Work after war: Local veteran’s dream to open brewery comes true

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Life after the military can be difficult for some, especially when it comes to starting a new career.

A survey done by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that 44% of veterans left their post-military job within a year because it wasn’t the right fit or because they didn’t feel a sense of purpose around the work. For one local veteran though, he bucked the trend with the help of a program for veterans looking to start their own business.

There are two things that Jared Wharton is passionate about. One of them is beer, the other is helping veterans out. We recently got a tour of Forward Operating Base Brewing Company in Dupont. A brewery that Wharton and his wife opened just months ago.

"We`re using veteran made products,” said Wharton. “I serve veteran made coffee. I even met a guy who grows hops and grains who’s a veteran owned farmer.”

When you go inside the brewery everything inside it is a reminder of military life, from the tap handles, to the lights.

"This is a place our military community can call their own. This is for them,” said Wharton.

But getting to this point wasn't easy for Wharton. From 2005-2012, he was known as U.S. Army Sgt. Jared Wharton. During a tour in Afghanistan in 2011, Wharton said there was one day that changed his life. He wouldn’t disclose many details about that day, other than that it was a “rough day.” But it was enough for him to really think about life after serving.

While on duty Afghanistan there is one day in 2011 that changed Wharton’s life.

He doesn't talk about it much, other than that it was a "rough day"

But it was enough for him to really think about life after serving.

"The one skill I had in my hip pocket was that I knew how to brew beer,” he said. “And while it`s not world changing, it`s just one thing I could do that would be accepted in our community.”

And thus, the idea of opening a brewery at least, was born. The problem was that Wharton had no business experience whatsoever. But Wharton didn’t give up and sought help.

"Maybe that`s just the military mindset I have of finding the next person who will talk to me the way I need to be talked to,” said Wharton.

Three years ago, Wharton entered a program called the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities. The hospitality portion of the program was offered through Cornell University.

“It was entrepreneurship training by firehose. I learned what profit margins really were. I learned what a business plan really should look like,” he said.

Jared also received help from Bunker Labs, a national non-profit organization that specifically helps veterans start their own business. Wharton still had to make tough decisions along the way. After four years serving, he decided to go back to Afghanistan as a contractor. After that, he said he worked for the State putting any extra money into the business.

But after three years of sacrifice, saving and hard work, Forward Operating Base Brewery opened its doors a few months ago. Wharton admits he’s still on the lower part of the business learning curve, but he said s if he can open a business, other veterans can do it too.

“You`ve got to be diligent. You have to know yourself and know your skills and what you can do. And if you have that dream, you just have to fight for it,” said Wharton.

Starting this January, Bunker Labs will be launching a ten-week course specifically for veterans to help them develop the resources to start a business. More information can be found on www.bunkerlabs.org.