Veteran rolling the dice for a new career
When John Lente retired after 20 years in the Air Force, many people expected him to just carry on as a consultant. Trained during his Air Force career as a linguist and serving in intelligence his entire career, it was a likely option.
Not so fast, said Lente. “I’m tired of war. I’m tired of secrets. The last thing I want to do is come back in and do warfare analysis,” he said.
Instead, Lente took a year to think about what he really wanted to do, especially with the organizational leadership skills he gained while earning his bachelor’s at Brandman University’s Monterey campus and his master’s online, also at Brandman University.
“My main focus right now is starting a retail neighborhood game store in Grovetown (near Augusta, Georgia),” he said. He wants a store that both has games for sale (role-playing, miniature warfare and board games) and a place where children and adults can play all those games.
“There are stores where you rent and play video games for hours and hours but very few places that actually bring people together at the table,” he said.
Of the many things Lente says he learned at Brandman, knowing to admit what he doesn’t know has proved invaluable in the build up to launching the store. Roll for Damage, the store name based on the gamer term for the dice roll that comes after a successful attack, is getting help from the Small Business Administration and the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center.
“I knew I would need a team to be successful,” he said, adding that his wife Tialisa has been an integral part of his team. “My master’s program really stressed how to build that team and how to develop leadership within yourself.”
Lente is turning to crowdsourcing to help launch the store, using gofundme.com to raise start-up funds. If all goes well he hopes to have a space finalized in September in order to be in business in time for the holiday retail season.
Although it’s been a few years since he played games himself, Lente has fond memories of “Dungeons and Dragons” marathons when he was in middle school. By high school, his gamer interests had given way to music and sports and he was only vaguely aware of the Wizards of the Coast shoot-off from Dungeons and Dragons “Magic: The Gathering.”
“It’s a little weird to just be learning about it now. But the fact that the same games have hung around for 20 years speaks to the staying power and appeal (of the trading-card games).”
Lente’s plan is to have 1,500 square feet devoted to game playing, making it a large enough space to hold tournaments. Another 1,000 square feet would be devoted to retail. A converted grocery store that’s being carved into smaller retail spaces in his neighborhood would be ideal, he said. Currently the closest entertainment for kids and families is at least a 15-minute drive on a highway, too far for kids not old enough to drive.
“I saw a need for something for younger people to do,” said Lente, who has five children, four of them still at home. “There’s not even a significant playground nearby. At the same time, parents need to be comfortable with them staying at the store.” He’s hoping that a second tier of older gamers, ages 20 and older, will want to be there later into the night, so it also needs to be a sophisticated game store. The Grovetown area is expected to continue growing now that Fort Gordon is the home of the U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence.
He’s also envisions it as a place where people can try out (and then purchase) classic board games. “There are other stores around like this, all with different ideas and different layouts. Some focus online and look like warehouses. I don’t think people should have to settle for that.”
The store will also fulfill his desire to both work for himself and create jobs for other people. He plans to employ five people, some to work sales and others to be experts in the games and able to run tournaments and able to relate to the players and manufacturers.
Best of all, he said, “It’s just lighthearted fun.”
More information about Roll for Damage and crowdsourcing can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/vet-business-start.
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