Veterans Day: Houston brewery owned by veteran, couple shares their story

The Small Business Administration says there are about two million veteran-owned businesses, in the country, and about 10% of them are in Texas; second, only, to California. Many of them are small business entrepreneurs, looking for success while working for themselves.

In the small town of Fulshear, west of Houston, there's a lot that's unique at Project Halo Brewing. Brewmaster Melissa Mendez is busy mixing a batch of hazy IPA, called Goose, that will be ready to drink in about a month. She started as a home brewer and went to school to learn how to do it on a large scale.

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On the business side, husband Steve Mendez works the front of the house after 14 years as a Special Forces "Green Beret". After the army, the couple had 'plans' to open a tap room. "Melissa was already making beer, and that was her passion," says Steve. "At the same time, it was, like, 'You know how to make beer'. We were going to be selling craft beer, so why don't we just make it ourselves?"

That's what they've been doing for the last couple of years, from their own brewery and tap room north of Fulshear's downtown. They moved here to be closer to family, and research suggested there was an opportunity for a local brewery in the growing community. "We had a pretty good idea and indicators were there that this was going to explode in the next couple years, so we just kinda' jumped on it," says the veteran.

"This is our full-time job; this is our second home," says Melissa. "I think we spend more time here than at our house."

Opening the doors took a couple of years of planning, and saving. The SBA says 45% of veterans are more likely to start their own business than work for someone else. Steve Mendez thinks part of that comes from the differences between the military and civilian world.


"I think that 'mentorship' that you have in the military, where you can groom someone and help them become a better person, doesn't really apply to the majority of corporate America," he says. "I think that's why a lot of veterans just want to become their own entrepreneurs, lead their own pirate ship, and lead their own way."

The name "Project Halo" comes from the risky HALO or 'high altitude - low opening' parachute jump that the military special forces use. The business is kind of like a risky leap of faith that seems to be working. The brewery is planning to move to bigger surroundings, next door, in the new year to accommodate demand.

Resources for veterans to explore starting their own businesses can be found here.