Robert Velazquez —founder of Semper Fi Land Services in Aurora, Ill.—is not your average business owner. He started his landscaping business in 2004 when he was still a teenager, fresh out of Marine Corp. training. Like many, his first landscaping jobs involved doing most, if not all, of the work himself while rounding up borrowed trucks and equipment, but today he runs a flourishing business with a large fleet of equipment and 35 employees.
Starting a business like Semper Fi wasn’t without its challenges. After building his customer base throughout 2004 and 2005, Velazquez got news that he was being deployed. “I was in the Marine Corps reserves, and we got notified that we were being deployed to Iraq,” Velazquez explains. “So all the customers I had built up from 2004 and 2005, I just sent them a letter saying, ‘Hey, I have an obligation. I’m going to Iraq, I’ll be back in a year.’ Didn’t really close the business, but put it on hold. Came back, sent them a letter and said, ‘Hey, I’m back, and I’m going to start my business again.’ Many of those customers I have still today.”