From Serving Our Country to Serving Communities
Veteran Michael Hyacinthe, who is a co-founder of our partner Wimee, joins Lynne for a discussion on how he’s using his skills learned as a veteran in his entrepreneurial endeavors.
0:00:00.0 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we have it all. And we also have a robot named Wimee. Come join us. Hey, speaking of joining us, today is a really special day because we’re going to deep dive a little bit with Michael Hyacinthe. He is the creator, one of the founders of Wimee. He has a wonderful team backing him. Team is what I think when I first met you, that I felt in my heart, because you immediately, when I said, “Hey Michael, I have this idea.” And you immediately said, “What is it that we can do together?” That is instilled in you, isn’t it?
0:00:45.5 Michael Hyacinthe: Yeah.
0:00:47.5 LJJ: From a long, long time.
0:00:49.8 MH: Absolutely. I think it comes from my military background. No man in the military is above the unit. And so, to truly meet an objective or a task, it really requires an entire team. And that’s the mindset that I believe I instill in my entrepreneurial journey to truly create with others.
0:01:14.3 LJJ: Tell us a little bit about your military background. We’re so proud of the work that we do at Consumers with veteran companies and entrepreneurs. Tell us about your background and when you started. What gave you the dream to begin?
0:01:32.7 MH: Yeah. I served as the U.S. Navy Seabee. Seabees “Can Do.” We are the builders of the Navy, so we’re deployed through our various situations and locations. And our goal is to create and/or build the entire infrastructure so that our military units can come and properly have a place to land, live, shelter and house their equipment. And so, both my twin and I served. I don’t know if many of you don’t know, but I do have a twin.
0:02:03.0 LJJ: I did find that out. A little bit of reconnaissance.
0:02:03.1 MH: Yes. And he is an Army combat veteran.
0:02:09.3 LJJ: Did you both join at the same time, or no?
0:02:10.2 MH: No, I enlisted, and then the year after I enlisted, and he decided to join and follow. But I’m Navy; he’s Army and so.
0:02:18.0 LJJ: Is there a little bit of ribbing there or no?
0:02:20.9 MH: During that one big game, Army versus Navy, we don’t talk to each other.
0:02:27.4 LJJ: I love it. I love it.
0:02:28.9 MH: But after that, it’s all good. And so, yeah, I served eight years, been around the world, I’ve served with some really, really honorable people. And my passion for community creativity, collaboration, started throughout my military service, and I’ve since been able to take those qualities and put them into my entrepreneurial journey.
0:02:51.0 LJJ: What I love about entrepreneurship that connects to veterans is that you mentioned a little bit, but let’s find out. What were the skills that you were trained every day? You mentioned teamwork, you mentioned the group above one, correct? But putting together the military structure and foundation for people to be able to live and survive, I mean, that has to be organizationally challenging. So, the creativity part has to be there with the organization.
0:03:29.2 MH: It does. At the end of the day, I believe, good leaders know how to inspire their unit or their battalion. And so, I’ve been very fortunate that I was led by some really good leaders who inspired us to accomplish the mission, but also gave us the qualities and the purpose and the opportunity to go and figure out ways to accomplish the goal, not as an individual, but as a team. And so, it requires us to be creative. It requires us to be punctual. It requires us to be technical, and it requires us to go out and take risks. And so that’s what being entrepreneurial is all about. And that’s what being in the military is all about. It’s understanding that risk comes with this job, but the reward is definitely worth it.
0:04:21.4 LJJ: And companies who are listening: One of the recruiting tactics, you say recruiting and recruiting is in the military, but truly in HR, is that we are looking for individuals who are dedicated, who are punctual, who are creative, who want to build a team and move forward. I know that you’re verbally talking all the time about how veterans can do that, but are there ways that you think that individuals can say, “Hey, I might want to look for this type of a company to go work for,” once they’re out of the military or vice versa? Companies can find individuals.
0:04:52.2 MH: I truly believe that some of our best workers, and I 100 percent believe that some of our best entrepreneurs come from the military background. But I also agree that companies can do a bit more to acknowledge and recognize that the military veteran can be a great asset to his or her company. And so there are many opportunities for HR personnel to go into local communities, whether it’s the VA, whether it’s in Kent County. We’ve got the Kent County Veteran Services. And put out some feelers and let those individuals know that we’re looking to hire, and we want to hire veterans, because they’ve proudly served. And we want to give them an opportunity to help us meet our goal to be number one.
0:05:49.3 LJJ: Michael, we’ve talked a lot about your veteran background, which led to your entrepreneurial spirit, probably they’re both hand in hand. Tell us a … What is your advice for somebody who’s thinking, man, I really want to start out, we talked about lemonade stands, but I really want to jump in and start my own business. What’s your number one piece of advice?
0:06:09.9 MH: I think to me it’s find a great mentor. Find someone you can share your idea with. Find someone who will give you some feedback and have that person hold you accountable for moving your idea forward. Sometimes we keep these ideas inside of us, and it just doesn’t go anywhere. But having someone to connect with and share that idea, in my opinion, is a great next step for an entrepreneur to truly go out and pursue that mission.
0:06:43.3 LJJ: We have one of our vice presidents at Consumers who likes to say, if you’re thinking about your own entrepreneurial decision or a really big decision in life, might not be business, have your own little board of directors. Your own little personal group.
0:06:58.8 MH: Yeah. Have someone to talk to. As you know, building a great team is critical in success, but in addition to that, having people you can chat with and sometimes it’s your … the person at your local credit union. Share the idea. Get their feedback. See what they say. Would they be a customer? It’s tough to hold ideas in because they just stay in there. But sharing those and getting feedback is important.
0:07:21.3 LJJ: And really quickly, have there been times when you were surprised by the answers the mentor gave? Like, you were so 110 percent behind something, but they say, “Hey, hey, hey, slow down?”
0:07:35.5 MH: Absolutely. I mean, you never know what the response is going to be, and that’s the value of sharing is that you are learning.
0:07:42.0 LJJ: Transparency.
0:07:45.2 MH: Absolutely. So yeah, the feedback that you get is really, really, important.
0:07:50.3 LJJ: So, you, I know are up for a big grant. I think it’s called a grant, maybe it’s a competition for a pitch that’s coming up. Tell us a little bit about that, because again, this is … These are ways that you’re finding funding creatively for your passion.
0:08:04.3 MH: Oh, absolutely. So, I’m very fortunate. I got an invited to participate in a pitching competition in Utah on Veterans Day, specific for veterans. And so, hundreds of veterans applied and I’m grateful that, Wimee, was one of 11 veterans that was selected. And so we’ll be in Utah representing West Michigan. Hopefully we’ll come back home with the money.
0:08:25.6 LJJ: What’s the money, if you don’t mind me asking?
0:08:26.7 MH: It’s about $50,000 [for] 1st place.
0:08:30.3 LJJ: Oh my goodness.
0:08:32.9 MH: And the money’s going to be great, but the resources, the networking … and that’s one thing as an entrepreneur I’m really mindful of is that there’ll be days that you win, there’ll be days that you lose. But the opportunity to be in that environment, who else can you connect with? So the networking opportunity is something that I believe that we’ll win.
0:08:53.5 LJJ: No matter what, you’re winning.
0:08:55.5 MH: No matter what the partners that we’ll perhaps be connected to. So, the money is going to be great. And one of us will win it. More than likely it’ll be me ’cause we’re going to work hard.
0:09:05.7 LJJ: Of course it will be.
0:09:07.5 MH: But we’ll have plenty of opportunity to come back victorious if it’s not with the financial winning.
0:09:14.5 LJJ: Absolutely. Okay. Now tell us, let’s do a recap because Wimee Kids’ Savings Club is with Consumers Credit Union. We are so proud to be able to be a partner with you, but the kids are even more like, they just go through the roof when they come in and see our Wimee plush dolls. Tell us about the PBS show, how people can actually see you … they can obviously walk into our office and see the great books and things, but tell us about the show.
0:09:39.9 MH: Yeah, so the show is twice a week. We are on a live component of the show where kids can actually interact in real time. And that’s every Friday at 12:30. And then every Saturday morning at 7:30 while parents are still asleep you can just put Wimee on. And we are teaching kids how to have fun, how to be creative, how to use their imagination. So twice a week, 12:30 in the afternoon every Friday, and then Saturday morning at 7:30 on your local PBS station, WGVU.
0:10:15.5 LJJ: That is amazing. Thank you, number one, for Wimee and for the creativity and partnership that we have. But thank you for your service, Michael, for also continuing to shine a light on those who have served for us in our world to make our world better and safer. We really, really do appreciate it.
0:10:31.6 MH: Thank you for the honor, pleasure to serve and pleasure to go along this next journey with Consumers Credit Union.
0:10:39.1 LJJ: We sure are. So join us, because on our website and in our social medias, we are literally featuring Wimee and money and finances and how to help your kids learn how to budget and save. Maybe you, too. It’s really helpful. Thank you so much for being with us. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. I’d like to thank Jake Esselink for his production skills. Money, I’m Home. Come home to Wimee Kids’ Savings Club and Consumers Credit Union.