As entrepreneurship across the country continues to grow, so does the number of businesses owned by military veterans. Veterans are the perfect archetype for an entrepreneur. They are driven, resourceful, team oriented and know how to get things done. Building a business is a natural extension of the experience, training and civic identity that veterans all share.
PERSEVERANCE: GOVERNOR’S ROW HOUSE
For military personnel who choose to make the armed forces a career, entrepreneurship often comes after retirement. Or in the case of Chris Turner, it came as a business opportunity for his wife, Kim. Together, the pair own the Governor’s Row House, an event venue in Topeka.
For Chris, the son of a divorced mother with four kids in the house, college didn’t seem like a viable option. With all of the fervor surrounding the movie “Top Gun” at the time, Chris decided he wanted to be a pilot and met with a U.S. Air Force recruiter right after graduation. He began college at Offutt Air Force Base and was on active duty for four years. He then joined the 190th Air Refueling Wing working as a weather technician while finishing his degree in professional aeronautics. He applied to be a pilot and attended flight training school in Lubbock, Texas, where he met Kim. They were married the day after he completed flight training.
“That was pretty much the last time he was home,” Kim joked.
The couple moved to Topeka where Chris was now employed full-time at the base. Even though he was home more often and able to help out more with their two young sons, Chris still continued to fly as much as he could.
“It was always hard to believe that they were paying me to do what I love,” Chris said.
When their youngest son started kindergarten, Kim went back to work. Because her background was in education and sports, it was a natural fit to work at the elementary school. She grew bored with that after several years and finally quit once her boys had moved on to middle school.
“I thought I would enjoy not working,” Kim said. “But I soon found out that I needed something more.”
Chris always harbored an entrepreneurial spirit, so he began looking for a business that the two of them could run together. When The Governor’s Row House became available in 2013, they jumped in with both feet, ready to work together as partners in the new venture.
A few months later, Chris was promoted to Vice Commander.
“That’s when I became a one percenter,” Chris laughed.
Kim picked up the other 99 percent of the work. With no business training and little experience in event planning, Kim struggled a bit at first. Every time she turned around something was broken or needed to be replaced. They had to invest a lot of additional money on repairs.
“The first year was hard. I kept thinking ‘why did we do this?’” Kim said.
As she gained more business knowledge and marketing savvy, the business slowly began to grow. Now Kim is pretty much as busy as she wants to be. When Chris officially retired last March, there was an initial thought that they would now be able to grow the business more. That is, until he immediately began working as a pilot for Fed Ex.
“Now he really is gone all the time,” Kim laughed.
Chris now spends more time in the air than on the ground.
“I just have to fly,” Chris admitted. With Chris’ head in the clouds and Kim’s feet planted firmly on the ground, The Governor’s Row House is in good hands.
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