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Meet Tony Teravainen of Support The Enlisted Project in Scripps Ranch

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Teravainen.

Tony, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I served as a U.S. Navy submariner for 8 ½ years working in the operations, repair and project management areas of the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Nuclear Power Program. My career was cut short due to a medical condition, forcing me to endure a rushed transition to the civilian world. After my military service, I lead manufacturing maintenance and engineering departments at Sony Electronics, Inc.; developed and managed small retail businesses; and consulted with a top 5 consulting firm as a strategy and process improvement functional expert.

I started my nonprofit service in 2009 by volunteering with this organization to lead the long term strategy development for the Board of Directors, and was quickly influenced to join the board. On January 1, 2014, as the Chairman of the Board, with the resignation of the sitting President, I became the Interim President of STEP, and in February 2014 took a formal Leave of Absence from my consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, to become the full-time President & CEO of STEP.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I am not a natural salesman, so fundraising has been a challenge for me in this position. I have to keep in mind that I am the face of the organization and it is my duty to keep these programs funded with the help of my development team.

I have also been challenged in that I am a “strong introvert” which doesn’t bode well in my current position. I have improved greatly, but it is exhausting being the person out in front.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
STEP assists junior active duty enlisted members and recently discharged enlisted Veterans and their families in Southern California facing financial crisis achieve long term financial self-sufficiency through counseling, education and grants to alleviate critical near term obligations.

I am the CEO and Co-Founder of the organization.

We are proud to be recognized by the community and strive to serve our military and veteran families by always “doing the right thing.”

We have a financial planning program that combines social work, change management, and financial planning theories with a goal of changing the clients’ financial culture. STEP utilizes the solution-focused approach (SFA), which is an evidence based social work practice that is particularly effective in working with families in crisis.

What were you like growing up?
Much of my childhood was spent watching my dad serve our nation while working a side job or selling something for commission. At the same time, my mom would work part-time at night or on weekends when my dad was there to stay with us. As we kids grew older, my mom had to shift to full-time work to help make ends meet.

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