Lamine Zarrad is CEO and founder of StellarFi, a credit-building tool helping Americans boost their credit scores and overall financial health.
My journey from being a humble immigrant to becoming a marine and, subsequently, a successful entrepreneur is a testament to the American Dream in action.
According to the SBA, veterans are roughly 45% more likely to form their own business compared to people who haven’t served in the military. Veterans own almost 2 million businesses and employ over 5 million Americans.
These statistics beg these questions: Are veterans naturally bred for entrepreneurship, or is there a profound connection between their military service and entrepreneurial success? Is there a unique synergy between the discipline, adaptability, resourcefulness and leadership skills instilled in service members and the qualities required to be a successful startup founder?
The short answer: Yes. But fair warning for the veteran readers — don’t let that inflate your ego and convince yourself you’re a shoo-in. My advice for aspiring veteran founders goes beyond echoing the well-documented parallels between military service and entrepreneurship.
As a fintech founder, I leverage technology to help others find economic stability, something my family lacked for many years. I was born in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan SSR, a former republic of the USSR. When the Soviet Union fell, my family was forced to flee to Moscow, narrowly escaping the ongoing ethnic war on Armenians. After spending six years in Moscow as refugees, my family immigrated to the United States where I finished high school and then joined the marines.
The marines provided a jump-start to my trajectory of creating solutions for much larger problems like access to banking in the cannabis and freelancing industries to now building StellarFi, the third fintech I’ve founded, designed to address a problem that plagues half of the American population: poor credit.
Like many veterans, my enlistment was equally inspired by the desire to gain access and opportunities to achieve that American Dream and a deep sense of gratitude to the country. But my experience as a marine helped me understand that, much like the most crucial missions, the path to entrepreneurial success hinges on a combination of four vital elements: learning to disrupt the norm; maintaining an unwavering, resilient mindset; seeking partners who are akin to wartime allies; and tapping into the rich tapestry of veteran resources and networks