“It’s gotta be the SHOES!”  – Mars Blackmon

There was a Nike commercial in the 90’s which showcased Michael Jordan doing a bunch of jaw-dropping dunks.  After each dunk, Mars Blackmon would ask what makes him the greatest basketball player on the planet.  The high flying dunks?  No.  The long shorts?  No.  The short socks?  No.  Then it’s gotta be the shoes!

It was the beginning of what would become one of the greatest brand endorsements of all time, Air Jordan.

I feel like we are at the beginning of something big with Bunker Labs right now.  I’m not saying that Todd Connor (CEO of Bunker Labs) or Dean Bundschu (Executive Director of Bunker Labs RDU) are going to get endorsement deals from Nike or even be in a movie with Bugs Bunny.  But there is something special going on, and similar to wondering what made Mike (his close friends get to call him that) so good, I often get asked what makes Bunker Labs so unique.

I get it.  There are thousands of veteran organizations out there.

There is probably an equal number of entrepreneurship programs out there.  So what is it?  Why should anyone even care that Bunker Labs is around?

Great question.  Thanks for asking.  Dean, queue the music… (the Marine’s Hymn plays in the background)

We are trying to change the narrative.  There are a lot of veteran initiatives out there.  Most of them have to do with things that evoke emotion (PTSD, suicide, homelessness…) and position veterans as victims or damaged goods in some way.  Don’t get me wrong; those are very important topics and very real problems.  We hear so much about those issues though that often when people hear you’re a veteran there’s almost an instant look of “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”

At Bunker Labs, we are trying to change the narrative to a much more positive light.  Here we have this motivated group of people who have been trained to persevere that want to start and grow businesses.  Let’s educate them on how to run businesses so they can thrive and grow and create more jobs and make the world a better place.  Holy crap!  If there is a population of people who are crazy enough and determined enough actually to do it, it is the veteran community!

Notice I said community there?

That is what Bunker Labs is, a community of people who are all willing to help each other because that is what we were trained best to do.  People in the Bunker Labs family (veterans and non-veterans who passed the sniff test) have gone out of their way to help me with nothing to gain personally from it.  I try to pay that forward as much as I can.  Bunker Labs is here to be a resource to connect the community and help each other out.

So what is it that makes Bunker Labs so special?

  • Is it our curriculum? Although it is pretty damn good and taught by people, who have been there and done that, with guest mentors layered in throughout.
  • Is it our facilities? Sometimes we make do with what we have.  Sometimes we get access to incredible spaces through various partners.
  • Is it the beer served at our Bunker Brews events? Well, ok, that certainly doesn’t hurt things.

Bunker Labs serves as the boots on the ground in the local markets to help educate veterans who want to start and grow businesses.  We do this by getting them plugged into local resources who are willing to help and then providing them with the opportunity to expand that network nationwide.

I feel like we are on the verge of something big, similar to when we watched Air Jordan emerge.  So 20 years from now when Dean Bundschu is in a Nike commercial dazzling us with his dunking ability (though my guess is it would be on a lowered rim), Mars Blackmon III will say “It’s gotta be the NETWORK!”