to connect and motivate their clients through fitness and mentorship programs.
The idea for Misha’s Coffee House and Trident Athletics arose from their avid desire to do things better. While the marketplace was filled with coffee shops and gyms, Chriss and Andrea still found room to set themselves apart from the competition.
“Most of that comes from our need or want to create meaningful relationships, and we try to do that within our local community,” noted Chriss.
Being not only owners and operators of two coffee shops and a fitness facility, the chance to be property owners is one of their biggest successes. When it comes to challenges, Chriss explains any person that’s running a business is going to face a bunch of challenges—typically as it relates to people and staying relevant in the market.
“Finding the right people for the right job at the right time has always been difficult, but from some of the skills I’ve learned in the military, it’s allowed us to create good operational teams and keep thinking big and strategically,” he said.
With Trident Athletics alone, he says people seek out the gym because he’s a veteran—dropping in for classes, sharing common stories about military service and using their mentorship resources.
“The world of veterans is so tight. Not being afraid of putting yourself out there, starting a business and making a difference in your community…just go forth and do it. It seems like a daunting task in the beginning, but with good partners, you can make anything happen.”
Chriss encourages veterans who are thinking about starting a business to lean into that passion like you lean into the military.
“Being a servicemember, the skills that you get from having good leaders and working collectively to support a common goal has been invaluable as an entrepreneur,” he said. “You have the ability to be patient, persistent, creative, resilient and durable—all those things you learn in the military can definitely transfer over to any kind of business skills.”
In honor of Veterans Day and National Veterans Small Business Week, we’re sharing the stories and experiences of veteran-owned businesses. After all, small businesses are the cornerstone of every community’s economy. Head over to our YouTube page to hear more insights from our veteran business members.
Jane Myers is a strategist on the Corporate Communications Team at Navy Federal in Northern Virginia. She supports a variety of business areas in the credit union through product communications, media relations and sponsored content.
Lara Sparrow is a Marketing Communications Strategist and Writer at Navy Federal. A team member since 2014, Lara strives to make our member’s financial journey a little easier through helpful content and guidance. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and two children.