Written by Mark L. Rockefeller: CEO, StreetShares
Every entrepreneur knows that starting and running a company is a roller coaster. Some days go up—other days go down—days have their own twists, turns, thrills, and moments of terror.
Yesterday, March 3, 2015 was one of the best days I’ve ever experienced as an entrepreneur.
It started like any other. The team shuffles in, and coffee is poured. Meetings, phone calls, and emails begin. The phone rings incessantly; side meetings and collaborations begin. As the collective energy begins to rise in our open workspace, so does the noise. Some people pop in earbuds. Other team members relocate to the couch or conference table to work—a normal day is in full swing. We send out a press release that morning for a major addition to our Board of Advisors, and we come one step closer to signing a major financial deal. On any other day, these would be highlights.
But not yesterday.
The phone rings, and our Director of Borrower Relations, Mike Bryant, speaks to the caller for a few moments. Mike is an MBA and former Marine Corps officer. He takes dozens of customer calls each day . . . but this one is different.
Mike hangs up the phone and makes an announcement: Zach Green, a military veteran and small business owner, is stopping by the office. Zach’s owns MN8 Foxfire, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Zach just obtained a StreetShares loan the week prior.
Zach was a U.S. Marine and firefighter who created a product line of innovative photo-luminescent bright green safety products and exit signs to help firefighters see each other in the dark. Zach got the idea for MN8 FoxFire from his time in the Marine Corps infantry. Anyone who has been in the military knows about the glow-in-the-dark “cat eyes” that U.S. forces wear on the back of our helmets to identify each other in the dark. Zach took that idea to the next level.
StreetShares is located outside of Washington, D.C. Zach asked if he could stop by on his way to the airport to fly back home to Ohio. He came to D.C. to give a testimony to members of the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee and offer the much-needed perspective of a veteran small business owner. Zach visits StreetShares HQ directly from his time on Capitol Hill. When Zach walks in he is greeted by Mike, Dave, and Peter from our sales team (all Marine Corps veterans themselves). They chat for a couple of minutes, swap a few war stories, and then introduce Zach to me.
I am impressed. He is a big guy, and he wears a dark suit with a bright green tie (to match his safety products, I assume). He proudly wears an “Eagle, Globe, and Anchor” lapel pin—clearly proud of his time in the Marine Corps. He is articulate and passionate about his business, his country, and helping his fellow veterans. In short, he is exactly the kind of veteran small business owner StreetShares likes to help.
Then came the best part. Zach tells us about his business: why he started it, his successes and challenges, and the recent trouble he’s had (despite his financial success) in obtaining reasonably-priced capital in a fast and efficient way. Zach came to StreetShares to find quick, fairly priced capital, backed by his fellow veterans. I look up the StreetShares auction that backed our loan to Zach’s company. It was funded by 13 different bids from investors, including several fellow veterans.
Zach tells us what a difference his StreetShares loan made to his business. He was so excited about it that he even told several members of Congress, and their staffs, about StreetShares in his testimony hours earlier.
Why was yesterday awesome? Because I met Zach, a successful veteran-turned-entrepreneur who is creating value, creating jobs, and making a little money along the way. I got to meet the reason why we built StreetShares.
After Zach leaves, I turn to my team and said, “This is why we do what we do!” This is why StreetShares employees come to work each day, and this is why I can’t wait for Monday mornings.
We all need a little reminder now and then. Thank you, Zach, for stopping by. You made yesterday a very good day.
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