© 2022 All Rights reserved WUSF
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Some Veterans Find New Roles In Civilian Life As Business Owners

WUSF Public Media
This week on Florida Matters we hear highlights from our recent town hall and video screening on veteran business owners.

Transitioning out of the military can be tough, but some veterans are finding a new role in civilian life as business owners.

Florida Matters recently hosted a town hall on veteran entrepreneurs in front of a live audience at USF St. Petersburg.

We talked with business owners about the challenges they faced starting a company and how their military training prepared them for it.

We also screened videos (below) that highlight other veteran-owned businesses. The series was part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Veterans Coming Home project.

This week we hear highlights from that event.

In the first part of the program we hear portions of our panel discussion with experts, all of whom are military veterans:

Valerie Ellis-Lavin: Co-founder of Action Zone and CEO of Luminary Global

Jack Grisé: Co-Founder and Veteran's Advocate at Mechatronics Academy and Certified Mentor at Pasco-Hernando SCORE

Col. (R) Russ Barnes: CEO and Senior Business Advisor to Entrepreneurs and Executives at Systro Consulting

In the second part of the program we hear these panelists engage with the audience during portions of our Q&A.

Below are the three videos produced for the Veterans Coming Home project. We hear from one of the business owners featured in the series on our podcast Florida Matters More.

The first video takes a look at American Freedom Distillery and Restaurant, a craft distillery company that was started up two years ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, by retired Green Berets led by Scott Neil.

The second video highlights Axon Motor Company. Its president, post-9/11 veteran Adam Luell was the winner of the 2018 state “Battle of the Pitches” and earned a $10,000 prize.

The third video looks at Doer Academy. It’s owned by Felicia Pecora, a combat veteran and former police officer, who teaches critical skills for critical moments.

Funding for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.


I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
Robin Sussingham was Senior Editor at WUSF until September 2020.
Andy Lalino serves WUSF Public Media as a journalist, video producer/editor, and graphic designer/animator. He’s authored pop-culture journalism articles, contributed weekly columns for Tampa Bay nostalgia websites, and published features for Fangoria magazine.