An Entrepreneur's Story
INVICTA Challenge, a new venture founded by a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, combines video games, comics, and toys to tell true leadership stories that will get kids reading. INVICTA has scheduled its product launch for November 2015, selling through Barnes & Noble, Amazon, AAFES, and other retailers; and with its interactive games available on iTunes and Google Play. Jim Murphy, who served in the Corps from 1995 to 2003, founded the company in 2014. Murphy is CEO; and Pete Lisowski, a Marine veteran with eight years of service, is director – sales and operations. Murphy was an infantry officer and separated as a captain. Lisowski was a CH-53 pilot and operations officer. INVICTA is headquartered in Los Angeles, Murphy’s goal was to create a for-profit company that reflects the values and mindset that he learned in the Marine Corps. What does that mean? Acting with integrity, focusing on the job at hand, and ensuring that the company develops its people.
What does Murphy do at INVICTA? “I do what every entrepreneur does – everything,” he said. “Don’t kid yourself if you are thinking about starting a business. It is harder than you can imagine, but also more rewarding than you would expect.”
INVICTA is looking for veterans who can help them create more games and get them out to the world. The company especially need designers, sales people, and operational support.
“We deeply value military experience,” said Lisowski, “and we believe that properly directed and supported veterans can make much better employees than civilians. We want to help veterans make a successful transition to the civilian world. They can stay with us for 30 years, or they can gain experience with us and start their own company, or they can work with us and then go elsewhere. As long as they support veterans, we are happy.”
Murphy pointed out that people do not often associate Marines with toys. “There are few Marines in the toy and game industries,” he said. “I hired the only other one I know of, in fact.” Things came together quickly for INVICTA Challenge. “Our first milestone was to meet the Barnes & Noble buyer at the Dallas Toy Show in October 2014,” said Murphy. “She liked what we were putting together enough to ask us to come out to New York City. We built the sales effort from there, but the next big milestone was when we were one of the winners of the Veterans’ Business Battle in Houston. These were the key milestones – getting buyer interest, and then finding a way to get the capital to make a business.”
Murphy recalled his own days as a job seeker, having to overcome military stereotypes. “It was a bit of a challenge to convince hiring managers at creative companies that I was not a hierarchical drone,” said Murphy. “I had to convince them with my passion and knowledge, and with my sense of humor. For example, when they asked me why I joined the Marine Corps, I told them that it was the closest thing to the Jedi Knights I could find.”
He said it is important for a servicemember to have a plan when looking for a civilian career. “Figure out something you love, and then learn everything you can about how that business works. It could be firearms or it could be cooking, but find people who do that for a living and call them or email them. You have to have the courage to reach out to these people, too. Do not be afraid to talk to people.”
You must also persevere. “I can outlast most everyone around me, whether it’s getting ready for licensor pitch or running a booth at a trade show,” said Murphy. “You will have that advantage. You also get very good at psychology in the military – figuring out someone’s motivation and needs and factoring that into your approach to them.
“Persistence – a key military trait – helped me find my first civilian job. If you want to be successful, find a field you love that has growth opportunities, and get a position there. Mission focus and professionalism have been key to my success. I also benefited from the MBA program at the University of Southern California. They are very supportive of veterans at the undergrad and graduate levels.”
Another attitude that Murphy developed in the military Corps has paid off as he has built his own business. “In the Marine Corps, failure was never an option,” he said. “Entrepreneurs need to have the same attitude.”
Murphy said that a certain type of veteran will be successful no matter what he or she wants to do. “There are two types of people in the military,” he said. “Some people want to test themselves in an environment that 98 percent of their fellow citizens don’t have the stomach for. Others, sadly, relish being told what to wear, what to eat, and where to go. The latter will fail on the outside. Decide to be the former, and decide on your post-military mission. Then go out and achieve that mission.”
As for working at INVICTA Challenge, Murphy encourages job seekers to get to know the company first. “Spend some time to understand what we do and why we do it, and then show us how you would help us do that better,” he said. “Tell us an INVICTA story that we should be making. Tell us how we can reach a bigger or better market. Show us how you will be a force multiplier for our team.”