Entrepreneurship Is Good Fit for 3 Veterans

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Military training can also be good preparation for the business world.

It instills the perseverance, discipline and leadership needed to start and grow a business, and get through the rough spots.

The Business Journal checked in with three veteran-owned companies. Here are their stories.


Ernest “Bahn” Urbanowicz found inspiration for his virtual 3D tour business from several areas in his life.

Urbanowicz, owner and director of MVP-Tours LLC, served in the Air Force from 2007 to 2012. Stationed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for most of his military career, he also completed tours of duty in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

His military experience has affected his accomplishments and work ethic, but not in a way that’s expected, says Urbanowicz.

After speaking with a therapist following his time in service, he discovered he had been experiencing episodes of insomnia related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Referring to this as a “double-edged sword,” Urbanowicz says PTSD has taken a toll on his health, but has also allowed him to graduate from Ashford University and start entrepreneurial ventures such as MVP-Tours.

Urbanowicz and his wife, Stephania, launched the business in May. MVP is an acronym that stands for Meta, Virtual 3D Tour, Photography.

In their work, the couple uses Kuula and other virtual tour technology to create experiences similar to those of a VR headset.

Urbanowicz says the idea for the business spiraled soon after he completed his real estate exam. Doing his own research and wanting to stand out from the rest, he discovered the virtual 3D tour software company Matterport.

“It blew my mind, and I immediately knew I wanted to implement it into my real estate practice,” he says.

Along with the software company, Urbanowicz says he discovered other like-minded community members in various positions at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

“There were a lot of ideas that flooded into my mind that I wanted to pitch to my newly found colleagues. But it didn’t make sense from a real estate perspective,” he says.

After researching more on virtual 3D tours and speaking with his wife, Urbanowicz says the pair “jumped in headfirst.”

Urbanowicz says they discovered that their 360-degree photos could be uploaded to Google Street View (GSV) and eventually they could be verified as GSV Trusted Photographers.

“When we finally got the badge from them, we were ecstatic, but only thought we’d get a few hundred views from anything we uploaded,” he says. “A month after we uploaded one of the local parks in our area, I was opening the GSV app to prepare another upload and saw our view count went from a couple hundred to over 10,000.”

This was the moment Urbanowicz says he realized the business could be bigger than they initially planned.

“It made me realize that although we specialize with virtual 3D tours and photography, the heart of the business is visual marketing. And by accident we developed a means of synergetic organic marketing,” he says. “Our view count on GSV is now at 273,000 and growing.”

With more work to upload, Urbanowicz says they plan to push that number above a million within their first year.

While many things have influenced his success, he says his daughter, Vanessa, has been his true inspiration.

“What’s inspiring about her is seeing her fail at something new and getting right back up with little to no help and try again,” he says. “It’s the coolest thing in the world to me and makes me proud when she accomplishes whatever she set out to do. It gives me inspiration to keep pushing forward with our business no matter how many times we have a setback, and learn from any failures along the way.”


David Stanley, manager of Cyber Express, is slated to become the third veteran owner of the business. William Gatewood was the original owner of the business, which started in 1998.

Gatewood, an Air Force veteran, met Stanley when he was working in the IT department at Austintown Local Schools. Stanley would soon leave the school district for a position at Cyber Express – eventually taking over.

“When Mr. Bill was about to retire, he asked me if I wanted to take over and I asked my father if he wanted to help me out with that,” says Stanley.

His father said yes and the two have been running the business ever since.

Stanley and his father, Brian Stanley, are both military veterans. Brian was in the Army from 1975 to 1978 and David was in the Navy from 1999 to 2005.

“It has been a veteran-owned business since day one,” says David Stanley.

Cyber Express, 6128 Market St. in Boardman, was previously a franchise location of Cyber Exchange. The computer upgrade and repair business employs five and has served customers from the surrounding counties to as far as Canada, South America, and the United Kingdom.

“In reality, we are kind of global,” says Stanley. “It’s really strange how we have gotten to that point. Even though we are here locally, we are technically a global company.”

Over the years, Stanley says he and his father have seen a lot of support, with some customers lasting as long as 20 years. The main thing that separates the business from other similar ones in the area is their mindset, he says.

Stanley says the business acts with an “if it was my wallet” point-of-view, ensuring customers the best possible quotes and only suggesting spending money on areas he would himself.

He once found a local church was charged $1,200 to $1,300 extra on Microsoft Word because they didn’t mark the church as a tax-exempted nonprofit. He says it is situations like these that enabled him to develop some of the customer relationships he maintains.

One major change the business has gone through over the years is the change from manual to automatic computer information transferring.

“A lot of the things we do now are automated,” says David Stanley. “Let’s say backing up a computer when a customer brings it in here to get an old computer moved to a new computer – we have things that are automated and it just takes care of it for you.”

Stanley says this process used to be done by hand and would take anywhere between two and four days to complete.

The automated process prevents information from being forgotten and speeds up the process, says Stanley.

“Our program doesn’t miss anything,” he says. “It’s quite nice.”

David Stanley plans to fully take over the business after his father retires. He says his inspirations are his 10– and 12-year-old children.

“I want to make sure my kids have the best opportunity to succeed in life and that’s all I hope for,” says Stanley.

Additionally, he believes it is important to support other veteran owned businesses. “They’re family,” says Stanley. “Those are my brothers and sisters – it’s family. I’ll do it every day of the week.”


A couple years before opening their restaurant, Clint Elston met his future wife, Mary Elston, and her close friend, Mary McNulty. With very little money, the trio took a leap of faith and opened their Warren restaurant, Beautiful Whirl’d.

Clint enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2001, his senior year of high school, and completed his service in 2010.

Beautiful Whirl’d, across from the Trumbull County Courthouse at 141 W. Market St., opened six years later.

The owners of Beautiful Whirl’d, Mary McNulty, Mary Elston and Clint Elston, stand outside their downtown Warren business.

While Clint and Mary were only dating for about a year at the time, the couple says it was their faith that made them take the leap.

“I had been praying for my best friend and it kind of all came out of a prayer,” says Mary Elston.

With McNulty going through a rough spot, Mary asked her what she wanted to do with her life. The idea started as a plan to open a pie and coffee shop.

“[God] told me it was done and we had the place three days later,” says Mary Elston.

They had no money, no loans and no plan.

“We built our table and chairs out of pallets and that cost us $33 to start,” she says.

Six months later, the restaurant officially opened its doors.

Clint says when they first were working on the building, they shared the space with a convenience store. One day, Mary Elston received a text from the owner informing her that he would be closing the store that day.

With only $6,000 left in the bank, she offered to buy what remained of the store. “I literally gave him every dime I had,” she says.

Taking the refrigerators and appliances from the store and selling the remaining sodas and candy bars, Mary says they went to Sam’s Club for supplies for smoothies and wraps.

The store opened the next Monday.

“We literally opened the doors because we had no more money at all to work with,” says Mary.

In 2018, the couple was married.

Over the years, the menu has grown to include smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, tacos, salads, quesadillas and more.

The trio plans to add a breakfast menu and extend store hours.

The restaurant employs 13, including the three co-owners.

“One of the main reasons, other than the grace of God getting us through, is just that we refuse to give up,” says Clint. “The average business owner would have given up on Beautiful Whirl’d a long time ago.”

Support they receive from the community and church staff helped to prevent them from giving up.

“I personally felt so blessed by our community,” says Mary.

“One of the things that I always try to teach our staff is that even if we have a mishap, people are never going to forget how we make them feel,” she says. “We just live to celebrate people and I think that our community – especially the people that work in the courthouse and in the buildings and businesses that surround us – built us up and edified us.”

Pictured at top: Ernest “Bahn” Urbanowicz’s business creates virtual 3D tours.