A lot of people talk about their respect for veterans and the sacrifices they make. But translating that sentiment into meaningful action and ways of helping those same veterans transition into other careers after their service is a whole other challenge. It’s a challenge, however, that Warrior Rising is, well, rising to. They help in a range of ways and the organization has seen extraordinary growth over the last few years. So how have they done it and what’s made them so successful?
What is Warrior Rising and what do they do?
Warrior Rising is a non-profit organization that’s focused on helping veterans in their post-service careers. They describe themselves as a “family of supporters helping veteran entrepreneurs … to start or accelerate their businesses.” Businesses both new and existing are helped to grow and thrive through help and mentoring from experienced pros.
The organization was started up in Utah in 2015. The founders were also military veterans and people who were already strong supports of the military and veterans. The aim was to start something that helped veterans to continue to be leaders in their own communities and be their own boss after their brave service.
In the beginning, Warrior Rising was focused on helping people at the regional level in Utah, where the organization was based. But it quickly grew and is now operating at a national level, helping veterans all over the country. As a result, every state now has a Warrior Rising presence for veterans to utilize. The rate of growth the organization has seen is nothing short of incredible.
Partnerships, mentoring and economic assistance are all offered to veterans looking to get into business or take the next steps as entrepreneurs. In doing so, they also encourage and perpetuate the hiring of other veterans, meaning even those that don’t want to start their own business are offered opportunities through the assistance provided by Warrior Rising.
There’s a lot that goes into creating the opportunities available at Warrior Rising, including partnerships, boards, donations, fundraising events and mentorship. The fact that so many veterans have already found entrepreneurial success with the help of Warrior Rising suggests that the infrastructure they’ve put in place is working well and as intended.
The Warrior Rising culture & core values
One of the most important parts of Warrior Rising and the work they do is their culture and the values that help drive them forward. The people behind Warrior Rising see their organization as a family of veterans and sees those looking to support veterans as volunteers, mentors, partners or donors. This creates a close-knit feel that everyone involved benefits from.
It’s not just about the services offered to veterans, it’s also about fostering a sense of belonging within their community and the wider veteran community at large. It’s clear that the Warrior Rising network is supportive and helpful in a wide range of ways, both in the formal sense of offering business support but also in the human sense as well, which can be even more important for many veterans.
The people at Warrior Rising know, some from first-hand experience, that dealing with life after the military can be really tough. After doing something so challenging and unlike anything else, finding that next step in your life and career can be really tough. Warrior Rising is about facilitating that transition and making it easier than it might otherwise be if those people were going through it alone.
It’s a community of veterans and supporters of veterans helping other veterans—that’s the ethos and thinking behind the organization. And because the people who started up Warrior Rising have military experience themselves, they know how to handle that transition best. They also understand which skills gained in the military are most easily transferred to the world of business.
The founder: Jason Van Camp
The founder and executive director behind Warrior Rising is Jason Van Camp. He’s a decorated Green Beret, serving in numerous combat rotations as a Special Forces Detachment Commander in the Middle East and Africa. He’s an avid traveler and a specialist in foreign languages, and he eventually became an entrepreneur when his military service was complete.
Jason got his MBA in 2013 from Brigham Young University, and it was during his time there that he developed a passion for business and entrepreneurship. He wanted to support the veteran community better and saw business and entrepreneurship as a way of doing exactly that. Warrior Rising was founded with that intention, and over the years his passion for helping veterans into business has only grown.
The International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) recently awarded Jason the Top Military Entrepreneur of the Year for 2020. And on top of his work with Warrior Rising, he also works as the CEO of Mission 6 Zero. His work has helped the veteran community in many ways, and he’s supported by an array of talent on the Warrior Rising board of directors.
Jason’s also a family man with a wife and two kids, to whom he dedicates a lot of time. But a huge chunk of his time is also dedicated to helping veterans find their next steps in life after completing their military service. His experience in the military and finding his feet after it show others that it can be done.
A focus on empowering veterans
One of the key things about Warrior Rising is that it’s about a lot more than handing out money as some charities might. This is instead about empowering and supporting people, specifically veterans, who are not sure how to make the transition from the military to the world of business. That empowerment means that they’re given the platform to thrive on their own terms and as their own bosses. That’s how it should be.
They believe in helping veterans create their own futures and not having to rely on other people. That’s what true empowerment is. They’ve given the skills and guidance to solve their own problems and find their own ways forward. Warrior Rising believe that these veterans deserve that support because they’ve served our country for all of us.
Many entrepreneurs do it all themselves, from start to finish and that’s great. But that’s also something that was made possible by the freedoms they receive in this country and the time and opportunities afforded to them. That’s obviously not something that was possible for people who were spending that time defending this country via their service in the military.
Therefore, the extra help that’s given to these veterans by Warrior Rising is about lifting them up so they can start their businesses on a level playing field with everyone else. After all, for the service they’ve given and the time and efforts they’ve sacrificed over the years, Warrior Rising believes that this is the least they deserve from us.
They work in a collaborative way with the veteran community, too, and this is evidenced by the Advisory Board that Warrior Rising works with. This board is made up of people including veterans and military personnel, and it offers non-binding advice on what Warrior Rising might do next. They base advice on new trends and developing needs present in the veteran community. Details of this board and who sits on it can be found on the Warrior Rising website, so it’s all very transparent too.
Warrior Rising success stories
There are already so many success stories facilitated by the work of Warrior Rising. The veterans who have started up businesses and already achieved so much with those enterprises are referred to by Warrior Rising as Warriors. The organization proudly provides information about these success stories via their website and each Warrior has a small profile telling their story.
Storytelling and delivering hope and generating support via storytelling is a big part of what Warrior Rising does, and it’s clearly something that Jason Van Camp believes in very strongly. And it’s something they do very well. Their website shares success stories of these Warrior Veterans and helps to explain how donations help to make these success stories possible. This in turn encourages further support from donors.
One success story is from Daisson Hickel and his business called Java Can. Daisson saw 16 years of active duty with the U.S. Army Special Forces. That included 10 operational deployments and 4 combat tours. Since then, with the help of Warrior Rising, he created a business inspired by his tours in the Middle East. Java Can creates a cafeteria coffee experience in can, perfect for people camping or spending time outdoors, far from the nearest coffee shop. He secured $50K with the help of Warrior Rising and got his business off the ground.
Juan C. Beret was a Staff Sergeant in the US Air Force and after leaving the military he started his business creating bespoke sports equipment, specifically for baseball players. He creates handmade baseball bats and gloves of the highest quality and sells them to customers all over the country.
Eva Vega served in the U.S. Navy and experienced invisible wounds followed by experience of her son getting an autism diagnosis. These experiences led her to starting her business Thyme & Play with the help of Warrior Rising. It’s about creating a bespoke chef experience for people with mental impairments and conditions such as autism which might lead to them struggling with a more conventional restaurant experience.
The people who make these entrepreneurial opportunities possible for veterans at Warrior Rising are known as the mentors. These are the cornerstone of everything that’s done by Warrior Rising. They deliver the mentoring that makes it possible for veterans to take the first steps towards becoming real entrepreneurs and getting their businesses started.
The mentors that work for Warrior Rising are usually people who already have plenty of experience as business people and entrepreneurs in their own right. They’ve usually started successful businesses themselves, providing them with firsthand experience of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and to grow a startup from the beginning. This knowledge can then be passed on to the veterans supported by Warrior Rising.
The mentorship process is something that’s very much hands-on and one-to-one. It means that the veteran has the chance to work closely with a person who is experienced and who knows what they’re talking about. The mentor will review the business plan, offering suggestions for how to change and improve it and then support them through the go-to-market strategy that they put in place.
The way in which the mentorship is delivered differs from case to case, though. These entrepreneurial mentors ensure that the sessions and help that is provided are tailored to the individual needs of the person they’re working with. After all, every veteran needs different kinds of support when they’re starting their business and trying to get it off the ground for the first time. That means that the mentoring they receive needs to be unique to them as well.
These mentors are often people who want to give something back and see mentoring veterans looking to enter the business world as the ideal way of doing that. These mentors can then give their time and their knowledge to help these people take their first steps. And their individual profiles can be seen on the Warrior Rising website so that anyone, including potential future veteran entrepreneurs, can learn about them and their backgrounds.
As a non-profit, a big part of what Warrior Rising needs to do is attract funds and donations. This is what provides the money that helps them to support veteran businesses and create new veteran entrepreneurs. Without those funds, a lot of the things that they do for veterans on a day-to-day basis would simply not be possible. There’s a wide variety of ways in which this fundraising is done.
Their slick online presence, the wonderful way in which they tell their story, and the stories of the veterans they’ve already helped are a big part of what helps them attract support. This is something we’ve already discussed, but it’s worth emphasizing. As such, it’s possible for visitors to the Warrior Rising website to make donations, but it’s not the only way in which the organization raises money.
They carry out other fundraising activities and encourage their supporters to do the same. When people can see the good that their money is doing, they’re more likely to want not only to donate but also to start making their own efforts to raise funds. They can do this by creating their own events and fundraising activities in their local community as well as through online fundraising activities.
This is something that non-profits can now make the most of. There are lots of ways to raise money on social media platforms and by having an army of supporters in place who are talking about the charity and the good it’s doing for veterans, the word is able to spread very quickly on social media platforms. It’s another way in which Warrior Rising is able to raise money for the work they do.
One thing that Warrior Rising does very well is providing the guidance and tools for creating these online fundraising efforts. They provide guides and details on their websites to people who want to start raising money for Warrior Rising through their own efforts. This empowers people to raise money for the organization without the need of direct supervision from Warrior Rising themselves.
In addition to fundraising through individuals and their efforts in communities and online, Warrior Rising also works with commercial and corporate partners who are able to offer funding, too. It’s not just about raising funds but also getting other kinds of donations that can help veterans. One example of this is the way in which UWM Men’s Shop in Salt Lake City donates suits and business attire that veterans can wear in order to look the part as they’re getting started in the world of business.
The success of Warrior Rising is to be commended and appreciated. Veterans who otherwise might have lacked opportunities can now build thriving businesses in their communities with support from mentors who truly know what they’re talking about. This non-profit will continue to grow and, hopefully, more veterans will be able to benefit from the work they do and the funds they raise.