When medically retired Navy Lt. Paul Jenkins saw the high veteran unemployment rates in 2012, he knew he had to do something to help his fellow servicemembers.
The U.S. Naval Academy graduate saw beer companies marketing to veterans, which sparked the idea for Veteran Beer Co. But his company's mission goes far beyond brewing. He only employs other veterans, and they buy their materials and ingredients from other veteran-owned companies - or those committed to hiring former servicemembers.
“The idea is to run it like a nonprofit,” Jenkins says. “The first 10 percent of anything we bring in goes to charities that support local veterans. Then, as soon as we make enough money, we hire another veteran.”
Veteran Beer Co., which opened in 2013, bottles flavors like the Blonde Bomber, Hooyah! India pale ale (IPA), Freedom Road, and Bunker Buster. Beer fans also can purchase a mix of the brews in a 12-pack called the “Show of Force.”
The results have been promising. The company's beer has won or placed in 39 of the 42 beer contests it has entered.
This isn't the first time Jenkins, a former A-4 Skyhawk pilot and Gulf War veteran, has sought to employ other servicemembers. He's also the chief executive officer at Bancroft Architects and Engineers, a firm that hires disabled veterans and has created designs for VA facilities and laboratory suites.
To encourage his staff at Veteran Beer Co., Jenkins says he's giving himself a 10-year limit in the organization's top leadership position. By 2022, he wants to see another veteran step up and take the reins.
“On the one hand, it's scary,” Jenkins says. “But it can't be nearly as scary as turning over your command in a war. What we've been taught to do as officers is trust the next generation.
“It can be horrifying to be an entrepreneur and not know how you'll get through a crisis, but it goes back to what we were trained to do - lead,” he adds. “I feel like leadership didn't end the day I resigned my commission.”