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By SHELAGH BRALEY
CHICAGO—“Getting out was the most terrifying part of my whole military career,” says Gregory Jumes. “I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”
This former Marine Corps infantryman is doing more than just talk about his difficult transition from military service, he’s actually building a technology platform that he says will help veterans before they’re even set for discharge.
Victor is a mobile application for active duty and retired service men and women and their families, “to do the reconnaissance and their intelligence gathering before they even get out,” says Jumes. “We don’t want them to go back to their hometown if there aren’t that many opportunities there, or a community that will support them after their time in the service.”
For millions of members of the armed forces, getting out is complicated, without enough training for what Jumes calls another career—civilian life. “When I got out, I didn’t know where I should move to, where I could find the opportunities I would need. The military spends billions on training us going in. (But at the end of your service): ‘Here’s your two-day class on how to be a civilian again, and I hope you’re paying attention.’ ”
He says he felt like he didn’t have any skills that qualified him for civilian jobs. “I was lucky to get a position as a high-threat security contractor in the Middle East, so I spent four years between Iraq and Afghanistan.” But he says, every civilian job he applied for fell short until he found a veteran hiring manager who gave him a second interview. “Every position I’ve been in outside of the Marine Corps, it’s been because I did my intelligence gathering and found key people to reach out to, to talk with, so they can see I’m not just another number—I’m the person they want on their books.
“You have to find someone who says, ‘I know what you’ve done, you’d be a perfect fit,’ ” Jumes says.
But it’s more than just work support that veterans need, he points out—because a happy and fulfilling life requires balance and structure. “After I came back, I was a completely different person. Everything looked different. Life just seemed a little dull. It was the complete opposite of being desensitized. When I didn’t have structure or guidance or mentorship, everything kind of went to hell. I was not prepared.”
That’s where the Victor community will come in. “We want to give you the tools so you’re not stressed, you don’t fall into depression, and you find the community that’s going to support you. Victor is here to bridge that gap, so you find the community, the career services and opportunities in that city, and then the health and wellness opportunities, whether it’s a workout group down at a local Crossfit gym, or a therapist that wants to just hear you out and listen to what you have to say and guide you down that right path. “
This first-time entrepreneur likens building a company to the work he did, and the results he was expected to produce, while in the service. “From my training as an infantryman, I take everything I do now as an entrepreneur as an operation. I need to do the digging and patrolling and questioning, and get to my target, which is either a customer or a partner,” he says. “My job is to put my product in front of people when I think they need it.”
“I want them to come out feeling excited that they’re going to find their new home, their new jobs, that they’re going somewhere that will support them. People need that coming out—to be able to focus on what will make them happy,” Jumes says.
Which beats the alternative: “Some stay in because it’s too scary to get out. That’s when you get these guys who have done two, three, four pumps in Afghanistan. I want to give active-duty service members the ability to see that pre-planning phase. You can look at Victor and see where you should go. Why is Chicago featured? They need direction and waypoints—there’s a bunch of green on this map. OK, we have a plan, let’s go forth and do great things,” he says.
Jumes says Victor, incubated in Bunker Labs, will most likely be ready to launch for the first of the year, then will be beta testing in greater Chicago before spreading out across the country.
“I don’t want them to waste time after they get out of the military, I want that success to keep going.”
Through such programs as Veteran Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Association provides veterans, active duty service members, Guard and Reserve members and military spouses the entrepreneurial training and education programs, business technical assistance counseling, special access to capital programs and federal procurement training and access to opportunities they need to create their own opportunities. Share these stories on Twitter at #MyVetBiz to show support to veterans and their families. Learn more about SBA veteran initiatives here.