Jorge Avalos (right) and Jason McNamara benefitted from Warrington's Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.
Jorge Avalos (right) and Jason McNamara benefitted from Warrington's Veterans Entrepreneurship Program.

Entrepreneurship program provides veterans with venture assistance

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program is in its fifth year as a free resource to help veterans with service-connected disabilities and those who have uniquely distinguished themselves in the military who are looking to start a new venture or grow an existing business. Learn how the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center’s program helped veterans like Jorge Avalos and Jason McNamara strengthen their business ideas.

Special thanks to our sponsors who help make the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program possible.

Jorge Avalos

Jorge Avalos always enjoyed adrenaline sports, but he grew up with a special love for cycling. As a competitive cyclist growing up in East Los Angeles, he put it on the back burner and entered the military at 17 years old.

After returning from his last deployment, adrenaline sports ended his military career. Avalos was skydiving during a free fall demonstration when the canopy of his parachute collapsed and he hit the ground at 45 mph. Doctors said he was paralyzed from the waist down and would never walk again.

“I heard them say it, but I didn’t listen,” Avalos said with a grin.

Two months later, Avalos was walking with crutches. One year after the injury, he got back on a bicycle for therapy. He wasn’t able to run, but the bicycle offered a sense of freedom that was missing. Soon, Avalos was pushing himself harder and eventually did a 500-mile ride less than two months after being back on a bicycle.

Months later while training, he was hit from behind by a pickup truck and nearly lost his life, breaking multiple bones, including his back. The Army decided to retire him soon after, keeping him from being the first cyclist in its World Class Athlete Program. Without that goal in front of him, Avalos battled depression and stopped riding.

The bicycle soon offered another escape. After he began to ride more, he realized that he wanted to turn it into a career. Avalos enrolled at the United Bicycle Institute to receive formal training in mechanics. He later returned to take their frame building classes.

Today, Avalos is putting his love for bicycles and his knowledge about building them into a business. He is attending the Veterans Entrepreneurship Program at the Warrington College of Business to build his entrepreneurial knowledge as he aims to build custom bicycles and provide customers with their forever bike.

“If they order from me, I’ll get all of their measurements and riding style to incorporate it to the frame so when I’m done building it, they get on it and have to change nothing,” Avalos said.

His hope is to eventually build custom bicycles for para-athletes or disabled athletes. No matter what a customer has gone through, Avalos wants to limit any possible barriers that keep them from getting back on the bicycle.

“It will give that person a sense of freedom that people feel they’ve lost because their body or life has changed,” Avalos said. “That’s where I want my venture to go. We’ll start with upright bikes, but I hope that in the future, depending on how my business does, I want to end up doing custom handcycles so I can offer hand cyclists a better product than what’s available.”

Spending a week on the Warrington campus with fellow entrepreneurs has empowered him to lead his new business into the future.

“One of the biggest reasons I came here is because I don’t know what I don’t know,” Avalos said. “I want to learn all the nuances that you can’t find in a book. Talking to people one-on-one and listening to their struggles helps me realize we are dealing with similar things. It gives me so much determination and motivation to continue seeking what I’m trying to get. Hearing it firsthand is way better than reading a book or listening to a podcast.”

Jason McNamara

When Jason McNamara’s son was born, he prioritized passing on a love for the outdoors. McNamara knew the power that came from connecting with others in nature, and he wanted to make sure his son did, too.

The easiest way to make that happen was through camping. McNamara rented and researched different methods before purchasing a van camper, and he built a strong social media presence with over 15,000 followers that kept up with his van camping adventures with this son.

As his time in the outdoors market grew, McNamara noticed gaps. It is powered by small businesses, and because of that, the market is heavily fragmented. He’s now hoping to change that.

His company, Nomadx, Inc., is the first outdoor business directory for small businesses. Companies and consumers are free to access the Nomadx directory to learn more about how they can find supplies or resources for their next trip outdoors.

A Marine who invaded Iraq with U.S. SEAL Team 3 and 3rd Brigade of the British Commandos, McNamara developed PTSD and always felt uncomfortable in larger crowds. The outdoors provided an outlet for him to feel comfortable and build a community. Whether surfing, mountain biking, climbing, snowboarding or camping near his southern California home, McNamara wants to make sure others have the ability to be involved in the outdoors.

The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program has given him the encouragement and guidance to grow Nomadx.

“I’ve been out of the Marines for 17 years and seen a lot of organizations try to help veterans by putting a Band-Aid on it. They don’t peel back the layers to see the problem and uproot it,” McNamara said. “The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program is the first time I’ve actually experienced an organization or group of people from top to bottom that have peeled back all the layers to plant seeds and actually help veterans. That’s been the most meaningful piece for me.”