Fellow brothers and sisters in arms displayed courage and loyalty in defense of each other and their common purpose. He doesn’t volunteer details of those acts, but his passion seems to fill in any gaps. It doesn’t matter what those acts were so much as that they happened, and continue to happen right this moment as our men and women in the military continue to deploy and serve.
It was that loyalty, sense of purpose, and commonality amongst each other that he missed after he left the military.
“We all want to hit that bullseye, what we’re good at overlaps with our passions, and those overlap with our way to make a living,” he says. It’s just very difficult to find in the civilian sector.
His nine years in the Air Force allowed him to hit that bullseye every day. He was even able to indulge his other passion entrepreneurship.
Mark’s active duty pay and allowances were not a fortune but allowed him to provide for his wife and children with enough of a cushion that he and his wife were able to invest in real estate. He recommends this segue way to entrepreneurship for anyone who feels that itch; Indulge it on the side, as a side hustle, without giving up your day job.
Mark returned from Iraq in 2008, just in time for this country’s biggest economic disaster in decades. By the time he left the military, the crisis had wreaked havoc on the financial viability of millions of Americans. Veteran entrepreneurs were among those who took hard hits.
Banks had rolled up their sidewalks to entrepreneurs. They were no longer lending especially to veterans, who many deemed as high risk. To Mark, whose father and grandfather were veterans, and who had given so much of himself in service, this was unacceptable. There was a big problem and he knew how to solve it. The catch was that he’d have to leave his stable job with a Wall Street law firm and gamble his own family’s well-being on his certainty that he could make it work.
“For me it was a very big risk,” says Mark. Two things convinced him to take that risk: One, the need was great
Next, his faith came into play. “I’m a Christian,” says Mark. “I have faith that what I do and make for a living doesn’t define me, and I’m okay taking risks because I have that faith.”
He also has the faith of his wife, who went all in on her husband and his vision. Together with his co-founder, Mickey Konson, Mark launched StreetShares in 2013, and he’s never looked back.
While banks looked at veterans and their spouses as high-risk, Mark leveraged his financial knowledge and his bond with his brothers and sisters to feel secure in offering them low rate loans as well as grants. Streetshares also offers mentoring and coaching to new entrepreneurs. Vietnam veterans have come forward to support today’s veterans by investing in StreetShares. Their investments, along with others, fund the loans. Mark is in awe of those Vietnam veterans. His dad was among those who returned home to a country that was hostile to veterans. They continue to suffer the devastating impacts of combat decades later, and yet they make it a point to protect and support today’s veterans.
Veterans business bonds are one of StreetShares inventions, and they are Mark’s pride and joy. StreetShares pounced on a 2012 change in law to create America’s first veterans service impact product that’s been qualified by the SEC for public sale, in the form of those bonds
Based on the principles of behavioral economics, Mark knew he could harness veterans’ loyalty to one another. “If they would die for each other over there, wouldn’t they at least pay loans back to each other over here?”
As for the success of those entrepreneurs, Mark has no doubt. He believes veterans possess a grit not found among non-veterans. He knows this gives them an edge in business, which demands a never quit mindset.
His faith and tenacity have paid off. StreetShares has tens of thousands of members and more success stories than they will ever be able to tell. Veteran entrepreneurs are flourishing with the support of his company and its foundation. Mark has found a way to achieve something so many people dream of, but struggle to accomplish; Doing well by doing good.That’s one of the beauties of this country, says Mark. He was able to have a vision and execute it. He believes anyone in this country has the same opportunity, of they are willing to work for it. He also believes it is everyone’s responsibility to help as many others as they can, do the same.
Life is like a baseball diamond and all of us are trying to get back to Home Base, to score. Some folks are born on first base, some on second, and some on third. We all have the same goal to round the bases and get Home, and I believe to take as many people with you as you as possible. Help as many folks as you can along the way.
Doing well by doing good is Mark’s path to living his own American Dream. The road is difficult and has plenty of bumps, but any American can round those bases. We can’t help which base we are born on, he says, and it is pointless to judge people on other bases. Rather, be aware of and grateful for the opportunities in this country, and use them to make it to your own Home base.
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