“I’m calling from Afghanistan…can you hear me OK?” So began a great conversation with Marine Corps and Army veteran, Eric Kropiwnicki approximately a year ago. At that time, he was a “short-timer,” overseas with the government, and about to leave the military following 23 years of service.
He mentioned that he would be home in time for Thanksgiving. I actually got emotional hearing that news – it’s a huge deal, HUGE DEAL, to be on American soil, celebrating the most American of holidays, and doing so with your own family. It immediately took me back 19 years to the first Thanksgiving I spent without my immediate and extended family. Hosting “single sailors,” as I quickly learned was the norm for any Navy couples with extra chairs around their table, helped take my mind off of what I was missing 6,000 miles away.
Eric brought me back to the present as he went on to say that he had heard about the Rutgers Mini-MBA: Business Management for Military and Veterans through his research on entrepreneurship following military service and the online publication “Veterans Business Services.” He wanted to earn his Mini-MBA and learn all he could about running a business. He loved that he would learn from veterans who had themselves made successful transitions from military to business careers.
In the classroom that following January, Eric joined a group of veterans, active-duty, military-affiliated, and civilians who were all anxious to build their business acumen and understand how military training and experience could be used in civilian organizations. In the weeklong program, they experienced topics such as: strategy, leadership, supply chain, and economics.
One memorable moment was during the communications module, when instructor Michelle Lederman (author of Heroes Get Hired), a petite 4’10” woman, demonstrated techniques that a tall and broadly shouldered Eric, and others of similar build, could use to be less physically intimidating to people they would encounter in interviews or business meetings.
Fast forward to October 2016 when Eric reaches out to again share good news – he is now the CEO of Broken Gear Inc., a service-disabled veteran owned athletic apparel company. Broken Gear is the official outfitter of the 2016 America’s Parades in New York and Los Angeles. They’re also the outfitter of the Philadelphia Veteran’s Parade.
Broken Gear is dedicated to helping service-disabled veterans and disabled athletes, their motto being “Broken, Not Beaten.” This time next year, I wouldn’t be surprised to tell you that Broken Gear plays a large role in the Invictus Games. Prince Harry might have to write next year’s blog.