Helping Navy SEALs and other special forces become entrepreneurs

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-05 12:41:55-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The Honor Foundation is helping Navy SEALs and other special operators transition into civilian life and succeed in business.

The foundation's goal is to impact 65,000 families by 2020. As part of that goal, there is a program SEALs can apply to. Part of that program is a two-day intensive class to teach the lean startup methodology to SEALs and other special operators.

The class is taught by Mapquest founder Chris Heivly, who works to provide those taking his class with a set of tools to combat the fear of starting a company from a blank sheet of paper.

For Dan Hathorn a retired chief, he needed help honing his ideas. "Hey I have all these skills that I think you need, but I don't know how to articulate that to you," said Hathorn.

After being critically injured in 2009, Hathorn said that led to his early retirement. But he couldn't figure out his passion. That's when he remembered his time in the hospital from being injured.

"I ended up bringing my healthcare team together. I assembled this team of doctors and brought them together in a common goal. And I realized these guys are great at what they do, but there's no leadership development for them. They're so focused on operating on people they don't get to know the person," said Hathorn.

The program isn't just for special operators. Kristen Murdock is attached to a special operations command and planning ahead for when she gets out of the Navy.

"My biggest change is honestly how open I am to how things I may have discounted before. There's so many opportunities where originallyIi would have said no," said Murdock.

When News 3 attended The Honor Foundation's class, the group was toward the end of the program. Chris Heivly believes being a Navy SEAL is an advantage when it comes to entrepreneurship.

"It's very experimental and discovery. You're figuring out who your audience is and what product do they want. That's very similar to what these guys are trained to do. In that respect, they're well poised," said Heivly. He talked about how adults can overcomplicate things when it comes to starting a business. Another thing entrepreneurs tend to do is get sucked into the hype of being the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, without realizing how much work and sacrifice a business truly takes. That's something he feels the SEALs understand.

"I feel confident I've planted enough seeds that they have a methodology that they can approach that isn't scary, isn't too big and they can rock and roll that," said Heivly.

Those who have gone through The Honor Foundation have gotten jobs in companies including Airbnb, Uber along with universities including Harvard and Wharton.