‘Boots to Business’ helps Air Force Veterans’ business take off



Greg Lyles, a retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant, his wife, Jennifer, and their two sons always enjoyed barbecuing as a family. When a fundraising opportunity arose in 2012, the family decided what better way to participate than to sell their BBQ for a good cause? Little did they know this small fundraiser would turn into informal catering jobs, a Lyles BBQ “food truck,” and ultimately into today’s standalone restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.

“We started in a tent three years ago, and in just a short amount of time, we built this business from nothing to just over $1 million in sales in the past year,” says Chandler. “Boots to Business gave us the foundational knowledge we needed to understand the intricacies of owning and operating a business.”

Greg and his son Chandler both transitioned out of the military in 2013, warranting the question of “what’s next?” As they entered the transition process, they decided to explore entrepreneurship by attending Boots to Business and Boots to Business Reboot, respectively. The Lyles leveraged the entrepreneurial knowledge gained during the courses to launch their then-food truck into a full blown restaurant. In 2014, Lyles BBQ LLC was officially formed.

“If you’re thinking of starting a family-owned and operated business, a key is to define everyone’s role,” says Greg.

Each of the Lyles play an integral role in the operations of the business. As the founder, Greg takes on a supervisory role and oversees all operations, stepping in when needed – namely, hiring and training new employees. The long-term vision of the company comes from Chandler. As the company CEO, Chandler takes a hands-on role, overseeing the company’s marketing, strategic planning, and daily operations. Jennifer acts as the COO, developing most, if not all, of the company’s recipes. And lastly, Julia, Chandler’s wife, played an integral role during the launch of the business, but is now focused on her own career as a school teacher and new mom.

“The beautiful thing about our family is everyone really brings something different to the table,” says Jennifer.

Image: Jennifer LylesIn bringing Lyles BBQ to life, the Lyles overcame many obstacles that are common with the entrepreneurial process. Perseverance, passion, and sheer determination powered the family to ultimately turn their business dreams into reality.

“Boots to Business provided us with knowledge that is critical during the beginning stages of business ownership – from understanding how to manage budgets and cash flow to conducting marketing and inventory management,” says Chandler. “All those pieces allowed us to not make as many mistakes as we would have without taking Boots to Business.”

Since its inception in 2013, SBA’s Boots to Business (B2B) and Boots to Business Reboot program have served over 60,000 service members, Veterans, and military spouses. From breweries and BBQ joints to software consulting and IT sales, these Boots to Business graduates have successfully transitioned from service members to business owners.

“You have a lot better chance of survival [as a business] if you have a strong foundation,” says Greg. “And that’s what a program like Boots to Business did for us. SBA is the strategic partner businesses can use to actually grow their business.”

Today, Lyles BBQ has outgrown its initial storefront in Nicholasville to its current storefront in Lexington; is in the process of establishing a second location; and has 30 employees (and growing) – including five Veterans.

If you’re a military spouse, Veteran, or service member interested in starting, purchasing or growing a business, SBA’s ecosystem supports your path to finding your moment that matters. Visit http://www.sba.gov/myvetbiz to find out how.


This article was submitted to VAntage point by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  SBA celebrates, connects, and empowers service member (including National Guard and Reserve), veteran, and military spouse entrepreneurs and business owners—past, present, and future—during 2017’s National Veterans Small Business Week (NVSBW). NVSBW, now entering its fourth year, raises awareness of veteran business ownership and encourages communities to support businesses owned by individuals in the military and veteran communities. It also inspires business support and mentorship within the veteran and military community, while connecting these business owners to entrepreneurship resources administered through SBA and its stakeholders.

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