Returning to civilian life after serving in the military is a challenge that all veterans must overcome. The following military heroes have not only survived the transition but have actively thrived in their entrepreneurial pursuits. It’s inspiring to see that so many veterans have not only been able to adapt to civilian life but have been remarkably successful in the enterprises they have worked so hard on.
While these veterans come from many different service branches and walks of life, they all share a pragmatic approach to problem-solving and a work ethic that only those in the military can understand. Let’s take a look at the top 5 Influential Veteran Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2018 that are doing phenomenal work!
1. Jeff Shuford
Based in Jacksonville Florida, Jeff Shuford is a decorated Iraq War Veteran who has been immensely successful with his technology start-up, Tech From Vets. Shuford’s passion for technology and for helping other veterans connect in meaningful ways led the Huffington Post to name Tech From Vets the Best Veteran Owned Tech Startup of 2016. Furthermore, the Jacksonville Business Journal presented Shuford’s technology company with a BizTech Award for their design, development, and deployment of the self-funded Vets 22 apps.
Shuford is a well-respected advocate for veterans, who taught himself to code and realized that he had a strong desire to use his skills to help veterans access life-saving resources. Shuford is the Chairman of Vets 22, an organization that has provided free breakfast to thousands of veterans at the VA Outpatient Clinic in Jacksonville Florida.
Shuford is also responsible for the success of Jacksonville’s Veteran Business Summit which helps motivate and inspire veterans to start and grow their businesses. The summit has been streamed online by more than 30,000 veterans with several hundred attending in person.
Shuford is also considered a highly influential leader in the field of public relations and has successfully positioned his brands in many prestigious publications such as Sports Illustrated and Entrepreneur Magazine among others. Shuford is also a nationally syndicated columnist, Forbes writer, and a local TV Host. With an impressive portfolio of past and ongoing work on behalf of veterans, Jeff Shuford is one veteran entrepreneur who is set to continue doing great things this year.
2. Salvatore Defranco
Salvatore Defranco is a former SEAL team member who was medically discharged after being injured in an accident in 2008. After spending a long time in recovery, Defranco has not only overcome his injuries but is now crushing it with his own business, Battle Grounds Coffee.
Defranco started Battle Grounds Coffee in 2016 with his wife Dana with a focus on serving high-quality coffee and to help the community re-learn the philosophy of living to serve. Beginning in Haverhill Massachusetts, Defranco has positioned his brand to be a cultural and political hub for local communities.
Battle Grounds Coffee also directly seeks to help the veteran community by placing a priority on hiring those who have served.
Currently, Salvatore and Dana has around 20 staff members and is already starting to browse locations for their next two stores. After overcoming the challenges of becoming a SEAL team member and his own personal injuries, Salvatore inspires other veterans never to give up and that nothing is truly impossible with the right attitude.
3. Eric Mitchell
Eric Mitchell, a Marine, is the founder of Life Flip Media. Mitchell is one of those veterans who merely blows you away with their absolute dedication to lifting up and helping the veteran community any way they can. Eric is passionate about helping other veterans, and their brands get the media exposure they need to become successful. Life Flip Media has become the ‘go-to’ company for veterans with emerging businesses.
With its team of seasoned television bookers, writer’s bureaus and speakers, Life Flip Media is well-equipped to help veterans get that crucial bit of media coverage it takes to get his brands to the next level. Life Flip Media has doubled in size over the last year, so it’s only onwards and upwards for this influential brand.
4. Derek Sisson
Derek Sisson, founder of Mercia Bourbon, is one of the veterans who demonstrates how they apply their courage in the business world, entering an industry that’s highly competitive and difficult to succeed in with a new product. Recently winning silver in the Whiskies of the World Awards, Merica Bourbon holds its own when compared with other grandfathered brands while also being more affordable at the same time.
In launching Mercia Bourbon, Sisson teamed up with another veteran entrepreneur, Daniel Alarik, who is the founder of one of the largest veteran-owned companies, Grunt Style.
5. Matt “Griff” Griffin
Matt “Griff” Griffin is a former army ranger and entrepreneurial mastermind that’s responsible for the highly successful brand, Combat Flip Flops. Griffin and his partner Donald Lee originally debuted the brand on the investment TV show, Shark Tank, where investor Kevin O’Leary was marked “dead” with a Chemlight for passing up investing in Combat Flip Flops.
On the show, they not only secured an investment from Mark Cuban but they have continued to grow their business by expanding with new products to go along with their mainstays. Combat Flip Flops is an impressive veteran’s success story that is still actively being told, and this makes Matt “Griff” Griffin an exciting entrepreneur to follow in 2018.