Jill Hinton is an Army Veteran and the founder of Outdoor Book Club. She is going to become a regular contributor to Command Your Business. Below is her first post. Following her post, you can hear my interview with her.
When I was a kid, I used to love building forts. Sometimes I built them in my basement with blankets and old moving boxes, but more often my secret hideaways were found under the spreading branches of a pine tree in my backyard, or built out of hay bales in the barn of my grandfather’s Oklahoma farm. Usually I would invite friends and neighbor kids inside my forts to play war or cowboys and indians, but often it was just me alone in the fort — holed up with my books.
Today, my forts are more metaphorical than actually built out of blankets or tree branches, but I still love to be outside in secret places to read. I’m the founder and chief heroine of Outdoor Book Club, an adventure travel company for women based on great books. I offer weekend and week-long trips that are designed and planned around the themes of popular literature. For example, in August this year I’m leading a group of women backpacking on Isle Royale, Michigan’s remote national park that is home to a unique population of wolves. We’ll be using the book Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat (which was made into a popular movie in 1983) as inspiration. All food and equipment are included, and though you don’t have to read the book to go on the trip, it’s more fun if you do.
It’s an honor and a pleasure to write for Command Your Business, which was one of the very first resources (veteran or otherwise) I started using when I launched my business. I’m looking forward to writing more posts for Scott on topics like social media, mastermind groups and what makes veteran entrepreneurs so amazing. So stay tuned! But first, some background on me.
Jumping on the bed with excitement
In 1995 I joined the Army for a three year hitch, where I served as a military intelligence soldier stationed in San Antonio, Texas and Camp Humphreys, Korea. I suppose I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but the timing was never quite right for me to start a business until thirteen years later, when I attended a weekend V-WISE conference in Chicago for female veterans interested in entrepreneurship. I was literally jumping on my hotel room bed every night of the conference, brimming with inspiration and excitement after the classes and networking events. That also happened to be the same weekend the 2014 Citi Realize Your Dreams business plan competition was announced. I knew I wanted to win that competition.
Inspiration comes in the most unexpected places
But I didn’t really have a business idea — that inspiration came a few weeks later during drinks with colleagues after work (at the time I was a corporate sales copywriter for a health insurance company). A coworker mentioned that her boss would be gone backpacking with her sister and best friend in the Porcupine Mountains the following week. I was instantly intrigued; the idea of being out in the wilderness with a group of my favorite women struck me as probably one of the most amazing experiences I could possibly have. But I knew that I would be competing with other women-only adventure travel companies, and I wanted to be different. Since I love books and reading, and no one else was doing anything similar, the idea for Outdoor Book Club was born. I submitted my business plan (which I spent two solid months writing), and was thrilled when I found out I qualified to go to Long Beach, California for the semi-finalist round.
The highlight of my year (and it wasn’t getting married)
I won’t go into all the details, but in the end, I walked away with third place and $10,000 to start my company. It was definitely the high point of my year (but strangely, also my biggest failure — something I’ll talk more about in a later post). That’s saying a lot, seeing as how I got married in August. But really, they’re just two very different kinds of high points.
With the seed money from the competition, plus lots of support from friends and family, I was able to quit my job in February 2014 and run Outdoor Book Club full time. My tagline is “Discover your inner heroine,” and I’m incredibly passionate about helping women discover they are braver, stronger and more determined than they ever could have imagined.
I once read that starting a business is the best and most direct way towards self-development, but I have to believe that serving in the military is a close second. I’ve learned so much from both! In fact, I’m not sure how people who haven’t been in the military manage to start and run businesses, it’s provided such a valuable foundation — kind of a fort, now that I think about it — of risk-taking, perseverance and integrity.
What about you? How has your military experience prepared you for being an entrepreneur?
- Jill Hinton, Outdoor Book Club