GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A local veteran has used the skills he learned in the military to build multiple successful businesses.
Kenneth Murillo enlisted in the military in 1996, serving in the Marine Corp. He was first stationed in Hawaii — a “station vacation,” he joked — where he served as a small arms repair technician, repairing weapons.
In 2002 Murillo, originally from southern California, came to Michigan as a recruiter.
Serving in the Marines was the best decision of his life, Murillo said.
“It was the camaraderie, obviously serving my country,” he said. “I ended up becoming a career recruiter because I like being able to assist other people in making the same decision that I made, because I know it was the best decision that I made in my life to become a Marine.”
After 22 years of service, he retired from the military in 2018.
MILITARY TO BUSINESS OWNER
Since retiring, Murillo has kept busy. He is now the president of 92 for 22, a nonprofit working to raise awareness for veteran suicide and PTSD. The veteran also owns multiple businesses, including G. I. Bins, and is a real estate agent under the name Homes with Ken, working with EXP Realty.
His work as a recruiter and the skills he developed during his time in the military have helped him succeed in his business ventures.
“It’s those intangible things that you get by serving in any branch of the service. The things that you can’t touch: the leadership skills, the management skills, the self-reliance, being disciplined,” he explained. “Those are the things that carry over into being a business owner that are assisting your business in being successful.”
GETTING VETERANS IN HOMES
When he first became a real estate agent after retiring from the military — at the suggestion of his wife’s best friend who also worked in real estate — Murillo realized he wanted to focus his work on helping other veterans find homes.
A fellow Marine helped him learn the “ins and outs” of how the VA home loan process works. Murillo explained many veterans don’t know how to utilize their VA home loan benefits. He helps them navigate the process and make the transaction go smoother.
It’s allowed him to continue his passion for helping others.
“Coming into real estate now, continuing to help the veterans that I assisted in enlisting just makes it so much better. Showing them how they can achieve that life milestone of becoming a homeowner, as we all know it’s a lot better to be a homeowner than to rent,” he said.
Helping veterans reach that milestone also helps with his 92 for 22 mission.
“I firmly believe that if a veteran is a homeowner then they’re less likely to take their life, because they have that sense of ownership,” he said.
While he specializes in helping veterans, he added he does work with everyone in need of a real estate agent.
Murillo now has six agents working under him, and he’s worked to teach them as much as he can about the VA home loan process.
“I know that I can’t help every veteran out there, but if I can help other agents be educated in the VA home loan process and then they help those veterans, then that’s a win in my in my book,” he said.
HELPING FELLOW VETERANS BECOME BUSINESS OWNERS
About three years ago, he started G. I. Bins with his business partner Jose Paguada. The company offers commercial and residential trash bin cleaning, along with other pressure washing services.
“When (Jose) first brought this idea to me, I was like, ‘You know how long I’ve had a trash can and I’ve never cleaned it one time.’ And then he came over and he cleaned it and two weeks later … I told my wife, ‘We got to get Jose to clean this thing again.’ And I’m like, ‘OK, if I’m thinking this, how many other people are thinking this?'” he said.
The company works to be eco-friendly, recycling water and burning off most of its wastewater after filtering it. They sanitize and deodorize the bins, which is especially helpful for people who keep their bins in their garages.
“We cater to a lot of retirement centers and retired people and associations,” Paguada said. “If (COVID-19) taught anybody anything is just to be a little cleaner, and that goes … from your trash bin to your garage to inside your home.”
After seeing that the business was successful, they decided to franchise it. They now have three franchises, two in the Grand Rapids area and one in Florida: “Lucky them, they always send us the pictures of the nice weather,” Murillo joked.
One of the franchises in West Michigan is owned by a Navy veteran, while the other is owned by two Marines. The Florida owner is a veteran supporter.
Murillo said he wanted to help other veterans become business owners themselves.
“Before I got out of the service, I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to be my own boss,” he said. “Well this is giving those veterans that had the same feelings as I had before getting out the opportunity to be their own boss, make their own schedule, run their own business.”
The company also works hard to support veterans in the area. Sometimes if there’s a veteran home along that day’s route, they’ll stop by and give it a free cleaning.
“Just trying to trying to give back to our brothers and sisters at arms,” Murillo said.
Paguada said he’s always been a big supporter of veterans and looks for ways they can help.
“Life takes over,” he said. “People forget what our veterans do for us.”
‘SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT’
Murillo said for him, being a successful business owner makes him feel good about himself.
“It just allows that sense of accomplishment for myself because I know that my family is being taken care of also,” he said.
His wife recently got her real estate license and will be working side-by-side with him, and his 15-year-old son has also expressed interest, Murillo said.
For other veterans considering starting their own business, the real estate agent said to consider the foundation of a house.
“I would say the best advice … that I would be able to give a veteran would be to make sure that they think it out fully and have a good business plan. The business plan is that foundation that they’re going to have with within a company, it’s kind of like the foundation of a house,” he explained. “Without that foundation being structurally sound, the rest of the house isn’t going to stay up. It’s going to end up collapsing. So if you have that business plan, that business plan is the foundation. … As long as you stick to that, it’s going to allow you to be successful.”