Meet Eric McWright

By voyagela

Thanks for sharing your story with us Eric. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m originally from Chicago, IL, and the majority of my childhood, I had the desire to travel and see the world. The opportunity to do that came when I joined the United States Navy. About a week after I graduated from high school, I was on my way to bootcamp and I must say that joining the military was one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I had a very productive and fulfilling career while I served. I was able to become a Chief Petty Officer (E-7), and I ultimately became a commissioned officer. I’m proud to say that after almost 23 years of military service, I retired (transitioned) from the Navy. Looking back, all I can say is “what an incredible ride”.

While serving in the military, I earned my bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University and received my license as a professional barber. Although my military duties had nothing to do with being a barber, I’ve always loved the idea of helping people look their best. That feeling is what pushed me into learning more about the hair & grooming and fashion industry. I knew that my second career would involve working in one or both industries, but I lacked the business knowledge needed to build and manage a business. That lead me to the University of Southern California (USC). A close friend knew of my plan to start my own business and informed me that USC Marshall School of Business offered a graduate-level program that would help me on my entrepreneurial journey. I thought perfect! I applied and was accepted into the program.

The Master of Business for Veterans (MBV) degree is a fully accredited 1-year graduate degree that was created specifically for military veterans, active duty, and reserve personnel. The program is designed to leverage the management and leadership experience already gained during military service. The MBV provides formal business knowledge and develops critical thinking skills. Participants will discover the transferability of their military experience and skillsets to the business environment, as well as the ability to launch, manage, and grow a new business. (Marshall, 2020)

After completing the MBV program, I focused my attention on what type of business I wanted to start. Initially, I was unsure of which path to follow until my wife suggested to just follow my passions. Done. My passions in life revolve around coffee, the hair & grooming industry, fashion, and most of all getting to know new people. Shortly after transitioning from the military, I spent some time visiting local coffee houses, barbershops, tailors, and trendy men’s clothing stores because it reminded me of the different countries I traveled to around the world. I knew that I wanted to continue that journey of learning and fostering new relationships. Each place I visited while in the military offered an experience rich in culture, adventure, and growth. Meeting incredible people while enjoying freshly brewed coffee, checking out local barbershops, and occasionally getting fit for a new suit was always on the top of my list of things to do while traveling.

In keeping with that tradition, Coffee Beards & Bowties was born.

In keeping with that tradition, Coffee Beards & Bowties was born.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
With all things in life, there are challenges! One of my biggest struggles was transitioning out of the military, especially after being in for close to 23 years. It’s a shock to the system. The structure, camaraderie, and sense of community becomes a way of life and leaving that is a huge adjustment. Another challenging moment was waking up the morning after my last day on active duty. It was like a ton of brick falling on you… Reality really hits you, and the question of the day becomes, “What do I do now?” In my opinion, the military does a pretty good job of helping members with transitioning out of the military and translating their experience and skillsets to make them marketable to employers in the civilian sector. It was a little different for me because I needed more information on starting my own business and not becoming an employee. Because I was lacking the foundational entrepreneurial insight needed to start a successful business, it caused a lot of sleepless nights, but luckily enough I have some great friends who were willing to guide me to the right place. I’m still figuring things out and learning as I go, but now my vision is clear and I can see where I’m going.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Coffee Beards & Bowties – what should we know?
Coffee Beards & Bowties is a blog/vlog and discussion forum geared to EDUCATE those who desire additional insight into the coffee, hair & grooming, and men’s fashion industries. One of our main focal points will be on the COLLABORATION between aspiring learners and industry professionals who are willing to both share their experiences to help cultivate and enrich the group’s level of knowledge whether it’s for personal or professional development, and our content will range from informative blog/vlog posts, interviews with local and industry entrepreneurs, how-to tutorials, and open discussions. I’m most proud of our commitment to organically grow a community of diverse individuals who believe in connecting, educating, and collaborating across all three industries.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Another WOW goes here… The list is long and I don’t want to leave anyone out… So I’ll keep it short and say that a special thank you goes to my wife and family for always believing in my dreams and never letting me give up on myself. My supporting cast is definitely the staff of the Digital Media department at Mt. San Jacinto College. Thank you for helping me hone my social media efforts and improving my digital media & video production skills. “Do or do not. There is no Try.” Finally, to my USC Marshall School of Business MBV family; I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your friendship, leadership, and love. Thank you all…!