Business news from the Fredericksburg region.
GETTING TO KNOW: Fred Wellman
Current job: Founder and CEO of ScoutComms Inc. Co-owner of Ladyburg Modern Skincare Apothecary and Crystal Clear Acne Clinic.
Jobs held previously: I was in the Army for 22 years where I served most of my career as an aviation officer in various flying and non-flying positions. During Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, I appeared on TV a number of times due to my work supporting local Iraqis, so Gen. [David] Petraeus assigned me as the spokesman for the 101st Airborne when we came home, and I finished my career in the public affairs field. After retiring from the Pentagon in 2010 I spent about 11 months with a small communications firm in NOVA before starting my own firm in November 2010.
Education/training: I’m a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor’s degree in international relations. I attended Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, graduating with a master’s in public administration in 2007. In the Army, I attended officer schools as well as Army flight school (qualified in the UH–1, OH–58A/C and UH–60), the Defense Information School, Air Assault, Ranger and Jungle Warfare schools among others.
Where you grew up: I was raised in Kirkwood, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, before joining the Army.
What ScoutComms does: We are at our core a social enterprise public relations and corporate social responsibility firm. Our mission is to support veterans and military families through communications-grounded initiatives and collaborative partnerships that lead to greater awareness of their needs and expand their access to resources promoting their economic, physical, and social well-being.
We are unique in many ways, not the least of which is our social enterprise business structure as one of the first registered Benefit Corporations (B–Corp) focused on veterans and military families in the nation. Since March 2011 we’ve been focused almost exclusively on veterans issues, and in the last three years ScoutComms clients have donated and invested more than $100 million on veteran and military family initiatives.
How and why you founded ScoutComms: I needed a job and no one else would hire me, so I hired myself! It came out of the recognition as I searched for work that there were few if any veterans in the major communications firms in D.C., outside of government contracting, and I set out to fill the gap as a military-focused PR firm for the commercial sector. After a few scary months it took off pretty steadily and we’ve been in growth mode since.
What are the challenges facing veterans and military families in our area: There are a host of challenges for our community and also, fortunately, a lot of folks are trying to help. Some major issues we face include maintaining a focus on unemployment even as the job picture improves overall, for transitioning service members but especially for military spouses and caregivers.
In addition, mental health issues and how we diagnose and treat those who have suffered from mental, morale and brain injuries will be a long-term issue for this generation. Also, bridging the civil–military divide as an ever-smaller proportion of our population has actually served in uniform is something I think about often. That gap is one of the big reasons I’m involved in Team Red, White & Blue, a veterans organization that’s open to both civilians and veterans, among other organizations working to bring our communities together.
How do you help them overcome these challenges: We support the efforts of our clients and community in a range of ways from traditional media relations, government relations and philanthropic strategy and to serving as voices in the community.
Some of the things that ScoutComms does very well include helping good programs reach those they hope to support, connecting corporations and funders with well-deserving and impactful nonprofits serving our community and telling the story of today’s veterans and veteran entrepreneurs to the public and those they aim to serve.
Since we are focused only on the veterans’ community we have deep ties to the media, nonprofits and advocates that support those communities. We are able to impact them both professionally and in our larger social enterprise efforts including a number of pro bono and volunteer projects.
How can an average person help improve the lives of veterans and military families: I always tell folks to start local with their giving and support and then find national causes you believe in. We have a huge military and veterans community here in the Fredericksburg region that can use support as well as serve as integral parts of our community.
I’m really proud of our local Team Red, White & Blue Fredericksburg (teamrwb.org) chapter that I get to serve as community outreach director for as well as the Fredericksburg Area Veterans Council. Many of our aging veterans are living in homes that could use repairs or modifications while many organizations that don’t even have “veteran” in their names do remarkable work as well. The opportunities are limitless.
How and why you and your wife, Crystal, founded Ladyburg: Crystal has practiced skin care across the country for over a decade as we moved with the Army and had built a growing clientele here in the region. When it came time to open her own place, we didn’t want to open another spa since there are some really great ones in town already, so she had the idea of a skin care boutique and clinic as a different kind of model. She and Morgan were already making some handmade soaps, so we built a shop around the idea of quality handmade bath, body and skin care products and advanced aesthetic treatments together. We opened in October 2012 and things just took off like a jackrabbit for us.
What it’s like being involved with two diverse types of businesses: It’s really fun actually, although it can be a little mind- bending at times. ScoutComms deals with big national issues that can be pretty intense, where at Ladyburg I can sort of “let my hair down” and have fun joking with customers and showing the silly side.
Last weekend my son Hunter and I were both working along with two of our female “soap ninjas.” We both have beards so we bought fake beards for the girls and posted a picture to Facebook calling it #BeardPower day at the shop. Life is too short not to have fun when you can.
Strategically they are very different, running a professional services firm and a retail shop, so it’s been incredibly educational to learn both business models. We have incredible employees at all of our businesses, both family and not, that make it so easy really.
How has being a veteran shaped how you approach business: I honestly don’t believe I would be an entrepreneur if I weren’t a veteran. The traits that we learn in the military translate so well to starting and running a business that hardly a day goes by that something I learned in the military doesn’t come in handy.
For example, “risk” is such a relative term after four combat tours and over a thousand flight hours. You learn as a military leader to calculate the various risks you face quickly and balance them against the mission so the idea of missing a paycheck or a business not working isn’t as scary as possibly getting blown up or an engine flaming out over the ocean.
I’m also a big believer in empowering my subordinates and highlighting their successes. The great thing about being the owner of a business or a commander in the military is that I get credit for everything my folks do so letting them shine is good for everyone. By the same token I get blame for everything that goes wrong and I take that role too so that we can learn from our mistakes and move on.
As a veteran, what do you want people to keep in mind this July 4 weekend: I would love to see folks celebrating this incredible nation with the peace of mind that America’s guardians stand ready to defend the nation. When you meet a veteran, don’t pity us or think we are victims for our service. Even those of us who might be dinged up a bit from that duty did so with clear-eyed vision of the risks we take and the price we pay for putting on the uniform.
Also, I’m a passionate supporter of local and veteran-owned businesses so I always hope folks would look for chances to support those businesses. Take the trip down to the amazing historic district of Fredericksburg and see for yourself the incredible renaissance occurring down here. There are so many great original stores, restaurants and historic landmarks to visit and experience. Step outside the usual routine and try out the local scene for a change.
Hobbies: I’m not sure what is this “hobby” thing you’re asking about. I’m pretty sure that most entrepreneurs who are really passionate about what they do will tell you that building their business is their hobby. I’m fortunate to spend my free time away from work with my family hitting the trails in the mountains or hanging out with my teammates from Team RWB.
Something people don’t know about you:
That is a very short list at this point. Most people don’t realize I’m actually what’s called a “leg Ranger” meaning I didn’t go to Airborne school before Army Ranger school. In a comedy of errors and missed opportunities I arrived at Ranger school in January 1993 as a non-parachutist. My class started with 30 legs and only two of us graduated. It’s become a badge of honor and sort of outlines my whole Army career—always a little different from the norm.
—As told to Lindley Estes
FULL NAME: Frederick Paul Wellman
FAMILY: Wife, Crystal; his son-in-law, Matt (married to Amber), manages Ladyburg; his son, Dylan, is in the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg; his daughter, Morgan, is heading to Christopher Newport University in the fall; his son, Hunter, attends Mountain View High and works weekends at Ladyburg.
WORK: Founder and CEO of ScoutComms and co-owner of Ladyburg