Episode 69: Featuring John Engstrom, Ab Maldonado, and Aixa Escobar

John Engstrom-Business Opportunity Specialist for US Small Business Administration

John Engstrom, retired Marine Corps Major and Business Opportunity Specialist for the US Small Business Administration, sat down with Rise Up Radio hosts Jared Kelley and James Carmody to talk about how the SBA is working to help transitioning military men, women, military spouses and veterans. Engstrom, was drafted right out of high school and served in Vietnam. He tells Carmody and Kelley how he went through the ranks quickly, became a Warrant Officer and retired as a Major. It is his leadership skills that got him hired at Car Max Automotive superstores. He explains that even though he wasn’t skilled in the automotive area, it was those leadership skills he came away from the military with that led to the job. “My message to any companies listening in, if you have an opportunity to hire a veteran, they have so many intangibles they can bring to the table. And a lot of the CEOs that I’ve talked to said that veterans, they learned twice as fast as their civilian counterparts and they outperform them two to one.” Engstrom volunteers his time to help co-facilitate a free four day course called Business 101. The course is offered to military officers and senior enlisted members three times a year. Those who are active duty, military veterans, reservists and military spouses are also welcome. He also discusses the programs and classes available for transitioning military personnel and their spouses one of which is the Boots For Business, a two day conference that is geared towards those who have gone through the Transitioning Ready Seminar who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs. Engstrom also explains how the SBA has some amazing resources, which are available for free that address finance issues, the 8A Business Development program that helps disadvantaged small businesses with a focus on women and minorities and other business and career opportunity workshops.


Ab Maldonado and Aixa Escobar - Onward to Opportunity

Ab Maldonado and Aixa Escobar, both retired Marine veterans sit down with Rise Up Radio hosts, James Carmody and Jared Kelley to discuss the Onward to Opportunity (O2O) Program at the Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton. Maldonado, who was a recruiter while in the service is the O2O Program Manager at Pendleton. Serving as a recruiter in the Marines, he helped people who were getting ready to transition out of the service. He explains that he realized as he was getting ready to leave and go through the transition process there were things that could be changed and modified to better help transitioning service members. He told Carmody and Kelley, “We outline the entire process from the first moment of contact with an employer to the resume, to initial phone screens, the interview process, signing negotiation, and background check, all the way to that first day on the job and all the mistakes that people make along the way that can really jack it up.” Escobar, who went through a forced transition because she was medically retired, is Program Coordinator for the O2O program. She explains how during her transitioning out of the service, she became very aware of being her own advocate during her transition out. She talks about how that experience led her to decide on a career change that would allow her to focus on her passion to help other transitioning military members. “A lot of folks don’t know about the resources that are out there because they have their blinders on. It’s all what we’ve done in the military. So how do we translate what we’ve done in the military into apply into corporate American so mentorship and support is key.” She said. The discussion also covers the value of hiring veterans, how mentoring and support helps military members and their families discover their value and worth in the civilian workforce and corporate America.


1. If you have any questions related to SBA programs, you can contact John at john.engstrom@sba.gov . If you have an questions or want more information related to Business 101, you can email John at engstrom.john@gmail.com. Click here for John's LinkedIn page.

2. Onward to Opportunity wants to get the word out to Transitioning Service Members, Active Duty Military Spouses, and Employers who are looking to hire. You can contact them and get more information here.