Covid-19 Veteran Business and Alumni Success

During the uncertain times we are living in right now, it’s nice to see our alumni, veterans, and veteran business owners do what they can to help the community. Below are only a couple of stories we wanted to highlight to show that in this time of crisis, now more than ever, we are all in this together.

Business Success Stories | Alumni Success Stories 

Alumni Success Stories

Chris Teodoro

Chris TeodoroI was born in the Philippines and emigrated to the U.S. when I was 16 where I had to learn a new language, make new friends and adapt to a new culture. I learned at an early age the words resiliency and determination. I also learned early on to set goals for myself and managed to accomplish many of my goals to include a successful military career as an Army Special Forces.

As Special Forces Soldier, I spent a large amount of time training and advising foreign partner nations overseas. That means constantly learning so you can “talk the talk and walk the walk.” To be good at this line of work, you have to be a lifelong learner, always striving to get better, and a true subject matter expert.

With that mindset, I knew that I need to take ownership of my future goals and ambitions. So, when I began my transition last November 2019, my first stop was the Hawk Career Transition Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to identify the resources and programs available for transitioning service members. With their assistance, I was introduced to the IVMF’s Onward to Opportunity career training program. I attended Angela Condon’s O2O informational presentation and was extremely impressed with the O2O program, which allows service members, veterans, and military spouses to receive, at no-cost, professional certifications and career training to support a successful transition.

While COVID-19 definitely imposed some challenges during my transition, I was able to adapt to the changing environments and used the “virtual environment” to balance work, transition, and career training. I passed my Project Management Professional (PMP), Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Google IT Support Professional, Scaled Agile Scrum Master and CompTIA A+ O2O coursework while also participating in a remote Hiring our Heroes Corporate Fellowship with Nike. The O2O online learning platform was a valuable resource to study for these certifications. The platform allowed me to access additional coursework, TestPrep, and additional resources to help with my exam preparation. Additionally, the O2O program helped with expanding my virtual network and with my career transition by inviting industry experts to engage with and provide career advising to the cohort members.

The best piece of advice I can provide to active and transitioning service members is to take full advantage of the many resources available to pursue advance certifications and training. While transitioning out of the military can be a daunting task, anything is possible with good time management, self-discipline and initiative. I was once told by my former Special Forces Team Sergeant to “never let it rest until your good is better and your better is best.”

Lastly, I owe most of my success to the resourcefulness, support, and dedication of the O2O team; program managers, coordinators, advisors, and mentors that guided me and made it possible to make this transitioning process less challenging. I am beyond honored to have successfully served our country for 24 years. Thank you so much.

Chris Teodoro
First Sergeant, US Army
O2O Pacific Northwest, WA
PMP Graduate

Alange Castelly

Alange CastellyNot knowing when is the right time to laser focus on your transition instead of your military obligations is one of the many struggle for many transitioning service members.
One of the requirement of the O2O program is a document that requires Battalion level leadership approval. I believe this document creates an understanding for the service members and their units.

This is a great program with great resources, and your commitment to success is vital to make the best use of time. My advice would be to make the program your mission. Set your study plan and create weekly small wins for yourself. You must commit to your goals and hold yourself accountable to make up your shortfalls to remain on schedule.

With that mindset I knew that completing my certification on time was a must and I held myself accountable to meet my study goals. I took the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification exam and passed. Soon after, the job offers, and referrals were flooding in. Some of the offers were within the six figures. I was able to secure a General Service position at the Airforce Academy.

The employment market during COVID-19 did not change, but my marketability did with the O2O program.

Alange Castelly

Sergeant First Class (E7), US Army

O2O Fort Carson, CO

Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP) Participant

Sarah Chen

O2O graduate Sarah ChenAfter I passed the PMP exam, the goal for springtime was to continue to network with O2O and hopefully secure something part-time heading into Summer/Fall that could be potentially portable when we PCS next Summer.

The friends at Hire Our Heroes offered to set me up with a mentoring conversation – another PMP certified project manager – who could speak with me about how she explored opportunities and was eventually hired. We spoke RIGHT before the sky fell and the lockdown began. This ACP mentor connected me with her friend who works as a full time remote project manager out of Argentina where he resides with his girlfriend who’s in school. He hired me!

I am still astonished this month – even amidst the pandemic and lockdown – even with the children home and homeschooling – that I had the self-confidence to push for professional goals. I decided NO I wasn’t going to let fear stop me, and YES I was capable and qualified, and that YES we are living in the golden age of remote work and “WHY NOT ME?”

I went for it. It worked out. The position was sub-contracted, fully remote, and I earned some cash to gain some experience in the industry. That was always the goal. I know you know the challenges that balancing motherhood and working and military life can bring. I wanted to be part of that juggle. So I joined the circus, ha!

A sincere thanks to O2O for investing in me. The time spent in the 3-day workshop was transcendent for me and deeply impactful. It helped give me that jolt of confidence I didn’t realize I so sorely needed. I plan to continue to explore opportunities and set professional goals for myself. Thank you for guiding me through that process.

Sarah Chen
US Military Spouse
O2O Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)
Project Management Professional (PMP) Graduate
Freelance Project Manager at The Becker Group since May 2020

Tremayne Criner

I would like to Thank the O2O team, Karen and Sandra for your Tremayne Crineroutstanding support since I entered the program in January. You two helped me clarify my vision and ensured I was on the right transition path for my next career.

When the Coronavirus pandemic started, I know few of us that was set to transition were worried about getting to events to network, set up informational interviews and the prospect of getting hired. Companies that had jobs available were not hiring. Everything was at a standstill. There was no set time table when the interview process for when things were going to get back to normal. Re-opening dates kept sliding to right getting closing to my official retirement date and yes, I was nervous if not having an income. But one thing was constant. The ladies at O2O encouraged me to stay plugged in.

That, I did. I leaned on you and O2O support system. Not only did you two did you two kept me encouraged throughout the COVID pandemic, you all ensured I stayed ready and prepared for the call (calls for interviews). I stayed plugged in with The Hiring Heroes team and the great USO Pathfinders team, who by the way assisted me with fine tuning my resumes. Karen, The virtual networking and virtual interview preparations you provided were golden! Love it! Sandy, I loved the fact you took time out to help craft my resume, but also talk with me over coffee the life as civilian. Talking to you fine ladies has really helped me mentally prepare for the civilian world and I do deeply appreciate it.

As I venture out for the first time in civilian life, I cannot thank you two and the O2O TEAM enough!

God bless and all the best. I will be available for you in the future for assisting other veterans transitioning.

Tremayne Criner
Commander (O5), US NAVY
O2O National Capital Region, Washington DC
Project Management Professional (PMP) Graduate
Hired in June 2020 as Director of Operations, Louis Berger

Mark Siegel

The flexibility and support that the Onward to O2O graduate Mark Siegel.Opportunity program has provided me during the transition has been invaluable. Leaving active military service is always a stressful transition, and the onset of COVID-19 along with the ensuing record-shattering unemployment rates has made a difficult transition even more stressful. The ability to use a structured program to translate my military experiences into a known certification through Project Management Professional Certification course has been invaluable. Onward to Opportunity pairs this world-class training with the additional resume and interview preparation offered through Hiring Heroes to foster job placement and offer a holistic transition program that far surpasses any other transition assistance I have found. The Onward to Opportunity staff is genuinely committed to supporting all servicemembers through this transition and their ability to pivot during the challenges presented has been truly noteworthy. I will continue to recommend this service to all of my fellow servicemembers separating from active service and will be forever grateful for the opportunity offered by the Onward to Opportunity team.

Mark Siegel
7532, MV-22 Pilot
Camp Lejeune
Project Management Professional (PMP) Graduate

Business Success Stories

Bringing Remote Opportunity To Military Spouses All Over The World

V-WISE graduates, Erica McMannes and Liza Rodewald with Instant Teams connect employers with qualified military spouse remote talent, and recently closed a $1.5M round with Squadra Ventures. Now, the company is releasing its new beta software early for free in order to help companies successfully transition to remote working.

Read more here.

Virtual Speakeasy

In partnership with the Tampa Bay chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, Horse Soldier Bourbon in St. Petersburg has launched a relief initiative for local bartenders who are out of work at the moment, tapping them to lead its new live-streaming speakeasy series.

“The bartenders across Tampa Bay, our backyard, are not only our partners but they are also our friends,” said Horse Soldier co-founder Scott Neil in statement. “We hope this virtual speakeasy gives them not just a little cash, but also a chance to engage in what they love to do and are probably missing most right now: crafting cocktails. That’s what bourbon is all about, bringing people together. Social distancing doesn’t mean we can’t virtually come together.”

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Donating Thousands of Hand Sanitizer

Since its inception, Battle Sight Technologies has developed products for first responders. But with the outbreak of coronavirus, the Dayton company has switched from making the infrared marking devices it is known for to one of today’s most in-demand products: hand sanitizer.

Battle Sight has retooled its product line to make way for the development of the product, which is used to prevent infectious disease agents on the hands. Hand sanitizer has been in short supply in recent weeks, as it has been touted by health experts as an easy way to help prevent the spread of coronavirus disease.

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Restaurant helps the community keep food on the table

As we all adjust to the new normal many in the community have come together to help others, two veterans who own Semper Fi Bar and Grille are among that group and they’re making sure everyone in their community has something to eat.

See the whole story

Distilling Sanitizer

David Raad, Six & Twenty Distillery, who is also an EDGE grad, is producing 600-700 gallons of sanitizer each day and will continue to do so for as long as it’s necessary. Any donations he receives will be given to the Powdersville Volunteer Fire Department.

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Essential Deliveries

Logan Bonney, Anything But Beer Brewery & Taproom, who is also an EBV and EDGE grad, opened his taproom just a month before the COVID crisis hit. He noticed that health care workers were coming in after their shifts for takeout and community folks, seeing the health care workers getting food at his place, were offering to pay for their meals. He is now delivering free meals to health care professionals, and through this effort he has been able to rehire many of his employees.

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Flowers For A Pandemic

Here at The Enchanted Rose Floral Co we want to help you spread that light. Throughout the duration of quarantine and social distancing we will be offering free single stem flowers to everyone, no purchase necessary just pay shipping and handling. The idea is to send that stem to someone you know that could use a little bit of a pick me up: essential employees, military members, medical personnel, the elderly in assisted living facilities, anyone isolated alone, or anyone you know struggling in these trying times. Don’t know someone who could use the pick me up? No worries! You can donate a stem to someone in need by reaching out to us and we can set up a donation in your name. Since our flowers never die, they make a memorable memento that will stand the test of time. Our flowers can even be sanitized (read about sanitizing your flowers here) which makes them an even better gift to receive during this pandemic.

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New Business Launched to help those affected by Covid-19

A new lawn maintenance company in Moore County, North  Carolina was founded with the purpose of providing employment to people who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rakemates founders Crystal Wambeke and Michael Barbera  hired six people who were financially affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. Rakemates, a  lawn maintenance subscription service, will launch their service to select neighborhoods in  Moore County on Thursday, April 30, 2020.   According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 34,000 residents of Moore County lost their jobs since February 2020. Rakemates’ social mission is to hire people who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Rakemates’ environmental mission is to care for our  planet. Your Rakematers will use mostly eco-friendly (battery-operated tools) and will not use chemicals on lawns or weeds.

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