This Veterans’ Week we spoke to five Operation Entrepreneur boot camp alumni about their business, what inspires them and how the skills they built in the Canadian Armed Forces help them as entrepreneurs.
Victoria B.C.- based entrepreneur Christina Connelly and her husband Danyal Beale have over 50 years of combined military experience. As they navigate their lives as business owners, Christina draws on many of the skills she developed while serving her country.
Christina describes her and her husband’s entrepreneurial journey as “quite the rollercoaster.” They initially came up with the idea to start a business in health and safety consultancy which was directly related to their military careers. Once they got started with their business, however, they realized that that kind of work, outside of the military environment, wasn’t fulfilling.
They decided to pivot their company’s priorities towards veteran transition services by creating a new division in their business, Soldier To Self (S2S).
“Inspired by the stories of countless military members who search for their civilian identity post-service, S2S addresses the transition gap and creates a coherent and consistent account of “self” through time, making sense of the past and present, and envisioning the future,” said Christina. “It’s a novel approach to identity transition – a longstanding military transition issue – that reunites people with their ‘WHY,’ that true, deep-seated cause, purpose, or belief that they have, which actually drives their behaviour. It’s what inspires and motivates them to do what they do”.
The premise behind the S2S program is to help people use their “why” to make better career choices post-service. The program encourages veterans to explore professions and educational opportunities that they may not have initially considered. The S2S program and their newest initiative, the Canadian Veteran Marketplace, stem from a desire to help veterans find purpose and thrive after service.
For Christina, building those two initiatives from scratch exemplified the definition of grit. Grit, according to her, means having the perseverance, resilience, integrity, unwavering dedication and courage to work towards challenging long-term goals without any immediate feedback.
“There’s no question that the military helps you hone all of these skills because they put you in a lot of situations that require you to become more gritty,” she said. For example, Christina participated in an intensive training course on using equipment to escape a disabled submarine at depths of up to 600 ft, with an ascent speed of 2-3 meters per second.
Christina also exemplified grit to become the first female Special Operations Forces (SOF) – Command Preventive Medicine Advisor, a journey that took her over a decade to achieve, during a time where there were few female leaders in the SOF.
Christina also commented that a person who has developed their grit embraces the effort and time it takes to do something truly valuable. Christina knows what this is all about and she’s gone from working tirelessly to prevent injuries and illnesses for service personnel to creating a business that empowers others nationwide.
In July 2019, Christina attended the Operation Entrepreneur business boot camp at Dalhousie University. During the week-long intensive training, she received in-class instruction from business school faculty, participated in mentoring forums and networking events, received one-on-one coaching and worked on a plan to take her business to the next level.
For more information on Kompass Health Associates’ Soldier To Self program, visit www.soldier2self.com