Just a few weeks after Steven Edwards turned 18, he found himself in basic training for the U.S. Army. Soon, he would join the 82nd Airborne Division, famous for its ability to deploy parachute assault troops anywhere in the world within 18 hours.
But to get there, Edwards would first have to learn how to pack a parachute. He told Refresh Miami that at the start of his specialized training, he was given an hour to pack a parachute before jumping out of a plane using it. Talk about trial by fire – or, in this case, by air.
“That’s your first test,” recalled Edwards. “Instantly you’re learning competence.” Eventually, he would pack parachutes in just four minutes. But that memory of his first jump had an impact on Edwards.
“I was the first guy out the door for my first jump,” he said. “As I stood at the door, I didn’t want to look down. The jumpmaster asked me, ‘Are you scared?’ And I said, ‘Hell yeah I’m scared, jumpmaster!’” After a few seconds of coaxing from the jumpmaster, Edwards looked down at the 800-foot drop, screamed “I’m not scared,” and jumped as soon as he was instructed.
Little did 18-year-old Edwards realize that this mentality of looking into the face of risky situations and diving in would serve him well as a tech founder.
These days, Edwards has swapped jumping out of airplanes for helping companies administer virtual career fairs and online hiring events. He started hosting virtual events in 2018 and in 2019 launched the initial platform for Delray Beach-based startup Premier Virtual. Since then, the company has hosted hundreds of thousands of candidates across thousands of events.
In late August of this year, Premier Virtual launched a revamped version of its platform. But the team had little time to rest before the platform – and the startup – was put to the test for its biggest jobs fair yet. The State of Massachusetts used Premier Virtual’s platform for a job fair that included almost 2,000 companies, over 17,000 jobseekers, and 46,000 available jobs.
Edwards acknowledged that he “was probably more stressed about the Massachusetts job fair” than his first time jumping out of a plane. “It was just such a big exposure of what [our platform] could be or couldn’t be, and it’s my business,” he explained. “When I was 18, I was scared. But I was like, ‘I joined the Army – you tell me I’ve got to fight, then that’s what I’m going to do.’”
Premier Virtual has a wide range of clients across the public and private sectors, including some military organizations like the Army, the National Guard, the American Legion, and the U.S. Veterans Chamber of Commerce. Edwards noted that military members looking to transition to the civilian workforce “have more resources today than [they] ever had previously,” including Florida Atlantic University’s Veterans Entrepreneurship Program. However, it’s not always smooth sailing.
“A lot of people have a hard time when they leave the military,” asserted Edwards. “But not a lot of people talk about it.” One of the top reasons for the difficulties they face, according to Edwards, is civilian teams often do not have the camaraderie that is common in the military.
Edwards advocates for military members to think carefully about their motivations for leaving the armed forces. But he believes that there are many benefits to entrepreneurship: “You work more hours but have more freedom.”
This equation has served Edwards well. Premier Virtual now has 17 full time employees and is rapidly expanding. The company is hiring for a few different roles, including a Senior Full Stack Developer and an Account Manager.
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