How a Veteran-Owned Business Reached New Heights

By Lance de la Rosa
November 16, 2015
Two men stand in front of a rock climbing wall with climbing equipment on

When faced with any uphill battle, Andrew Kratz is ready for the climb. A husband, father of five children and former Force Recon Marine, Andrew has a lifelong passion for adventure and adrenaline.

In 2007, Andrew joined forces with fellow marine Luis Jauregui to invest this passion into Triangle Rock Club, an indoor rock climbing center in Morrisville, North Carolina. In a nation where only 1 of every 5 small businesses survives beyond three years, Andrew’s military background gave him the confidence to build TRC into one of North Carolina’s most respected local businesses.

Today TRC has expanded to three club locations with 47,000 square feet of climbing walls. Thousands of members belay with confidence thanks to a dedicated team of coaches and staff. This summer, TRC received several accolades from North Carolina media, the SBA and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which named TRC as the 2015 DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year.

Helping Andrew get there was Joel Graybeal, a banker and recreational climber who offered occasional financial advice from the ropes. In 2012, he became a managing partner of TRC, organizing finances and marketing activity. Where Andrew had drive, perseverance and vision, he admits that Joel brought the financial piece, the business and professionalism of running a corporation.

"Andrew taught me that we are all capable of achieving more. When you’re completely exhausted, you’ve still got at least 60% capacity in your tank," Joel said. “There is no time for complacency in rock climbing nor business. Every day we do something that moves the business forward: Improve a process, train a person. When you aggregate one step after another, you cover a lot of ground and rise to the top.”

Today these two keep climbing, but haven’t reached their peak. Andrew and Joel focus on enhancing the value of TRC membership in a way that is community-based – creating an athletic, fun climbing experience that relies on teamwork.

Andrew’s tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:

  1. Keep looking up: “Focus your fear upwards. You only have so many hours and so much energy, so if you’re focusing your energy on failure rather than succeeding, you cannot succeed. As a marine, the quintessential rule is there is no line of retreat. Our goal and only option is success.”
  2. Get comfortable with the unknown: “Learning leadership skills gave me the confidence to step into uncharted waters to start a business. If you’re comfortable with the fact that you’re in over your head – in foreign terrain able to operate in uncharted waters – you can run a business.”
  3. Build a great team: “The military community gave me two key skill sets: leadership and first appearance. When hiring for teammates at TRC, I look to a person’s confidence and intangible skills and lean on them. Find the right people that reflect your moral fiber and fulfill your weaknesses with their strengths.”

The Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award, sponsored by Sam’s Club, celebrates the success of small business and its role in economic growth. You can nominate a veteran-owned small business – or any qualifying business owner – for this year’s award through Jan. 8, 2016. Enter here.