Empowering Veteran Business Owners
From his years of service in the military to his current work helping former soldiers build their own businesses through JPMorgan Chase’s veteran initiatives, Alex McKindra Jr. is a veteran success story. Moreover, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day this year, Alex’s story is a uniquely American one that veterans and members of the military community across the country can relate to. But, as he is the first to admit, his success story, like many, has a long history tracing back through generations of his family in the small town of Union Chapel, Arkansas.
Becoming a Cornerstone of the Community
In the late 1800s, Alex’s great-great grandfather, Reuben Frank McKindra, moved his family to Union Chapel, a town originally settled by freed Black slaves.
Working on their family farm, the McKindras made a name for themselves by demonstrating their resourcefulness and aptitude for hard work. Namely, the family utilized mentorship programs, as well as public and private funding, to not only start but grow their family farm.
Amid the success of the family business, the McKindras never lost sight of the support they had been given—and the importance of passing it on to others in their community and society. Generations of McKindras have dedicated their lives to the military, including his grandfather, father, and brother (pictured right), and subsequently to their communities when they returned home.
“I would not be in the position I am today if not for the opportunities that mentorship provided,” says McKindra. “The farm my family was able to start, through the support and mentorship of others, has helped to educate and put clothes on every generation of my family since the 1880s.”
Honoring a Legacy
McKindra chose to honor his roots by joining the service himself. He graduated from West Point in 1993 and then completed a tour of duty serving across the U.S as Captain in the United States Air Force. He worked as a procurement officer, including on the B-2 Bomber Program, which allowed him to travel across the country, learning from and serving others. During that time, he also spent his nights and weeks pursuing an MBA from the University of Southern California.
Armed with the life experience and knowledge he gained from the service—and a freshly-minted MBA and banking internship under his belt— McKindra dove into the world of corporate finance. Quickly building a reputation for his intelligence, reliability and kindness, he rose through the ranks. Today, he works as a Managing Director for JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking in San Francisco
Paying It Forward
Alex didn’t want the chapter in his family’s story to end with commercial success. He wanted to help those who—like his great-great-grandfather Reuben—had risked their lives for the country and were now seeking to put down roots as civilians. With that in mind, he decided to co-lead JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking’s veteran initiatives alongside Army veteran, Terry Hill. Alex, Terry and their team across the firm share a passion for mentorship and community building. Through various programming, they tap into their military backgrounds to connect with aspiring and current military-connected entrepreneurs to help them access the resources they need to be successful over the long-term.
For example, McKindra worked with JPMorgan Chase and Bunker Labs, a national nonprofit that supports the ventures of military-connected business owners, to build programs to help veteran small business owners. Together, they created CEOcircle, a 12-month mentorship program that is tailored to help mid-size, military-connected companies grow. Through this program, veteran business owners and their families gain access to the guidance and resources they need to succeed, including education, networking, and one-on-one financial mentoring. This year, CEOcircle welcomed 71 new individuals into the program nationwide including Boyd Bishop who leads Hive Technologies in Hawthorne and Neil Mahoney who leads Shipping Butler here in Los Angeles.
The program uplifts businesses that will support military families for generations to come—businesses like the McKindra farm.
“If I’ve learned one thing from my family’s history, it’s that hard work and preparation aren’t always enough. Sometimes we need to create our own opportunities as well,” Alex says. “That is what we are hoping to do with CEOcircle, to create the opportunities and provide the support veteran entrepreneurs need to help them overcome systemic obstacles to business and professional growth.”
Less than an hour north of Little Rock, the McKindra’s family farm still stands in Union Chapel. Today, the manicured green fields and trees remain a testament to the effort, determination, and community it takes to create a successful business.
“If my great-great-grandfather were here today, I would want him to know that what he built didn’t just support our family, it also instilled the values in us that would seed the acceleration and growth of hundreds of other veteran-owned businesses in the future,” McKindra says. “I know he’d be proud of that.”
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