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I've been asked to share my experience on winning government contracts as a disabled veteran business enterprise.
But I wanted to go back to the beginning and talk about what led up to this moment here today.
I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Midwestern guy. I wrestled in high school. I always wanted to join the Marine Corps. Lifelong dream.
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My cousin was a retired gunnery sergeant. My uncle was a retired chief warrant officer. My grandfather, in fact, medically retired from our Air Force base here.
He was an aviator and he crashed his airplane due to an onboard fire and stumbled out of the cockpit and lost his his right arm from the propeller. So we've got a legacy of military service in my family.
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And it was a dream of mine to follow the same path. My senior year in high school, I paddled 100 miles through the Florida Everglades and I was surrounded by sharks and crocodiles and alligators.
And that experience, you know, taught myself that I had some grit and mental fortitude. And I thought, you know what? I think I could hack it in the Marine Corps.
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I think I can do a marine Corps boot camp. And so I flew out to San Diego and I attended the iconic Marine Corps boot camp experience. And after that, you know, I was on an infantry contract because I wanted to join reconnaissance. So I went to infantry training battalion at Camp Pendleton. And then I was selected to go to an amphibious reconnaissance school in Little Creek, Virginia, which was a ten week course and week six of the ten week class, I was doing a £120 rucksack run, and my femur literally snapped in half.
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And I was just training too hard. I was all motivation, no brains, and I overtrained and as a result, I went through three leg surgeries. I didn't walk for a year. Ultimately, they had to replace my right hip, and I medically retired from the Marine Corps as a lance corporal. And I went to I use the post-9-11 GI Bill and went to study business.
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And my senior year in business school, I went to a career fair, looked a lot like this, and there were guys climbing oil rigs and wind towers and structural steel. And I thought, man, I could do that. So I got a job selling safety harnesses, as you see up here for a 3 a.m. company. And I did that for for ten years.
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And I used the you know, I pursued a master's degree in health and safety and became a board certified safety professional. And I thought to myself that at that point I just I was watching Shark Tank and watching YouTube videos and how to start a business. And I thought, you know what? I think I can start my own business.
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I think I have something to offer the world. And I made a very difficult decision. I left a ten year career at 3 a.m. as a safety engineer, and I enlisted all the services at my disposal. I got a score mentor. I took free classes at the SBA and TAC, and I just availed myself to anybody that would listen to me and give me free advice.
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I wrote a business plan, things like that, and I started my business. Black Box Safety two years ago. And what life has looked like since then is, you know, I started my company and I started attending events just like this. And I learned very quickly that it's not enough to have the initials DV or Steve Jobs B that that in and of itself doesn't mean much and that I have not gotten a single order or single piece of business because I am a service disabled veteran on small business.
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That is not how I have found success. I have found success by attending events like this and telling my story to anybody that will listen. And then in addition, having a commercial commercially useful function, it's not enough for me just to facilitate a transaction. I must provide value to the government agencies of which I serve. Last year I attended the Veterans Summit for the first time and I met Albert and I met Wayne GROSS with the Degrees and different folks like that.
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And I remember very clearly seeing a another business that was much like mine. You know, they are a distributor of safety supplies to government agencies. And when I saw that business, I thought, man, I got to stay away from that guy. He's my competitor. I we cannot talk. He can't know that I'm here. And throughout the day I warmed up and I thought, you know what?
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Maybe this would be a good friend to make. Well, we struck a friendship, and shortly thereafter, within a few months, we partnered on a pretty big opportunity to provide engineered fall protection systems to the California Department of Fire and Forestry. And so we keep those guys safe when they're, you know, it takes 100 aircraft to put out those forest fires and they get on top of those aircraft.
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And if they fall off, that's going to result in a serious injury or fatality. So we provide fire protection systems to those guys. Now, we've been doing my company has been doing active shooter kits and turning kids to the VA health care system, turning kids to law enforcement, needle stick resistant gloves to law enforcement. We do the world's first biodegradable nitrile glove to the Department of Corrections.
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So we are, you know, it's my mission. I got hurt at work and it changed my life forever. It's never going to be the same. So today, it's my mission to protect other people at work so that they can continue to do the things that they love with the people that they love to do them with. And so that's what I do.
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I go to events like this, I tell my story and I make friends. And anybody that's thinking about doing the same thing, I would suggest the same process. Go to these events and try and make a friendship, take advantage of the free resources through SBA score and TAC and it's not going to be easy, but it is possible, and my testimony speaks to that possibility.
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So thank you very much for listening. I've got literature up here. One thing that I always do is I send a postcard to anybody that I meet with a little handwritten note. So I recommend that you do the same thing with the people that you're meeting with. If you'd like to see what that postcard looks like, it's up here at my table.
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And thank you again, Les, for asking me to speak to that. But you see what I mean? Sometimes you wonder if it can really happen. Sometimes you wonder if being here today will be a part of making it happen. And his story makes it clear. One of the things I hope you heard him say is that he ended up speaking to someone and working with someone that he initially thought was his competition.
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Please remember, there's no competitors here. We're all complimenting one another for each other's ultimate success. So as you network, if you see a similar business, if you're talking to someone who's in a similar industry, get excited, exchange contact information, and let's make things happen. So again, thank you, Jackson, for sharing your story. Thanks for that, Scott. Handshakes, not handouts.