When we arrive at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, it takes us a few minutes to find Bunker Labs. Not just because “the Mart” is one of the largest commercial buildings in the world, but because Bunker Labs’s headquarters is located at one of the nation’s largest startup incubation hubs, 1871.
When we reach their coworking space, we find a challenge coin wall in the shape of George Washington’s face and a “coffee mess” made up of Bunker Labs mugs signed by veteran entrepreneurs. We meet Executive Director Justin Walker, a Naval Special Forces veteran who helped train more than 15,000 Navy SEALs before becoming an entrepreneur and joining the Bunker Labs team.
We’re excited to watch as Justin is about to broadcast live online to more than 340 military veterans, active duty service members, and military spouses who are participating in Launch Lab Online (LLO). LLO is a 20-week program that helps members of the military community explore entrepreneurship and go “from idea to invoice”.
Afterward Justin introduces us to Joe Himpelman, a LLO graduate and local veteran entrepreneur who comes by to use the coworking space and to chat with the Bunker team about his company, which makes accessories promoting pride of service to military veterans and their supports. Joe tells us that the LLO program “has been an incredible driver” and that they’ve gained 2,000 website views a month and generated $2,000 in sales in the last 45 days.
Joe’s story is not unique, and as we leave Bunker Labs, we cannot wait to hear more success stories from veteran entrepreneurs completing the Launch Lab Online program around the U.S.
Visit another grantee on our Road Trip!