As a first generation American, Marine, and social entrepreneur, I've been fortunate to experience a breadth of life.
Entrepreneurship to me is the very backbone of what America's land of opportunity allows hard working and committed Americans.
My family fled the communistic government of Vietnam after the war in 1975. Both my older brothers and I were all very fortunate to be born stateside in Providence, RI. My mother was a seamstress while my dad went to school to become a jeweler later to start his own jewelry company, which is celebrating 26 years in operation.
I joined the Marine Corps after we were attacked on September 11, 2001. It's hard for me to fathom that this was over 10 years ago. Since then, I've been able to honorably serve our country and transition into back into society. By utilizing one of the greatest resources available to our veterans -- The Montgomery GI Bill -- I've been able to earn a Bachelor's in Business Entrepreneurship from University of North Texas and also a Master's of Science in entrepreneurship from Southern Methodist University. My thirst for education then led me to MIT's Entrepreneurship Development Program.
After launching a website development and Internet marketing firm in 2008, I found relative success in helping other companies grow by implementing strategies like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC), social media management, and email marketing campaigns. By being able to grow a business during a down economy, I realized that most of my key success factors were attributed back to the core values that were instilled in me from the Marine Corps -- honor, courage, and commitment.
• Honor is having integrity, responsibility and accountability
• Courage is doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reason. Courage is honor in action
• Commitment is being devoted to the to something that is greater than yourself. For some people it's their family, their community, or their church. For me, it is America and her economy.
These core values apply to entrepreneurship as much as they do on the battlefield. In 2011, we launched a nonprofit organization called Honor Courage Commitment, Inc (HCC). HCC's mission is to recruit, educate, mentor, and guide military veterans into becoming socially responsible entrepreneurs and community leaders.
By creating more veteran entrepreneurs, we naturally create more veteran-friendly jobs. By creating more jobs for veterans, we cause a double positive impact within our economy. Fewer veterans will have to rely on unemployment benefits, and more veterans are generating small business GDP. We all win.
I'm not saying that all veterans are made out to be successful entrepreneurs, but I am saying that many veterans have the discipline, integrity, and tenacity to become successful in entrepreneurship. By combining these military traits with formal business education, mentorship, and guidance can lead a war fighter into becoming a savvy businessman.
The key here is to not waste time. If you are in your last year of military service, start doing your due diligence now. Whether it is schools, companies, or franchises, you can get a head start by investing some time into researching what your best options will be. Don't take a break. God knows you've earned it, but I'm telling you strait up... DO NOT TAKE A BREAK! As much discipline and leadership you may have, by transitioning off of active duty and having a lull period you can lose all that discipline quicker than you would expect. Before you know it 6 months has past and you have not found a job yet and you've burned through your entire savings from your multiple deployments. I see it everyday and it kills me.
Have an actionable plan prior to EAS (End of Active Service) and have someone hold you accountable. It doesn't matter whether you are a Lance Corporal (E-3) or a General (0-10), you've always had a higher authority holding you accountable. Seek out a fellow comrade that's been out prior to you and ask them about their experiences. Chances are that their advice is invaluable. Former military can be great mentors for a transitioning veteran.
If you are interested in linking up with a mentor, please reach out to our organization. You can get more information from our website: www.HonorCourageCommitment.org
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and OPS-USA, a television initiative focused on helping veterans help communities. For more information on OPS-USA, click here.