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Not on the fly Featured

7:49am EDT October 21, 2004
Drew Burkhead's entrepreneurial journey has been anything but conventional.

The 31-year-old Web site development company owner decided he had an obligation to serve his country and joined the Army, in the challenging airborne division, no less. But Burkhead didn't want to shut the doors on his 2-year-old business, OneMainSt.com, and sought a way to keep it open.

He enlisted the help of his SCORE counselor, George Kutzmark, to prepare the company to operate in his absence. Kutzmark suggested a structure to keep the business operational -- Burkhead's mother would oversee operations; an employee would serve as day-to-day manager; Burkhead would keep in touch by e-mail, cell phone and over the Internet; and Kutzmark would meet and consult with the key employees once a month.

With a manager on-site and his mother to oversee things while he was gone, Burkhead figured that he could keep the business going as he fulfilled his five-year enlistment.

But then the entrepreneurial bug hit again.

While in airborne training at Fort Benning, Ga., Burkhead met an instructor who was producing videos of the training classes and selling them to graduates and their families. Burkhead saw a business opportunity and formed a partnership with the instructor, Dan Hubb. Burkhead upgraded the video editing capabilities and built an e-commerce Web site to sell the DVDs and other souvenir items associated with the airborne training.

The venture took off. To date, Burkhead says, nearly 1,500 DVDs have been sold directly and via the Web site, www.5jump.com, at $25 each.

In October, the partners' fortune changed. Burkhead was sent to a different military installation for a training course that is expected to last a year-and-a-half. Hubb stayed at Fort Benning, and Burkhead says as long as he remains there, Hubb should be able to continue the video production business.

But because permission to engage in such activities is granted on an individual case basis by base commanders, there is no guarantee Hubb will be able to continue to make the videos if he is transferred to another location.

Burkhead acknowledges that he and his partner may find that they won't be able to produce the videos at some point, but Kutzmark says he isn't worried. Burkhead and Hubb may be able to use the skills and experience they've built to produce other kinds of video products, and they can continue to operate the e-commerce Web site.

As for OneMainSt.com, the Web development business will continue to operate, even with Burkhead off-site, because of the structure created to keep it going. Besides, says Kutzmark, Burkhead isn't likely to let obstacles get in his way.

"Drew," he says, "is an extremely flexible young man."

How to reach: SCORE, www.SCORE.org; OneMainSt.com, www.onemainst.com