The Journey Starts With The Marines
After one year at Florida State University, Jonathan wanted to try something new, so he joined the Marines. Four years later, transferred to Beaufort, South Carolina, he met his wife while serving as a marksmanship instructor.
His deployment to Iraq left a three-month pregnant wife at home. "It was a difficult time. I had to lead my section during pretty volatile situations, and was nervous about my first child being born. I had to remember, "I am missing out on a big thing back home, but I need to keep my mind here right now." I learned early on to make sure that we got each other home alive first. You can worry about other stuff later."
His decorated battalion went into the siege of Fallujah in 2004-05 with Jonathan serving as a heavy-machine-gun section leader. "We were tapped to be one of the first ones to start puttin" rounds into the city."
"I remembered that when we were in South Carolina, there was demand for a Surf and Skate retail store, but I was intimidated by the idea because I had no business background. I got in contact with SCORE, and while skeptical at first, they were willing to give me 100% of their time, and became instrumental in showing me that this really was a possibility by helping me draft a business plan."
"Not only did I have no understanding of business, but I had no concept of accounting either. I can say without a shadow of doubt that this business would have never come into existence without SCORE. I really needed that guidance and mentorship. Sometimes it"s still hard for me to believe that I have my own business."
While he and his men worked to clear the way for door-to-door searches, a grenade went off in front of him and embedded shrapnel in his thigh. A week later, a sniper bullet sliced open the skin on his arm. In both situations, he stayed until the job was done, and received two purple hearts as a result. Jonathan"s Kilo Company (3rd battalion, 5th Marines) received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a "Combat V" Device for valor in Combat. While he fought, his wife gave birth to their son.
With the conclusion of his tour in Iraq, Jonathan talked with his wife about what to do next. Jonathan remembered that when they were in South Carolina, there was a demand for a Surf and Skate retail store.
They spent seven months communicating back and forth-often late at night-before anything materialized, delving into all areas of business and planning. I really needed that guidance and mentorship. That's where SCORE came in. Sometimes it"s still hard for me to believe that I have my own business."
Killer Peaks, LLC
One of the key features of Jonathan"s business plan was to take his enterprise into the community. He puts together events and clinics for both new and experienced skaters within a city-owned skate park not far from Killer Peaks.
"It occurred to me that there are a lot of kids who might want to skate here, but would be intimidated when they first try. We show them that the sport is more than what they might think. It is a form of individual expression."
It hasn"t always been easy. Jonathan decided early on to drop the surfing merchandise to focus solely on skateboarding. Their website reads: "It didn"t take long for us to lose interest in the surf side of the house because our ethics would not permit us to sell mass-produced China-crap boards and that"s where things were going in our area. On the flip side, the skate scene here is 100% legit."
In addition to appeasing purists, Jonathan found that some of the merchandise he wanted to sell didn"t play to his strengths. He sheepishly admits that when starting up, he added several thousand dollars worth of bikinis to his inventory. "I am not real good at selling female swimwear. I should have known my own personality-not the kind of guy that a girl would feel comfortable buying a bikini from. It"s better to take what you know and invest in it, rather than spreading yourself thin in other areas that may look lucrative."
With an attitude that befits one of the Few and the Proud, Jonathan Bekemeyer keeps pushing forward with new plans and aspirations. He intends to utilize any number of contacts and open his own skate park; with careful planning and SCORE behind him, this ex-Marine will no doubt continue to push boundaries.