Healthcare · Jobs

From combat to commerce: Why stubborn, battle-hardened vets make wonderful entrepreneurs

Today’s guest blog is by Nick Karnaze, Marine Corps veteran and founder of Stubble & Stache, a premium skin and beard care company.  Follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

“If you are going to be stupid, be smart about it” is one of my favorite sayings. And by all accounts, starting a business is a stupid endeavor. Half of new businesses fail within five years. Less than a third of businesses last 10 years and entrepreneurs struggle with higher rates of depression and stress-related illnesses. When I first started my company, entrepreneurs were not viewed as the rockstars that they are today. Back then, entrepreneur was synonymous with unemployed…and in reality, that is still pretty much true. The only thing that has changed is the perception of an entrepreneur. Everyone wants to be the next unicorn – a startup with a billion dollar valuation – yet less than 2 percent of businesses will ever come close, and that is being generous.

Most startups fail for one of two reasons:

  1. They run out of funding or access to capital.

  2. The founder hits speed bump after speed bump and gives up. The stressful grind is too much.

Enter veterans. We are accustomed to getting punched in the face, both literally and figuratively. The taste of our own blood is motivating. We are used to doing less with more. Never give up, never surrender. This fighting spirit is ingrained in our DNA. Tell a vet they can’t do something and stand back as they work magic.

Listen to our interview with Nick
and how he became the “Beard Oil Baron”

We also know how to plan. Mission planning is a major component of military life – planning every aspect of an operation and then taking into account every possible action the enemy could take in response…and then planning against that. And despite our love of planning, we all know that it will go to sh*t after the bullets start flying. But you know what? That doesn’t matter because we always have a plan B. And if that plan doesn’t work, f*** it, we have another one up our sleeve.

I started my company stubble & ‘stache after my good friend and fellow Marine Raider was killed in Afghanistan. I knew that Justin had a substantial beard when he was shot. For whatever reason – I’ll call it a coping mechanism – I decided then and there that I would grow my beard out for Justin’s funeral.

As my beard grew I was quickly reminded of how itchy and abrasive facial hair can become. I couldn’t find any products I liked, so I decided to make my own.

By happenstance a few of my Navy SEAL buddies learned about what I was making. They asked for some product and that’s when I realized I could turn this homemade endeavor into a proper business. Word spread, interest grew, and stubble & ‘stache was born. If you are a man and care about your appearance, check us out.

Check out the Stubble & Stache Beard Blog

But you know what? It has almost failed multiple times. And it still might. But we fight on. For any veteran stupid enough to start a business, be smart about it. Here are some things to consider:

1. Your burn rate – the rate at which you spend money in excess of income – will be much higher than you expect. If you think you’ll need $50,000 for the year, triple it…then you might come close to what you’ll actual need. Most new business will take over a year before they turn a profit. Do you have enough in savings to live a year without a paycheck? If not, don’t quit your day job.

2. You can’t do it alone. Leverage the resources available to you.The Stanford Graduate School of Business has a wonderful summer program for post 9/11 veterans. Serious about being an entrepreneur? Apply to the course.

3. Test the market and don’t fall in love. You might think your business idea is the greatest thing since mankind discovered beer, but is it really? Test the market. Do people actually want it? Hit the pavement and talk to folks outside of your friend group. Listen to the feedback and adjust if necessary.

4. Commit and never look back. Once you pull the trigger, stick with it. Right when you feel all is lost is the moment before you break through to the next level.

5. Establish a support network. Friends and family are wonderful, but they don’t know what it’s like to start a business. Connect with other entrepreneurs and draw on them for support and motivation when times get tough…which they will.

Now go forth and do great things. And remember, it only takes 10 years to become an overnight success.

Semper Fi,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s