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Saturday, September 30, 2023

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Marine veteran Mark Daemon holds examples of products from his new company, With Esteem. Marine veteran Mark Daemon holds examples of products from his new company, With Esteem.

Veterans Face Business Challenges

SDSU hosts event aimed to help veteran entrepreneurs successfully navigate the distressed U.S. economy.
By Aaron J. Hoskins

Mark Daemon considers himself a “problem child.”

The Marine gunnery sergeant, who served a combined nine years deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, predicts a future for himself bouncing from career to career.

He’s currently juggling multiple businesses. In July, he secured a La Mesa storefront for With Esteem, a venture that prints photos to canvas as awards for companies to give valued employees.   

“Organizations used to have people assigned to recognize and honor their workers,” said Daemon, who recently graduated from SDSU with a degree in theater. “But those positions have been eliminated and With Esteem offers an inexpensive way for these companies to recognize their people with personalized awards.”

Daemon said he projects profits within the year. And, if With Esteem fails, he promised one of his other ideas will take off.

“I have to be successful,” Daemon said. “I like to eat and have a roof over my head.”

Young veterans at risk

Daemon’s struggles reflect a barely evident economic recovery, plagued by high unemployment rates that are often twice as bad for young job seekers — especially veterans.

Veterans are innately driven and resourceful people, and they understand each other.

Daemon and more than 150 others attended the Young Entrepreneur Summit for Veterans, held Monday night at the SDSU Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, aimed at helping veterans successfully navigate the distressed U.S. economy.

The program is designed to:

  • Bring together entrepreneurs, financiers, youth advocacy organizations and government experts
  • Address critical challenges and formulate effective public policies
  • Engage non-traditional groups of young people to discuss entrepreneurship

The ongoing program is sponsored by the White House, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Association and institutions around the country like SDSU.  Get more information about the program.

“These young veterans are natural leaders and they gravitate to positions of action,” said Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Association, who attended the SDSU event. “We must help them find a path to success.”  

Successful veteran entrepreneurs

SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said recognizing successful veteran entrepreneurs can light the way.

“It’s about sharing ideas and identifying available resources,” he said. “Events like this will help other veteran students achieve their dreams of entrepreneurship.”

Hirshman remarked about SDSU alumnus Samuel Yador, a veteran who graduated from SDSU in May with a degree in international security and conflict resolution. Yador has since started his own security business.

Another veteran turned successful entrepreneur, said events like this help make Yador’s story less an exception.

“Veterans are innately driven and resourceful people, and they understand each other,” said College Area baker Misty Birchall, whose PubCakes blends beer and batter into uniquely flavored cupcakes.  

“Being a veteran has helped more than it has hindered me,” said Birchall, who completed a six-year tour as a Navy linguist serving nine different ships in the Persian Gulf.  

She credited special training, low-interest loans and the post 9-11 GI benefit for helping her develop her business.

“It’s about turning experiences into resources,” she said. “That’s how to get positive results.”