Andrew Davenport wasn’t sure whether he was a competitive candidate for the Atlanta cohort of Veterans in Residence. As owner of A Good Look Home Inspection, he didn’t really need a dedicated office space—he could work from a Starbucks, or at home. But he was motivated by how the Atlanta Bunker Labs chapter brought veterans and military spouses together from various industries in a way that allowed ideas to flow back and forth. And the conversations didn’t just dwell on who did what in the military.
“It’s not about reliving the past,” he said, “It’s focused on what you’re doing now, how your business is doing, and who can I connect you with?”
At the time of joining the cohort, A Good Look Home Inspection had some clients, what Andrew called low-hanging fruit, but the work wasn’t consistent yet, and they didn’t have the elements a seasoned business might have in place, like employee handbooks (or employees).
By the end of the six-month program, “We were a more polished boutique brand, if you will,” Andrew said. And the space ended up having a practical benefit: He used the WeWork office spaces across Atlanta to host meetings and events.
It wasn’t just about the office space though— “If you’re looking at it like that, you’re missing the point and all the benefits of being in the cohort,” Andrew said. The cohort model created camaraderie, and a sense of a nontraditional corporate culture that he otherwise didn’t have while working from home. With cohort members ranging in experience levels, he could turn to more experienced entrepreneurs and ask for input on business decisions such as hiring, and then turn to an even less experienced entrepreneur and help encourage them to take the next step forward. “Swapping up and down the spectrum was probably the coolest part of the program,” he said.
His business has had exponential growth, he said, as people who were on the fence about buying a home before covid-19 hit have decided to go for it. He credits his success during the pandemic to the Bunker Labs city leaders. “We were prepped by our city leaders, who said, ‘It’s either fight or flight, what are you going to do? Bunker down and make it happen or say woe is me?’”
“Hearing those words, knowing they were there to assist us, that was the encouragement to make it happen,” Andrew said. “There is always uncertainty, we just know there is more uncertainty now.”
For those contemplating whether or not to apply for a Veterans in Residence cohort, Andrew said, “Know that it is not a secret society or a magic injection for your business that is going to guarantee you a 10, 20, 30 times increase in profits or sales. But it is a group of people that can be transparent with each other and say, ‘I don’t know what I don’t know.’ Between the group, the city leaders, the resources from Bunker, they can be assured that they are going to get some guidance that is going to help them make the decision that is best for them.”
Andrew also pointed to one other benefit of being a veteran entrepreneur, and being an entrepreneur in Veterans in Residence in particular. “I was an infantry guy in the Army. My skills were looking for bad guys,” he said, which required keen observation, a high level of alert, and laser focus. Since leaving the Army, he has had his struggles with PTSD and other mental health issues.
And yet, “Regardless of what you’re struggling with, there’s a way to take the stuff you can’t turn off, can’t get away from, and utilize it in growing a business.” While being an entrepreneur has at times isolated him, working alongside other veterans has given invaluable camaraderie: a community of peers who understand both his military experience and his entrepreneurial experience.