Of all the things are soldiers and veterans can do, finding opportunity in the face of adversity is something they’re really good at. No matter how hard it gets, they keep going. That’s the spirit our men in the uniform live with, whether on the field, or off it. And that’s what veteran Marine, John Miller, did.
Miller met a horrible accident after an SUV ran over him while he was riding his Harley-Davidson.
He was crushed under the weight of his own motorcycle. Fortunately, he lived to tell the tale, and do a lot more. Once his recovery started, he started wondering how such an accident could even happen. His motorcycle was well lit, yet the SUV driver couldn’t see him. The answer he figured was that the motorcycle had lighting on the back and the sides. It didn’t have any on the front. Lighting on the front would have made him more Visible to the SUV driver, who was approaching from the side.
So, he decided to fix something nobody even thought was a problem, but actually was a really big one!
He got in touch with a veterans’ group based out of Milwaukee, the home of Harley-Davidson. It wasn’t long before he launched his entrepreneurial venture called Illumatek. He started making a product which was going to save life and limb of bikers by preventing accidents like the one he had. (And make their bikes look a LOT cooler, in the process!)
He put together some rather innovative custom-etched windshields.
The windshields had neon fiber optics etched within them. This would let them get a glowing design, making the motorcycle more visible, and look a lot nicer! The entire process took a lot of trial and error, and some five years to get a patent on! Meanwhile, finding a renewed sense of purpose, Miller perfected his “glowshields”.
It wasn’t an easy journey.
It had been some 10 years since Miller serve in the forces. He had to move between a number of jobs, the last of which was as a respiratory therapist. However, after his injury, he was told that he could never work again. He went to living on monthly disability checks, a reality nobody ever wants to come real for themselves.
Living up to the spirit of the men in uniform, he wanted to take along disabled vets in his success.
Miller wanted to hire disabled veterans in his newfound company. After he got his patent, and found a lot of market interest, he was flooded with offers from investors. However, he was hesitant of them taking control and deviating from his purpose. And the hesitation wasn’t unfounded. Nearly all of these investors indeed want to outsource the manufacturing of these “glowshields” imagined and designed in America, to China. This would mean that Miller wouldn’t get to employ the disabled vets he always wanted to. Miller wanted to establish his manufacturing in Wisconsin, and so he did. He especially wanted to hire vets returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And that’s when he crossed paths with VETransfer.
VETransfer is a business accelerator based out of Milwaukee which supports former service members to become successful entrepreneurs. VETransfer provided Miller people he could trust to help him through each and every step of building a successful business that wouldn’t just outsource to China. They took care of the overwhelming stuff like capital-raising assistance, networking, office resources, and entrepreneurship training, so Miller wouldn’t get caught up in the web of business, and just do what he had set out to.
Through VETransfer he met the man who would join forces with him to save countless lives.
At VETransfer, Ronnie Reum, a former Sailor of the Year, sat next to Miller, while he worked on his cleaning company. Eventually the Reum started to devise business strategies for Miller. Eventually, Reum and Miller joined hands, Reum would use his experience in sales and his networking expertise to catapult Illumatek to an entirely different level. The glowshields are selling like hotcakes, and can be found at a lot of Harley-Davidson dealerships across the country. Meanwhile, for all this success, Miller just has one humble thing to say,
“If it saves one biker’s life, I’ve done my job.”