When Sgt. 1st Class Angel Ramirez retired last January from Fort McPherson, he already had plans for his own business.

Taking all his knowledge from 21 years in military food services, Ramirez created his own catering company, Angel's Catering, based out of Powder Springs, Ga.

It was a dream 10 years in the making, he said, one he realized he could make possible during his time as a senior enlisted advisor for Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, U.S. Army Central commanding general from 2004-2007.

"I hosted a lot of events and functions with very little problems," he said of working with the general.

Knowing that he could perform a similar job once retired, Ramirez began to lay down the foundation of his business nine months before retiring by purchasing equipment and laying down business plans, with the final steps taking place during his three months of transition leave.

Others foundations of his business, like the skills necessary to cook and prepare a variety of dishes, were gained through his Army experience, said Ramirez.

"The military sent me to various schools," he said, including the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu of Atlanta, where he received his chef degree.

Besides education and training, Ramirez said that the military also helped him to become a successful entrepreneur by instilling values, work ethic and leadership skills.
"Obviously, it is a lot of responsibility," he said. "You have the responsibility to give orders, and lots of coordination and planning to do."

Ramirez said that leading his employees as a boss bears many similarities to his role as an Army NCO, and that he works hard to train them to be successful.

"I always tell my employees to lead by example," Ramirez said. "They'll never see me ask them to do something I won't do or spearhead. Like training the trainer in the military, I want them to be successful on their own. One day I'll retire and one of them may take over the chain."

The precision and military bearing of Ramirez's group was noted by garrison commander Col. Deborah Grays, who had her holiday reception hosted by Ramirez.
"He did a phenomenal job. He laid out a good menu and the prices were extremely reasonable. It was a huge success," Grays said.

Besides presenting a five-star restaurant experience, Ramirez also presents a model for other Soldiers to follow, Grays said.

"Each Soldier has a profession they can get specific training in," Grays said. "I encourage Soldiers to get all the school they can, turn that into certification, and turn that into rAfAsumAfA building."

Grays also said that Soldiers can use services such as Army Community Services and the Army Career and Alumni Program to become more educated on future plans outside the Army.

"Today's Soldier is reliable, dependable and very versatile," said Grays, adding that if they put their mind and will to achieve a goal, they can accomplish it. "At the end of day, it is the will of the individual and initiative on part of the Soldier."

As for other avenues for others looking to start their own business, Ramirez said the best places to start are local chambers of commerce, better business organizations and small business administrations. He added that he personally visited and worked with the Cobb County and metro Atlanta chambers of commerce.

"Every single city has a business organization. If you become a member of them, they can teach you how to run a business and start it," Ramirez added. "It is the best place for those beginning entrepreneurs to start out."

"You work more, longer, but at the end of the day, it is well worth it," Ramirez said.