Iraq veteran James Bendel often spent several hours a day on the road when he worked full time in the oil and gas industry.
“I found myself in coffee shops using their Wi-Fi to send sales reports,” he said. “That’s why we have a coffee shop now. Because I was sitting in one wondering, why isn’t this mine?”
In 2018 Bendel opened Crazy Horse Coffee, named for his Army unit during two tours in Iraq: Crazy Horse Troop, 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment.
The Washington, Pa., coffee shop is so successful that a second shop is poised to open.
Bendel’s success as a veteran business owner earned him the most votes during public voting for the 2023 Pittsburgh Vetrepreneur® of the Year. The award is presented annually to one of the region’s outstanding veteran business owners who exemplifies the finest qualities of successful business leaders through sustained business success, a demonstrated passion for cultivating veteran entrepreneurship, and a track record of generosity in giving back to the veteran and civilian community. The award is presented by veteran-owned Military Friendly® and sponsored by Fort Pitt Capital Group.
“James’ story of success is worthy of Hollywood,” said Chris Hale, Military Friendly® co-founder, CEO and a Navy veteran. “Veteran volunteers for a second tour of Iraq after being wounded. Uses his military leadership skills to excel as a civilian employee. Risks it all to build his own successful business. And now he’s giving back generously to his fellow veterans and his community.”
Bendel started a nonprofit called Help-Hard, which helps vocational technical school students further their education and entrepreneurship, and contributes to other charitable community initiatives. He supports a nonprofit called Vet Pets that gives service dogs to veterans, and for Veterans Day shipped 200 bags of donated coffee to deployed troops.
In 2022, Bendel launched his own consulting firm and was named the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Western Pennsylvania Veteran-Owned Small Business Person of the Year for 2022.
He has this advice for veterans who are considering starting their own business:
“Don’t quit. That’s the biggest piece of advice. Don’t quit. Don’t stop. Keep trying. Dude, whenever you think you laid your head down too early, don’t quit. If you feel like you woke up too late, don’t quit. Just try to stay consistent. If you stay consistent, it will pay off.”
Photo caption: James Bendel (left) snaps a selfie with Military Friendly® CEO Chris Hale while accepting his 2023 Pittsburgh Vetrepreneur® of the Year award on Dec. 7, 2022, at the Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Gala of Angels at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Photo by: [email protected]