In the U.S. there are 2.4 million Veteran business owners who employ 5.8 million Americans. Many of these Veterans use their businesses as a means to support the larger Veteran community.
According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics, California alone has more than 1.8 million Veterans and San Diego County has the third largest concentration of Veterans in the country. Because of this, San Diego is buzzing with people looking to support the Veteran community and who are employing innovative strategies to do so. If you are a former service member, you might be looking for a way to apply the skills you learned while serving your country to make a difference back home. The three San Diego-based entrepreneurs profiled below each found unique ways to serve their community through business ownership, and we hope they may inspire you to do the same.
Nick Romero joined the military in 2009 and was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq. During his time in service, he held onto a passion for cutting hair that started in his hometown of Miami when he was just fourteen. Nick would cut hair in the barracks during his free time, and became very knowledgeable on the requirements for military haircuts. Upon his return to San Diego, Nick began hosting “Barber Sundays” for his friends and Veterans he met through connections at nearby military bases. As Nick’s popularity grew he decided it was time to open a barbershop, which would meet rising demand, create employment opportunities, and have the potential to serve as a neighborhood community center that would “give the customers a place to call home.” With this Rawknykz Barber Shop was born. Nick received his first Accion loan in 2011, and received a second loan in 2015 to upgrade the look of his barbershop. With this support Rawknykz Barber Shop has remained dedicated to serving the military community – both active members and Veterans. Not only does Nick provide barber service tailored to the military community, but he has also created a community space for members of the military and their families.
Increase Veteran Employment
Team Fish is a San Diego-based company that designs and manufactures specialized equipment for float tube and kayak fishing. The company, which was started in 2012 by Darryl Vidal and John Becht, fill what they saw as a void in the fishing market and supports Veterans in San Diego County. As a Veteran business owner, John believes it is very important to hire Veterans as he understands the unique challenges faced by those transitioning from the military to a civilian career. The Team Fish company culture is supportive and flexible to those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and their products allow for disabled Veterans to customize their equipment to accommodate a range of physical disabilities. In 2016, they received a loan from Accion to purchase inventory. Since receiving this loan they have expanded their Veteran support by working with the San Diego chapter of Heroes on the Water, whose mission is to relax, rehabilitate and reintegrate Veterans through kayak, fishing and the outdoors. They also work with military doctors who are using float tubes and kayaks as a therapy tool to promote independence for disabled Veterans.
Brett Weiss, owner of ScanDiego, has found a solution for the boxes of old photos, home movies, and slides that are hidden in your storage closet becoming inaccessible in the digital age. ScanDiego provides digitalization services for a variety of print media so people can revive their old memories in a new format to enjoy for years to come; embracing the future while honoring the past. Weiss, who has over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, has been able to expand his business with support from Accion and The Hartford, increasing his revenue to more than $1 million. Not only is Brett a dedicated business owner but he is also a passionate volunteer and active philanthropist, especially in the Veteran community. He sponsors a nonprofit called Honor Flight San Diego, which honors World War II Veterans with an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, DC to visit the monuments and be publicly honored. In addition to sponsoring these trips, ScanDiego provides services at low or no cost to Veterans and nonprofits.
Accion loans to these community-minded entrepreneurs were made possible thanks to support from The Hartford through its Communities with HART program, which is focused on helping neighborhood businesses thrive.