“To educate and train the Corps of Cadets so that each Graduate shall have the attributes essential to professional growth as an officer of the Regular Army and to inspire each to a lifetime of service to the nation.”
Cheesy or not, I have kept that with me to this day. When I made the difficult decision to leave the military in September of 2003, I was met with immediate success. I performed well in graduate school and better still in my follow-on corporate career, but yet I felt that I was not living up to my pledge to continue to serve the nation. This lack of service left me empty and if the theory that I have any of it left is true, there was a significant void in my soul.
As I sit here on the eve of Ranger Up’s 6th birthday, I do not want to look back at where we came from, as I did on our 4th birthday, but instead look forward to what we are going to accomplish.
Ranger Up filled that void that was growing inside me and I realize how fortunate I am that I stumbled upon this idea for what thus far has been my life’s work. I’m also cognizant, after spending time with guys like Michael Schlitz, Karl Monger and Mike Judd how few are able to find meaning in their lives again after service. A life without purpose for a motivated, type A is a dangerous thing. Unemployment, jobs without meaning, and a lack of support from like-minded people quickly lead many veterans to depression and in the worst case to suicide.
Yet, while these problems plague our community, the veteran population is succeeding in a way that others cannot. We have more entrepreneurs than any other population. We thrive in environments riddled with stress, where flexibility is a necessity, and where we have to exert ourselves beyond what is human to succeed. And this is where I believe Ranger Up’s future lies.
Entrepreneurship and the Building Foundation of America
I believe real Americans create. We build. There are a lot of ways to get rich and I will never deny a person any means of feeding his or her family, but the premise of our society is creativity, hard work, and building a “new world”. There is something magical about building a product, offering it to the consumer at a fair price, and seeing their appreciation for that product. I want to help more of you do that. As such Ranger Up is going to be reaching out to friends like Holly McNamara and Nick Starling and over the next couple of years we’ll be building our network and developing our own version of the famously successful Y-Combinator out in Silicone Valley. The purpose of this endeavor will be to create a startup engine for Veterans. We’ll house you, teach you, and at the end, if you have the right stuff, we’ll invest in your business and volunteer for your boards. Our target for the first class is 2015.
I have several reasons for wanting to start this endeavor, and I want you to understand all of them.
1) I want to elevate veterans. We are a smaller and smaller percentage of the population and as the gap between us and civilians continues to widen, fewer and fewer people will assist us. We need to stop asking for help from people and we need to aggressively take control of the situation. We need to help our own or in short order, no one will.
2) I want you in the one percent. One percent of the population controls almost 50% of the wealth in our country. Rather than bitch about it and occupy shit, I want to add more veterans to that exclusive club. Money is power in our nation and anyone who tells you differently is selling something. We have life experience that other people will never have and with experience comes wisdom. I fully believe to improve our nation and reduce corruption, the men and women in some of these power seats need to have carried a rifle and manned a post. We aren’t going to ask for them to help us, we’re going to dominate them in business and leave them no choice.
3) Veterans hire veterans. Americans are afraid of veterans. We all have PTSD and kill babies, so it’s understandable. A new veteran “Uber-Class” of entrepreneurs means more opportunities for veteran employment. A quick example:
Ranger Up is a small company. We have 12 full-time employees and seven part-time employees. Our primary screen printer, a veteran-owned company told us that they employ 7 people to print our apparel. Add another person or two for our secondary and tertiary printers. That’s 9 people employed by other companies to support our printing. We employ two people to make our signs. The people that make our t-shirts require six American employees to create the fabric and manage our account (the second largest in NC). Estimates from our office supplies and shipping supplies vendors estimate another person is necessary to manage our account and ship our supplies. We are the 5th largest post office customer in RTP. They estimate two postal employees are necessary to manage our account. UPS did not provide an estimate, but we’ll assume 1-2 employees to handle our volume as we are at their top listed tier. In total 34 full-time employees and seven part-time jobs exist because of Ranger Up and that isn’t including the vendors of vendors (ink and machines for the screen printers, for example).
I realize 41 jobs isn’t all that much in the big scheme of things, but these are jobs that did not exist before that came to be in the worst economy we’ve ever seen, and we’re just getting warmed up with 67% growth this year alone. Also, despite what any politician says, this is exactly 41 jobs more than whoever gets elected President will “create”.
4) I believe in you and believe you will make us a lot of money. Sorry if you expected all loves, hugs, and cuddles, but we work our asses off here and we value the money we’ve earned, so there is a selfish component to it. We have many options of where to invest the fruits of our labor. Mutual funds and stock speculation are cool and all, but I believe the best bet in this country is the Vetrepreneur.
5) Paying it forward. I want to create a system where you come in, learn how to succeed, succeed, and then come back and reinvest in the community. We live by this model having donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity in our six years. Percentage-wise, I’ve yet to meet a small business that sacrifices the profitability that we do in order to help veterans. We’d especially like to thank Soldiers’ Angels, Gallant Few, and Hire Heroes for providing our fullest confidence that every dollar we send is well managed.
6) Because Fuck Them. One of the things Ranger Up has done that surprised me is to show me how many amazing civilians there are that have never served, but are just impressive Americans and great people. I’ve been blessed to be helped by so many great minds and entrepreneurs in the civilian world, and I can’t thank the fans who haven’t served enough for their support. But then there’s the other half – who look down on our service, our intelligence, and our accomplishments. We’re the sheep, they’re the wise ones feeling sorry for us. I know it’s childish and stupid, but the same chip on my shoulder that drives me personally, wants to see military veteranship (I just made that word up) become the primary means to success. I want our response to these assclowns to change. I don’t want you guys battling it out with spoiled hippie trolls on Facebook. I want those trolls occupying your company’s front lawn because you won’t hire their asses.
I want to end this by saying our first “class member” has just graduated. My longtime friend, business partner, and employee Kelly Crigger is setting off to start his own firm alongside a civilian friend, serial entrepreneur, and patriot, Steve Spiro. They are creating 100% Veteran “Geek Squad”. In only two months, they’re making huge strides and there is no doubt in my mind that they are going to hire thousands of veterans over the next decade. While it was truly sad to see such a great teammate move on, this is exactly what I want to happen. I want veterans to identify opportunities, have the confidence to trust that they have the skills to conquer them, and then get after it and change the world. I have no doubt that Kelly and Steve will give back significantly to the military community and the nation and I am excited to be able to support them in this endeavor.
I said from day one that Ranger Up will never be about apparel. It never will be. It’s about you. It’s about a lifetime of service to the nation. It’s about leading the way. I’m publicly telling you what the next chapter is going to be about. I hope you like the vision.
As always, thank you for letting me and the crew live the dream. We’re gonna keep on plugging.
CEO, Ranger Up