After transitioning out of the United States Marine Corps in 2012 as a Corporal (E-4), Chris Hoffmann, founder of AVN, found himself struggling to find who he was, what he wanted to do, and how he was going to execute it in one of the most expensive cities in the United States, San Diego, CA. Over the course of five years, five different careers, and five different industries, he realized that resume writing, interview prep, and job fairs—known collectively as “immediate transition education”—only gets you so far in the quest to live a life of impact and a life you love, post-military.
Chris spent most of those five years investing more than $80,000 into his personal and professional growth. He surrounded himself with some of the most effective, influential, and purpose-driven leaders on the planet to learn more about going deeper into the bullet wound of self-identity, strengths, values/virtues, and other positive psychology modalities. He learned pretty quickly that the “free” resources available to veterans only fueled his belief that he was “broken” and a “charity case,” which—in turn—fueled his sense of entitlement and lack of purpose.
In 2017, while working as a sales trainer for a large marketing software company in the real estate industry, Chris decided to launch a veteran support Facebook group to see if there was a need for personal growth content in the veteran transition services market.
Chris devoted hundreds of hours to Zoom calls the first year, seeking to understand the needs of post 9/11 veterans. Meanwhile, his Facebook group grew organically to 500 members with many engagements and meaningful conversations over six months. In those conversations, Chris learned that there was a wide gap in education with the new generation of veterans transitioning out of the military.
With this community feedback, Chris embarked on a journey to build one of the largest personal development online learning communities for veterans. The Ambitious VET Network is based on three core pillars revealed in the three landmines he found ambitious veterans hit in their first three years after their service: building self-awareness, building a credible community, and building clarity around making an impact.
Cashing out his 401K and taking the leap in bootstrapping the growth of this movement out of an empty apartment in San Diego, CA, in 2019. Chris finds himself extremely proud of what has been accomplished with little resources, which put him back into his Marine Corps days of “doing a lot with a little!”
Learn more about the story and milestones below.
“A handyman with tools is useless if he doesn’t know what is working on.”
– Chris Hoffmann
Company Key Milestones
- Launched one of the first veteran support groups on Facebook.
- Launched our blog.
- Attended the Military Influencer Conference.
- Released our best-selling Ebook “10 Steps to Predicted Success,” which went #34 overall on Amazon in less than 24 hours and became the #1 new release in three other career and self-improvement categories.
- Launched our first Ambitious VET Sprint.
- Nominated as a top 50 finalist inside of San Diego Business Journal’s “Top 50 Veteran/Military Entrepreneur of the Year” annual event.
- Attended Military Influencer Conference in Orlando.
- Grew our user base by over 20% and partnered with 5+ purposed-centered, veteran-owned brands.
- Launched The Ambitious VET Podcast.
- Community Member Ben Killoy created The Ambitious VET Creed for all new members.
- Launched our second Ambitious VET Sprint.
- Grew user base by over 40% through promotional partnerships with other veteran-owned companies and retail giants.
- Featured on CBS “Eye of Veterans” and Stars and Stripes Magazine.
- Placed 9th out of 32 other companies in StreetShares’ Great American Military Entrepreneur Challenge.
- Launched our third Ambitious VET Sprint.
- Launched a mini-course called: 10- Being Bulletproof Challenge: Your ten orders to mastering the Inner Game, which has had 50+ veterans participate in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- Launched a qualitative research study of 300 post 9/11 Ambitious Veterans from 31 states who are competent in the basics of career stability but lack something in life.
- Acquired ten new channel partners with organizations in the retail, conference, community, and technology sectors.
- Experienced 20% user growth organically.
- Generated 100% revenue growth by pivoting business model due to Covid.
- Graduated New Chip Accelerator closing 20% of a pre-seed fundraising round.
- Landed our first angel investor.
- Published our Qualitative Research Study in partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio on Veterans day.
- Hit 14,000 users through podcasting, email list, and social media groups.
- Performed The Commander-In-Chief Giveaway, connected veteran-owned businesses, influencers, creators, and growth-minded veterans. (reached a total of 70,000+ online)
- Raised $40,000 in private equity fundraising for a community learning platform.
- Landed our second angel investor.
- Attended the Veteran Edge Conference for the first time (put on by Institute for Veterans & Military Families).
Ground-Breaking Qualitative Research Study That Is Answering the Billion Dollar Military Transition Problem.
The most frequent reasons cited for this turnover are new employment opportunities; a perceived lack of career advancement or skills development; work that is not meaningful, unchallenging, tedious; and inadequate compensation or benefits. Given these numbers, those with interest in the post-military population must ask: Do established transition tools, such as resume writing, interview preparation, and job fairs, provide an adequate foundation for identifying the sense of purpose, emotional intelligence, and self-actualization that this 65% of veterans desire most in their career path and life?
The Ambitious VET Network partnered with the University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) MBA program to explore the disconnect between career-building tools and veterans’ needs more deeply to understand why these veterans were leaving their jobs and what they are missing in life beyond their careers or jobs.
Chris Hoffmann- Founder & CEO
Jennifer Thayer PhD – acting CTO
Kate Tumelty Felice, PhD