Vets are making their presence known in the wine and spirit industry

Vets are making their presence known in the wine and spirit industry


Veterans are successfully making the journey from the military to owning their own businesses in the wine and spirit industry.

That’s according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, which offers entrepreneurship training programs that help turn vets into successful vetpreneurs.

“The number one indicator of whether someone will become an entrepreneur is prior military service, more so than education, income, or other demographics,” said Misty Stutsman Fox, Director of the Entrepreneurship and Small Business portfolio at IVMF. “And there are a lot of reasons why. In a study conducted by the IVMF we found that there are several military skills and attributes that apply to entrepreneurship, such as work ethic, teamwork, leadership, mental toughness and perseverance.”

Among those vetpreneurs is Corey Christman, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 2012 with plenty of experience as a special agent. He also had a few years of experience as an amateur winemaker.

Christman, who was raised in rural upstate New York, said his parents possessed a great entrepreneurial spirit.

“Some would have considered us to be on a lower income scale; however, we had everything we needed as a family,” he said. “My parents worked various jobs and sold many homemade wooden crafts to supplement our family income.”

Christman said while his parents gave him an entrepreneurial mindset, his military training and career gave him the tenacity and focus to work toward the long-term goal of starting a commercial wine brand.

In 2014 he decided to turn his winemaking hobby into a full-blown business, and he launched Bravery Wines in 2020. He described Bravery Wines as a high quality – limited production upstate New York wine brand that is laser-focused on celebrating the courageous character of moms, dads, teachers and those who wear uniforms, such as service members and first responders.

“We proudly donate at least $2.50 for every bottle sold in support of veterans, first responders and their caregivers,” Christman added.

Christman urged his fellow vets who make be considering going into the wine and spirit industry to not be afraid to ask for help.

“Use social media, email and phone to reach out to business owners and veterans who are currently working in the wine and spirit industry,” he suggested. “ They’ve likely blazed a trail or crossed the same or similar hurdles you have questions on.”

Christman also said budding vetpreneurs should not underestimate the time and effort required to operate their own business.

“With few exceptions, the 9-5 days are over and for the first 12-24 months and beyond, your schedule will likely be busier than when you worked in a full-time position,” he said. “Plan for it and make sure your loved ones are aware of the massive commitment you are undertaking.”

Christman already had a Master of Business Administration when he attended the Entreprenurial Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) at Syracuse University.

“The EBV program served as a quick start veteran business incubator,” he explained. “They provided me the tactical necessities of small business operations and the wrap-around long-erm coaching and support services to posture my business for long-term sustained success.”

Stutsman Fox said IVMF meets entrepreneurs where they are on their journey, whether that is ideation, startup or growth.

“We have 12 national programs that work in a continuum so that entrepreneurs can leverage the programs as they grow their company, hit new challenges, and realize new opportunities.”

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