KC entrepreneurs say the fight prepared them for startup life
EEffectively communicating skills and experiences gained during military service can be a major challenge for veterans, said Zachary Oshinbanjo. Too often, this disconnect contributes to unemployment or mental health issues when a member returns to civilian life.
“Many veterans may have gone straight from high school into the military and are now looking for a job,” said Oshinbanjo, a U.S. Army veteran who served nearly four years as an indirect infantryman and forward specialist. to found a startup in Kansas City. “They need to talk about this military experience.”
A 2022 report ranking the best and worst places to live for veterans putting Kansas City at No. 32. The study considers key factors such as employment, livability, affordability and veteran friendliness. Kansas City ranked 57th out of 100 on the list, according to WalletHub.
“Kansas City has a tremendous opportunity to become a place that not only welcomes veterans, but gives them a chance to fight and thrive,” Oshinbanjo said, noting that there are several military bases within hours of Kansas City. “I would love to hear more conversations about how to make Kansas City an area where they want to be after service.”
Oshinbanjo Technology Platform — Vetelligence – was founded in July 2021 to help create a more diverse hiring environment for employers using data and artificial intelligence to build relationships with the military community. This followed his own experience applying for more than 350 jobs and facing the same inefficient process over and over again, he recalls.
“Beyond ceremonies like Veterans Day, there really isn’t a glimpse of what someone in the military actually goes through and is capable of,” Oshinbanjo said. “So seeing that there is this issue of reintegration into the civilian workforce, I thought there might be a systemized way to help soldiers communicate their skills as an asset to future employers. potential.”
Knowing the challenge personally, Oshinbanjo knew it might be easier and faster for someone in the veteran community to solve the problem, he said.
“I think it’s important to create solutions from your own point of view, rather than from a bird’s eye view,” Oshinbanjo added.
Cultivate instincts, resilience
Jannae Gammage credits her success as an entrepreneur to the special skills she learned while serving in the US Army as a military intelligence staff sergeant.
“I’m a military kid who also served,” said Gammage, the CEO of Foresight who spent nearly a decade in the military. “I was born in Texas but raised nationally, which gave me this unique ability to see the world and its problems. … I can step back and ask myself, ‘Is this really a problem? or is it a problem for the people of Kansas City, Missouri?’ I can approach issues with a more holistic perspective and take lessons learned from my position at war and around the world.”
Entering basic training at age 20, Gammage learned army commitment and discipline at a young age, she added.
“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you have to be disciplined because you’re your own boss,” Gammage said. “There is no one to tell you to get up and answer that call or to work for hours at a stretch to do your job. The Army has helped me understand what is important in life for to succeed.
Fellow entrepreneur and veteran Andrew Porter echoed Gammage’s sentiments about military life preparing him for the startup world.
“I started developing a business plan to open our first brick and mortar while I was in Afghanistan in 2014,” said Potter, the founder of RoKC and TileFive who served as an infantry officer and army captain for six years.
In order to open the first RoKC climbing gym in 2016, Potter relied on the resilient mindset he developed while in the military, he said.
“Training, going to war, working hard and doing physically demanding and painful things for years makes you a resilient human,” Potter explained. “Transition to entrepreneurship, I was refused by the first 10 banks and the first 30 investors to whom I pitched. If you don’t have the guts to keep going when everyone tells you your idea will never work, you won’t succeed as an entrepreneur.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Potter’s business in 2020, he had to tap into that resilience to rebuild the business, he recalled. His time in the military influenced how he chooses to run his business, he added.
“It’s our goal to serve people equally,” Potter said. “We leverage what we can do as a company to give back to the community and to different organizations.”
With about 19 million U.S. veterans reported in 2021, less than 10% of U.S. adults have served in the military, according to Pew Research Center. Veterans offer a special set of skills and characteristics that employers can’t find in other candidates, Potter said.
“Veterans inherently want to continue serving something greater than themselves; it’s fulfilling,” Potter said. “So when they find an organization or business that they can truly serve and love, it doesn’t matter if there is a skill gap. They’ll have what 99% of other candidates won’t: the ability to give your all and be your hardest workers, especially when the going gets tough. From a long-term perspective, veterans are dedicated to what they do.
With the United States currently experiencing a labor shortage, Oshinbanjo encouraged employers to give veterans an opportunity by scheduling an interview.
“In fact, go through the process and you might find that person is the best fit for your team,” Oshinbanjo said. “Maybe for some reason they just haven’t been able to spruce up their resume enough to get that initial attention.”
Whether it’s a large corporation or a tech startup, teams that don’t include veterans have a missing piece, Gammage said.
“When you have a veteran on your team, you work with someone who is wired to put the mission before themselves, who is wired to support everyone about them,” Gammage said. “They are wired to solve problems. …I definitely encourage founders to look for veterans to work with, especially in the early stages of the business.
This story is possible thanks to the support of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundationa private, non-partisan foundation that works with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create unusual solutions and empower people to shape their future and succeed.