Get to know your fellow Military Veterans on Localvest! We are excited to share an interview with Navy Veteran, Scott Mackes. Scott is the Founder of Service Academy Business Mastermind Group and 10X Vets, two thriving networks built by Veteran business owners and entrepreneurs supporting each other in pursuit of business and personal growth. Scott is a familiar face in both the Localvest and the wider Veteran community. Maybe you know him well, but do you know how his entrepreneurial journey began? Grab a cup of coffee, keep reading, and get to know his story!
Get to know Scott Mackes
We’d love to learn about your military service, your transition out of the military, the job roles you had post-military, and why you decided to become an entrepreneur.
I graduated from the Naval Academy in 2001 and served as a Surface Warfare Officer for five years. I got out in 2006 and went to business school where I discovered my passion for business. I then went to work in the construction industry for 10 years just trying to find my way and figure out what exactly it was that I wanted to do with my life. I realized construction wasn’t it so I started launching different side businesses and side hustles. I was throwing stuff at the wall for a number of years to see what would stick and eventually figured out what worked, which is what led me down the entrepreneurial path I’m on today.
My first business was an online store called StrengthsMugs, where I began selling products related to Gallup’s CliftonStrengths Assessment. The CliftonStrengths Assessment was an incredibly helpful tool for me as I was transitioning out of the military and I thought it would be cool to have a coffee mug with my Top 5 CliftonStrengths on it – that’s what sparked the idea for my first business and I still run StrengthsMugs today. After that experience, I wanted to surround myself with like-minded people that were also building businesses. Meanwhile, I was having a lot of side conversations with fellow Service Academy grads who were either starting businesses or wanting to start a business and realized, “Wow, these conversations give me a lot of energy. What if there was a community or group of us where we could network and help each other?” This idea is what led me down the path to building the networks and programs I run today, which are all focused on helping military veteran entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
What was the first step you took in building a business network for Military Veterans? How do Veterans connect through the network you’ve built?
I started the Service Academy Business Mastermind Group (SABM Group) just over five years ago. I didn’t know what the business model was or if there even was a business model. I just wanted to engage, meet new people, and learn and grow alongside other Veterans. When I was transitioning out of the Navy, I attended Service Academy business meetups in Boston, which I loved. I would meet 20 or 30 people and there was always a guest speaker. But, I had to drive into Boston and invest at least half a day of my time. Podcasts were really popular and Zoom had just hit the scene so I decided to replicate these meetups online and create a way people could connect more efficiently, regardless of where they lived. I started with the SABM Podcast, which is still going strong. We’ve recorded almost 250 episodes and interviews with Veterans. It became a platform for folks. I also started hosting monthly Zoom meetups for Veterans who wanted to network across the country and connect with other Service Academy grads and I met a lot of awesome people. That’s how it all began.
Today, SABM Group consists of several different programs. There’s the Real Estate Investing Accelerator, a popular six-month course led by a Marine Corps Veteran designed to teach other Veterans how to be successful real estate investors. So far, about 250 people have completed the course in the last four years. Another program is the SABM Investor Group on Localvest, which we’ve grown to nearly 600 accredited investors over the last three years. 10X Vets is another program I’m passionate about. It’s a structured membership community for Veteran business owners, entrepreneurs and investors who want to connect based on what industry they work in or specific needs they have. We host at least four monthly Zoom calls and we also host regional events across the country in places like Austin, Texas and Florida. Then, there’s the Academy Fund, which lends money to Veteran real estate operators. Each of these ventures serves a specific purpose, but they’ve also become this really cool ecosystem. We’ve got something to help everyone, wherever they are in their entrepreneurial journey.
What project are you most excited about right now and why?
I’m most excited about the next project. What is the next thing we can do to help Veterans? I often think back to StrengthsMugs and the CliftonStrengths Assessment. My top two CliftonStrengths are Competition and Includer. I love stretching the circle wider. When I think about these two CliftonStrengths, I realize I’m pretty good at bringing people together to win. That’s what I love to do. I’m constantly thinking about how to maximize efficiency, expand groups and build teams because we can get things done so much faster together than by ourselves. I’m most excited about the next project. And, I don’t know what that is yet!
Why do military Veterans make great entrepreneurs?
People don’t graduate from a Service Academy or make it through boot camp or SEAL training if they don’t persevere. There’s a grit factor. Entrepreneurship is similar. It feels like boot camp or plebe summer. Unlike the military, you’re trying to figure it out alone most of the time. You don’t have your classmates or your shipmates to lean on. In the beginning, it’s just you and your laptop. My wife came from a family of entrepreneurs and business owners so I was fortunate to have her support, but it can be tough if your family disagrees with what you’re doing. If you’re going to build a business, there is not a stronger community of people than Veterans to build one with. That’s the secret sauce, doing business with other Veterans. Veterans have countless competitive advantages. I didn’t have any business experience or knowledge until I went to business school, but I had leadership experience. I had never launched products or built websites before. There was a lot to learn. But when you know how to persevere, that grit factor motivates you to keep showing up and keep trying new things.
What advice do you have for anyone who is transitioning out of the military and thinking about starting a business?
I think self-awareness is really important. It took me nearly 13 years to become a business owner after the military. Figuring out what I wanted to do took a while because I lacked that self-awareness in the beginning. Start taking different assessments like Gallup’s CliftonStrengths to understand your superpowers. If you’re working somewhere that doesn’t appreciate or value your strengths, that’s a problem. It’s really important to create an environment for yourself, whether you’re working for someone else, or you’re working for yourself, that leverages your strengths. Surround yourself with the types of people that represent who you want to become. First, discover who you are and what makes you different and special and unique. Next, build your network and surround yourself with the people who are doing the things that you want to do. Participate in something. Lastly, take action. How quickly can you create something that somebody will pay you for? For me, it was StrengthsMugs. It all started with a coffee mug. If you want to become an entrepreneur, figure out how you can get your first check as quickly as possible because from that comes a boost of confidence and excitement that will spark your next great idea.