Mark Mhley is a retired Naval Officer and Aviator. After leaving the military, Mark founded Re4ormed, which provides a place for veteran and military-spouse entrepreneurs to connect with a community and business services they can trust.
In this episode we talk about Mark's time in the military, how that changed the trajectory of his life, and how he is focused on helping veterans now.
Links & Resources
- Re4ormed on Facebook
- Re4ormed on Instagram
- Re4ormed on Twitter
- Re4ormed on YouTube
- Connect with Mark Mhley on LinkedIn
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning in to a Drive On Podcast where we're focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community, whether you're a Veteran, Active Duty, Guard, Reserve, or a family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I'm your host, Scott DeLuzio, and now let's get on with the show. Hi
Scott DeLuzio: 00:00:22 everybody today, my guest is Mark Mhley. Mark is a retired Naval officer and aviator. After leaving the military, Mark founded Reformed, which provides a place for Veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs to connect with the community and business services that they can trust. So welcome to the show Mark. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
Mark Mhley: 00:00:45 Yeah. Hey, thanks Scott. No worries. Pausing when you get to my last name is a pretty common occurrence in my life. I know with a name like DeLuzio, you get the same, but no worries. So yeah, I was a Naval aviator in my adult life. In fact, my call sign was, and if you ask my Navy friends, it is fun, which coincidentally stands for FDIC name. So I've grown up with that. I was a Naval Academy graduate back in 1996, became a Naval aviator, flew the F 14 Tomcat. I had the privilege of being a top gun instructor through the beginning days of the Iraq war, made five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, like all of us have and then made a transition to work for J sock for a couple of years as an operational planner. After that, I came up here where I live now to Annapolis, Maryland to instruct at the Naval Academy to corrupt young minds. I mean to create officers and Marine Corps officers and to teach in the political science department . I retired in late 2017 and today after a struggle filled that first year as an entrepreneur. In 2018 my business pivoted to support what you said, Veterans, military spouses, and new to us elite athletes help that community launch and grow their businesses.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:02:21 Awesome. Yeah. So when we were emailing back and forth to get you on the show a few weeks ago, you had mentioned that you deployed on the USS Teddy Roosevelt back in 2009, 2010 time period. I think we probably had some overlap on that deployment because I got to Afghanistan in the early part of 2010. You had mentioned that this deployment had changed the trajectory of your life. And I'm interested in hearing more about this deployment and what took place during that deployment for you?
Mark Mhley: 00:02:55 Yeah, Scott, what a great, well, loaded question like you encounter somebody else from whatever their service you said, Hey, I was in Afghanistan as well in 2009 and 10. Let's talk about it, boy, what a time. Yeah, that was a time in my life as it was in a lot of our lives. The troop surge, this was year eight, nine of operation enduring freedom. War had matured, yet so much was stagnant and yet, it was such a bloody conflict in which we were trying to win hearts and minds. I recall, this was General McChrystal, who was the ICF commander at the time and under the rules of engagement and we're undergoing a trend and appear to transition trying to return to the idea that we are not ever going to win this war, if we don't win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and you don't do that by blowing up every building that has a suspected insurgent inside it.
Mark Mhley: 00:04:03 Well, so that was the period we were in was that phase of the conflict and with tears going on there was also, you know, escalation of attack on American forces. Well, for us flying off the USS Theodore Roosevelt we left Virginia Beach in 2009, thinking we were going on a six month deployment. Like most Navy deployments were to date. Scott, we ended up staying there for nine months and it was because of just how much turmoil there was in everything I just shared, as well, as I recall, there was this major troop trend or a transfer of control of Helmand province. And then if you remember, that was like a South side central province. What is it, Kandahar? And that whole area, it was a very dangerous spot and the American Marines were turning it over to British Army and Marines.
Mark Mhley: 00:05:00 And the turnover was just so tumultuous that we remained on station for an extra three months and to make a long story short, we can dive into some of the details during our nine months deployment. The American Marines we supported lost 24 of their brothers and sisters to insurgent attacks. And this was under our British Marine and Army friends lost 55 and will stay with me for the rest of my life because we tallied that at the end of our stay, we had gone back home and the Navy did a great job. Welcome back to Norfolk, Virginia Beach. You guys have crushed it, keeping an American democracy strong, and you're looking after a national interest. And I'm like, I remember turning to a friend thinking like, what is it, this is what victory feels like. I mean, under our watch, I mean, 79 men and women were killed,
Mark Mhley: 00:06:00 We were part of a very bloody contest on the ground for terrain, as you remember the Army and personally I was involved in a number of engagements that led to us starting targeting insurgent positions with weapons, either GPS laser guided bombs, or our 20 millimeter cannon. We did a lot of kinetic activity. Remember that?
Scott DeLuzio: Yes.
Mark Mhley: Leaving that deployment was unsafe, I left unsettled. We took a lot of lives. We scorched a lot of earth and rightly we did it in the name of protecting our coalition and American brothers and sisters on the ground. How we advanced American interests on the ground is another question. And I remember leaving that deployment. We literally pulled out and we almost didn't want to leave. Do you ever have that feeling when you're at the end of the deployment and you're like, we are the experts here, we know how to look at the enemy. We know the terrain, we know the field, we know what our weaknesses are and what our strengths are. We felt that it was on that air carrier.
Mark Mhley: 00:07:13 And then you're just turning it over to fresh, fresh meat, basically fresh, fresh.
Mark Mhley: 00:07:18 This is from Virginia Beach or Hey guys, we're here to take over. And you're like, Oh my God, if you guys only knew what you're going to learn, we'll try to teach you in like 72 hours for a turnover, it'd begin to teach you, and we would, we would do the best we could. And I appreciate that, the Navy did the best they could to facilitate those handovers. I think there was a name for it. I forget what the turnover name was back then. I remember feeling like we had just facilitated this transition of power on the ground from American Marines to the British Army and Marine and Marine Corps. And it was a bloody turnover.
Mark Mhley: 00:08:01 The American Marines figured it out. I mean, they understood how to deal with insurgent forces. And the British though came in and it felt like they came in and just kicked the hornet's nest. And whenever those guys and girls would go on patrol, they were in a troops and contest situation routinely, and it just felt like something changed. And our lives were much more complicated because, you know, we were applying these new rules of engagement and trying to de-escalate, but the verdicts were new on the ground. And they were like, bomb that building, bomb that area, they wanted to blow up everything. And we had to be like, Hey, have you done these following things? We're not in there. And it really came to a head for me to stop. I don't want to answer this question because it is going to lead to others.
Mark Mhley: 00:08:48 I was put in a position where I almost committed a fratricide where a British patrol lost track, another British patrol and here this hot to drop weapons on the other patrol, it was one of those situations where my crew, I was in a two person, super Hornet Jason Gustin, who is a friend to this day. Jason and I, we just executed our training. And we showed a little bit of tactical patience. We knew we had five minutes before they were even close to each other. The British patrol thought the other was insurgent forces and they weren't in touch. And we were a little patient, a little patient, but our fangs were up and we were about to drop weapons. And we didn't, not because we knew better, but because we decided to wait and we decided to wait for a better opportunity, but we were also waiting because we could, and we knew that the ROE drove more patient posture.
Mark Mhley: 00:09:46 And that British J tech and ground was yelling at us to drop weapons. And we said, stand by, stand by, stand by. And all of a sudden, another British voice crackles in the radio, remember the old K Y 58 encrypted radios. They were terrible anyway, but they went on the radio. And it was a different British voice. And they checked in with each other, it wasn't a big deal. And we were like, okay, I guess you don't need us anymore. We're going to head back. That event kept me up for days because had I done just what we were told to do, I would have had the lives of 10 young British soldiers on my hands for the rest of my life.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:10:23 Yeah, absolutely. And that gives you that, what if thing in the back of your head that you keep probably torturing yourself with, to try to justify it in your head?
Mark Mhley: 00:10:38 I can't imagine what I would have gone through, but I didn't have to, not because I was good, but because I was slightly patient and because I was very lucky. And I can imagine those of our brothers and sisters who were just as good, but we're not as lucky and what they deal with today as they wake up every morning and think about those same situations that they were just not as lucky to get out of. For me coming off that deployment was just hard. It was hard to leave that and come back to the states. So, you know, I'll wrap up this, long-winded answer to your question by saying, a buddy of mine Mo Paul firmo, his call sign was Malvo; Malvo is named after the DC sniper and totally inappropriate, but your guests will appreciate it, but Malvo because he never turned down a target.
Mark Mhley: 00:11:37 Now Lee Boyd Malvo, the DC sniper who took many lives back in 2000. We have a sad story, but Malvo is a great friend of mine to this day. And he and I wanted to do something more before we got back to the States. And we decided to organize a flight deck marathon on the Teddy Roosevelt.
Scott DeLuzio: Okay.
Mark Mhley: How do you do that? We got one of those roller measure things to measure out a mile and believe it or not like three laps around a carrier flight deck is a mile. And so we were like, do the math. We're like, all right. So three times 26.2, we measured out a marathon, the flight deck, and we turned it into a fundraiser for the entire ship. And we connected with our friends and families back home. And we raised like $25,000 for the American wounded warrior project.
Mark Mhley: 00:12:27 And this is before that whole organization kind of fell apart. And the British equivalent is called the British Help for Heroes organization, both serving the wounded combat, disabled Veterans, and coincidentally the ship would pull into Portsmouth, England, and we had an opportunity to meet with Help for Heroes, present them a check. And then we pulled into Jacksonville, Florida and did the same thing with the Wounded Warrior project. So in hindsight, at the end of that deployment, that was so bloody and changed a lot of our lives forever. it was just so just surreal to be able to meet with those two entities, to present them a check from the sailors and crew of this American aircraft carrier that had just been in Afghanistan for nine months to both the British who had lost 55 men and women in the Americans Wounded Warrior Project, but on the American side we lost 24. So, that deployment really changed the course of my life for all those reasons.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:13:29 Yeah. And I think that's a great background story and a good segue into where you transitioned as you were getting out of the Navy and what you're doing now. Before getting out of the Navy, what did that look like for you? Did you have a plan for what you wanted to do when you got out, did you have an exit strategy, if you want to call it that, or were you winging it when you got out?
Mark Mhley: 00:14:05 Yeah. In one word? Nope.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:14:10 Yeah. So, I mean, that does seem like a common thing that a lot of people, when they're getting out, they're done and they just want to be done and they just write it off. And other people do have more of a strategy. They're planning, six months, nine months out or whatever and they're trying to make connections with people and trying to figure out what they're going to do with the rest of their lives. But some other people, it seems like in your case, didn't really have much of a strategy for getting out. So, what was it like for you as you were getting out?
Mark Mhley: 00:14:52 I think my experience was a little bit unique only because I think we all approach the transition based on how much risk we can take. And for me, as I was retiring 05. I was 43 years old, I was 43 going on 29. I felt like I was 20% disabled. I have no issues. You know, everything was good to go. I was financially stable. And I really had, but I was not married with kids, so I could take a lot more risk and I could open up my aperture to what I wanted to do. So I really took a much broader look when I say, Nope; I say that facetiously, because I was looking at everything. And it took me a couple of months to narrow that down to look, I can do anything in this next phase of life.
Mark Mhley: 00:15:46 I remember thinking like I can move to Scotland and raise goats. I mean, I'm like, that would be kind of cool. Like, how would you do that? But I can do that. Well, I was at a hike in Idaho that fall. I was retiring, I think I was on terminal leave. And I ran a campfire one night. I was like, you know what? I need to obviously brainstorm what I want to focus on in my next phase of life. And I settled on it. I want to build a business and be an entrepreneur. Number two, I want to be involved in sustainability because it's an area that I care about that I had not been able to influence yet in my adult life. And number three, I wanted to somehow support the Veteran community. So from there, those three priorities propelled me in what would be the next year's journey and opening up the entrepreneurial life that I still live today. But I could never have predicted the series of doors that would have opened up one after another as I walked down that path.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:16:47 And so what did that initial entry into entrepreneurship look like for you? Did you start off with Reformed when you first got out of the Navy or was this an evolution kind of process that you went through?
Mark Mhley: 00:17:08 For me, it was, again, it was opening up one door at a time. I didn't know I was going to be starting my own business, let alone, or maybe partnering with people and finding, I didn't know anybody else that was interested in starting a business in sustainability in downtown Annapolis, Maryland, and helping Veterans. I had to seek out, I had to kind of look at the terrain, find what's going on out there. And as I took inventory of what my strengths were, a lot of soft skills, like we all have coming out of the military, all the leadership, project management, organization, time management, all those soft skills are wonderful. None of those rhyme with sustainability or fit running a business. So I sought out like, okay, what can I, let alone technical abilities in anything on sustainability.
Mark Mhley: 00:18:07 Right. So what happened is I got connected to some, I was like, composting. I randomly chose composting as this thing I was interested in. And I'm like, it's easy. There's a demand for it. I want to learn about it. And so I did, and I got connected to people who were developing a project for the Marine Corps as a proof of concept to demonstrate how Marine Corps food waste in the field could be anaerobically digested to be turned into energy, a really cool thing. And I remember having breakfast with these guys, I got connected to them and I liked what they're doing. They were really innovative thinkers, really forward-leaning in technology. And I asked, Hey, can I help you out? And just turn some wrenches and Nope, I have no skills, you don't need to pay anything, but I just want to intern with you if you will.
Mark Mhley: 00:19:00 Well, I joined their team as an unpaid intern and a year later after a lot of effort and after winning a state grant, a $640,000 state grant and winning a pitch contest from Sam Adams, the beer company one $15,000 from Sam Adams and a mentorship meeting with Jim Cook, the founder. I found myself in Jim Cook's office in Boston and over a three hour meeting, Jim Cook confirmed my concerns about this business effort I was growing. I had grown Reformed. I built it to be an anaerobic digestion focused business. It produced four products since the number four, the name carbon dioxide methane digest state, which is the compost material and a purified water and Reformed Camp was born as a company. Well, I'm sitting in his office, I'm sharing, well, Jim, this is where the name reform comes from, and here's my proforma.
Mark Mhley: 00:20:04 And I really need to build more projects and we're going to make this sustainable, but my business partners, who I'm about to sign a partner agreement with, don't want me to maintain 51% of this company as a service disabled Veteran company. And he said, Mark, that's all I need to hear. Don't do it. Don't partner with them. Your SDV USB status, whether it's certified by the SBA, the VA doesn't matter. He's like that is your most valuable marketing aspect in the sustainability world. Back out of this chain. He said something to the extent of mind your runway, how much runway do you have left? And don't be afraid to change the runway you're on. So I left that meeting with him and it took me only a couple of days to come meet my future partners and back out of the entire deal.
Mark Mhley: 00:20:55 And so I left that really uncertain what I wanted to do, but I'll tell you what really quickly in those days, I was repainting an F 14 Tomcat. Now that's a story. And I realized how much I had learned in the previous year through all the Veteran support and military spouse business support that was out there. And I wanted to pay forward what I had learned. And that was the start of this great pivot for Reformed to do what it is today. So it's out of that great failure that today, I'm growing this effort to help others have a much easier time in their first year of launching and growing their business.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:21:42 Yeah. And it's interesting the way you look at it too, because now, you got really great advice and that allowed you to pivot from what you originally were planning on doing to what you're currently doing now. I don't really see that necessarily as a failure, it's a learning experience. And I think that's the way all learning experiences throughout your whole life are going to involve some degree of what some people might consider a failure where you try something and don't get it right the very first time. But with entrepreneurship, you're constantly evolving what you're doing, and you're totally changing things from one way of doing things to another. And it seems like what you're doing now is on the right track. And it seems like it's fitting in line with a lot of what you were trying to do to begin with,
Mark Mhley: 00:22:45 Do you think we talk about failure differently as we become entrepreneurs and business oriented from when you were Active Duty, do you think that, I mean, how scared we were to talk about failure, but we embraced it. It was like, but I'm only asking, because I find myself using the term failing forward a lot, just be like, I'm making that up.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:23:15 Well, you know, I think we're also hard on ourselves with that. Where this felt like a failure, you felt like a failure. You put in all this time, all this effort you met with these people, you were
Mark Mhley: 00:23:33 in the trenches; I a State grant. I mean, I was literally in the shit. I mean, turning organic material, manure, waste into energy and figuring out how to do it. And then a billionaire basically told me to back out of it. Right.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:23:51 And so that seems like a failure. I could see how that would seem like a failure to you, but at the same time, you also have to give yourself a little bit of grace because how many businesses had you run prior to this? How much business experience did you have coming out of the Navy? Yes, like you said, you had a lot of those soft skills, some leadership skills and things like that, but it was pretty much still your first rodeo as far as your business experience goes.
Mark Mhley: 00:24:29 That's really why when I talked to younger, newer entrepreneurs today I share a bit of that story and I share that what I learned is that on your entrepreneurial journey is a series of doors opening. It's very different from your military experience, which is certainly a series of doors opening, but they are a series of predictable doors. You know, there's only a certain number, but in your entrepreneurial journey where you start and maybe it's true about transition, I don't know, but where you start is going to be nowhere. It's gonna look nothing like where you end at year one, two, three, four, five. And as you look back, you're going to say, Oh my God, how did that happen? You know, what I tell these new entrepreneurs is to be careful creating that five-year plan, let alone a 10 year business plan.
Mark Mhley: 00:25:27 I mean, who could have predicted that COVID was going to occur in 2020. So as a very obvious example, but you know, be careful planning beyond a year, think about those short term goals and what's the next sprint. It's like you're involved in software developments, very scrummy, and think of your life as smaller, innovative loops, where you can do the work real quick, sprint in and do something small and then test it and confirm with your customer. That's what we want to do. And then do it again and then do it again and do it again. And that's what my entrepreneurial journeys felt like, which is probably the biggest change from my military experience.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:26:11 Right? And so from a military perspective, it might seem like a failure. In the military you have a mission, this is your objective. You go execute that mission. If you do that, great, you've succeeded in mission, success. If you didn't, then the mission has failed. And that's that, it's kind of very black and white in a lot of cases. Not every single time, but, it's all very black and white, but in business, things are a little bit more gray, you can chalk some things up to learning experiences, and they could be considered a success, as long as you're making the right decisions to move yourself in the right direction .
Mark Mhley: 00:26:54 To get it back, but failing forward. What do you think about that?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:26:59 Yeah, but I mean, I think it's a good term to describe what you might describe as a failure, when you continue moving forward and you continue making progress, you've maybe failed at that initial attempt, but you you've learned from that initial attempt you're iterating and you're changing things up, and you're still moving forward. It's not like you failed. And then you just threw in the towel and said, well, screw it. I'm going to go get a job doing something else, and just throwing the towel in, and that would be a failure because you've just up and quit and that's not really the spirit of entrepreneurship where you're gonna get your hands a little dirty and try to figure things out. But you've kept going. And so, so far as I'm concerned, it doesn't seem like it's a failure.
Mark Mhley: 00:28:00 The word that comes to mind is resilience. And you and I are probably around the same age and I definitely believe that I am a far more resilient person now at 47 than I was at 37 than I was at 27. I think if I got out at 27 or 37, I would have been a far less resilient entrepreneur and I would have sure nailed a different way. And when I look, I engage with a lot of younger entrepreneurs now and I see the challenges they face. And I was just talking to one a couple of days ago who had this really bad experience with another Veteran business. And because of this one bad experience with another Veteran business, he's like I'm done working with Veteran businesses. I'm like, wait, what do you mean? You know, and we're in the middle of this conversation right now. And I'm like, there's more to that, but come on my friend, you gotta be more resilient than that.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:29:09 Yeah. And maybe don't work with that one particular company, but write off all Veteran businesses as a whole, that seems a little too much.
Mark Mhley: 00:29:24 Bring in the tab, throw in the towel, give up, I look at my life and we would have been, I don't know, in my three years as an entrepreneur, I've never once considered throwing in the towel. It was always like, that didn't work out now. What am I going to try? And even when I was Active Duty, I don't recall ever considering throwing the towel. Of course, I stayed there for 22 years. So I was committed. I believed that, but that has built that resiliency now it's like, right. And maybe that's what makes me feel so comfortable working amongst the Veterans and really now the military spouse community is that comfort feeling. I feel resilient among these people, you know?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:30:24 Right. And they bring their own resiliency, which is like that could be contagious where in a good way you see somebody else who's not going to quit and throw in the towel and they just keep plugging away and they keep working at whatever it is that they're working at. And you want to be more like that, you know? And you tend to feed off each other that way.
Mark Mhley: 00:30:51 Well, you know, it's interesting. I know you said in the pre-show conversation, you're like, Hey, we'll talk about your business too. Let me bring up my business right now. Okay.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:31:01 Yeah. I was actually going to transition into that. I want to get into your business and what you do and everything like that, too,
Mark Mhley: 00:31:09 Conversation on resilience and building resilience into the business. Well my biggest challenge is like, many of us, is scaling my business to become, not just sustain a sustainable revenue, generating entity, impact, generating entity, you know, but it's to be like this force to reckon with, and the Veteran and military spouse, small business world, while scaling the growth, both regionally impact people in the community, all of that. I want everything to grow, but I've realized I can grow my business regionally and make sure what we do with our regional networking events. I can increase the throughput of Veterans and military spouses, but what if I could reach other communities of people that share a similar ethos and value set as us.
Mark Mhley: 00:32:04 And wouldn't you know, I went through a program a couple of weeks ago through Dartmouth's Tuck school of business called Walk Step. And it's a transition program. It's like 75% transition, 25% business oriented, but half the people are Veterans and the other half are elite National team athletes, Olympians. Oh my God, we share the same ethos and values and Scott, same approach to resilience. It blew me away. And I'm like, Oh my gosh, I really do want to be surrounded by these people who share the same approach to resiliency as I do, who gained strength in each other. And so, as I scale my business, you mentioned in the introduction you're like, Hey, my business supports Veterans and military spouses. I was like, Hey, Scott, actually now we're also supporting elite athletes. And if you wore our nation's cloth in combat or competition or supported those who have, my business is here to support you and those parents, it's because I love working with you people because you make me feel stronger, I make you feel stronger. And that's what I mean by that. And that's what I wanted to include these Olympian, national team athletes in what we're doing as Veterans.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:33:24 Yeah. And in a way, I never really thought about it, but in a way that these elite athletes, the Olympians and people like that, they probably go through a very similar transition out of their sport that, maybe they've been working at this all their lives. And, you know, they've reached the end of their competitive years and all they've ever known was their exercise routines and their practices and everything like that. That's all they've really ever known. And they probably didn't give too much consideration to what's next. What comes after this? And so, you know, it's very similar to the military where a lot of people just are not giving too much consideration to that. What's next? I can see a lot of synergy there with the two groups,
Mark Mhley: 00:34:21 I mean, so similar, in fact, more extreme, like when did you enlist in the Army?
Scott DeLuzio: 00:34:28 I was 24. I was older. I was on the older side.
Mark Mhley: 00:34:36 Imagine being a women's team, USA hockey player who got into hockey at the age of six or a speed skater who got into the sport at the age of seven. You know what I mean? Their lives have revolved around that sport for 20 years. In the end, they're the top 10. I learned this through the group, the top 10% might get sponsored by a company the other 90 are on their own. And it's a really dog eat dog world out there. And so what I realized is like, Oh my gosh, we as Veterans get so much transition support, we need to stop whining. It's so much support. We need to use that support. Yes. Clamor for more. I mean, I know there's some people out there that might disagree with me, but generally relative to other communities in our country, we get a ton of support in the business world and entrepreneur world ,Veterans get a ton of support.
Mark Mhley: 00:35:36 Look at spouses. I think they're finally getting the support they need. And I love that because, as I believe, it's all about strengthening the overall military family, right? For a Veteran or military spouse, small business, or an entrepreneur you're supporting a military family, but you know what these Olympic athletes get zero support and anything we can do to help them out after they've dedicated their last 20 years toward winning for our nation in global competition. I mean, the least we can do is open up our resources and our help and our selflessness to them as well. And I think it's like bringing them into the fold and into the trust tree. You're like, Oh my gosh, you got the same perspective on being resilient. You share the same warrior ethos I do. I'm here to help you.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:36:32 Yeah, that's great. And I think, as far as scaling a business you know, the more groups of people that you can open up to, the better, and especially if they do have some similarities between the different groups. It makes your job easier because then you have that same kind of mindset going into it with how do I approach these people? How do I talk their language and get them on board with these programs? So let's talk a little bit more about Reformed and what it is that you do, how you connect these communities of people together and what it is exactly that you do.
Mark Mhley: 00:37:18 Hey, yeah. Thanks for asking, bottom line. When I was in my first year of entrepreneurship, I realized I was, and I didn't even know this at the time, but what I now know I was missing was two things, a community of support that have like-minded Veteran entrepreneurs that could guide me through all the challenges I faced. The second thing I was missing was a family of go-to back office business services that I could turn to for website development, for a law firm, for business cards, for you name it, all the things involved with growing a business. And, make sure you go get your legal team and your insurance team and others. And I'm like, where do you find these things? And I wasted a lot of time and frankly, not a lot of money, but enough money to wish I had back then, a family of go-to Veteran delivered services. People I could trust who look like you and me who shared the same ethos as you and me. I shouldn't say, look like maybe you would make, because I could care less about how we look, but it's what your ethos is and what your values are. And can we talk about Afghanistan 2010, you know? Right. Exactly.
Mark Mhley: 00:38:38 So, as I pivoted the great pivot I did in 2000 not the 18, 19 after meeting with Jim Cook, Sam Adams did that. I pivoted reform to fill the missing pieces in the Veteran military spouse, entrepreneur sport world, between things like boots to business and the boot camps like Patriot boot camp and bunker labs, occasional events, and the other end of the high end accelerators and incubators that venture capital world runs would be at Techstars or bunker labs, Veterans in residence program. I wanted to build what's in the middle, which supports those Veterans and military spouses who are in the ideation phase or in the first year or second year of growing their business. And all they want to do as they're bootstrapping it is do it affordably with people they trust and they want to grow clients.
Mark Mhley: 00:39:30 They want to grow customers. How do we help those people up? And this is an underserved segment of the Veteran military population. That's who Reformed is serving. We do it three different ways. We have a series of regional networking, mutual support events. We call them all calls. There are no costs, high quality, a lot of fun, and they are nothing more than executive pitch sessions where you can pitch your business, share your challenges. You have two minutes to do it. And then people are going to give you feedback and ideas and connections. And then we do these in Washington, DC. We do it in Texas. We're launching one and we've done it in the twin cities, we're now doing it in Colorado. And I'm looking to build one in the Pacific Northwest, ultimately the Bay area, Florida, and get this Arizona, all the hugs where Veteran entrepreneurs are strong.
Mark Mhley: 00:40:20 That's the growth plan for these number two, we've grown a family of vetted business services that are all Veterans, military spouses, and now national team level athlete owned businesses. People who you share these values with, we've built 36, a family of 36 services. Like I said, we cover everything you might need. You need someone to make your company's t-shirts come and talk to me. We need payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, come talk to me. We have all of these services that are all Veteran-owned. And not only are those services high quality, the owners of these companies are like you and me. They're not just great service providers. They're great mentors. And they will teach you as well as serve you. So those two critical areas are what make Reformed unique from the rest of the Veteran and military spouse, entrepreneur ecosystem. And that's where I call it the ecosystem because it's all about like, Hey, we're supporting new entrepreneurs. We're supporting the established entrepreneurs. We're connecting them, everybody's growing together. And ultimately, I think we can be an example for the rest of the nation's civilian entrepreneur Corps on how they can model how they support one another.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:41:43 Yeah. That's great. And I like how you're supporting each other, referring vetted businesses to each other, networking and everything like that. I think that it's wonderful how all of that comes together under this umbrella of the business. So that's great. So as a Veteran owned business or a military spouse owned business, or one of these elite athlete owned businesses how would I get involved with Reformed and what you do?
Mark Mhley: 00:42:26 There's two easy ways. Number one is to attend any of our all calls;. they are, like I said, no cost, high quality, really organic. You don't even have an established two minute pitch. We just want to hear who you are and what you do and what your challenges are. I hope in the show notes, you put just a link to our website. If you go to our tab, you can find out where to register for these events. We do one event in each region per month and here's the let-down Scott. First week each month, we do it in DC. Second week of each month, we do it in Texas the third week of each month, we do it in Colorado the fourth week of each month. We've been doing a workshop hosted by some members of our community.
Mark Mhley: 00:43:10 For example, this month, it's going to be on intellectual property for the small business that is working on branding its business. And I'm hopeful that that will also add a Pacific Northwest all call too. So that's one way you can connect and the other way, it's good old fashioned. Send me an [email protected]. You can find a link to it on our website as well. Just shoot me a note. Let's set up some time to talk. Let me hear what you're doing and what your challenges are, and let's tie you into the ecosystem. I'm eager also to connect with any of your men, anybody listening to the podcast here who wants to help out I'm hiring this year. I want to hire people who want to help host these all call events in their cities.
Mark Mhley: 00:43:57 I want to hire people who can help me manage this family of business services. This resonates with you. If this whole conversation is resonating with you, please reach out to me. We've just achieved a really major milestone. And we just ran a nonprofit, all call quarterly, and we just secured a sponsorship for it. And that's gonna allow me to grow and scale our impact. So now I can't share who it is yet because the ink is not dry yet, change our business model. And I'm really excited about that. So, reach out to me if any of this resonates with you and want to help out.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:44:37 Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think I know there's a number of Veteran entrepreneurs who have, and military spouse entrepreneurs who listen to the podcast I've had as guests on the podcast. So, definitely I think any of you who have been listening to this definitely reach out. There definitely will be links to the website in the show notes and any social media or anything like that as will be in the show notes. So if you want to get connected, you want to check out a little bit about them, about Reformed and everything that they're doing, definitely check them out, go to the show notes, click the links and and get in touch with them there. Mark, it's been a pleasure speaking with you today and learning a little bit about your background and what it is that you're doing with Reformed. I think it's a great great system that you have going on and a great way to get a Veteran and military connected businesses to work together and help support each other. Like you said, everyone grows together when you start working together like this. So I think it's absolutely wonderful and definitely wish you the best of luck in what it is you're doing here.
Mark Mhley: 00:46:09 We are strong, I think when you transition out, you need to lean on your brothers and sisters to get you through the transition, no matter what business or industry you're getting into. And for, what we've learned with entrepreneurship is that none of us can build a business alone. So if you're listening to the podcast,, you have an idea for business or you've already built a business, reach out to us. Let's talk about your challenges, let's tie you in because yes, we're truly strong again.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:46:42 Absolutely. Well, thank you again. It's been great having you on, and again, anyone who's looking to get in touch with Mark, or find out more about Reformed, check out the show notes and I'll have links to all of that there.
Mark Mhley: 00:46:59 Thank you again. Thanks, Scott.
Scott DeLuzio: 00:47:03 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website DriveOnPodcast.com. We're also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.
Leave a Comment