by Scott R. Tucker

May 1, 2021

Dana Hughes

Today we will have Dana Hughes, who retired from the AF as a CMSgt after 30 years AD in 2019. After eight months of personal sabbatical, she jumped into entrepreneurship and became the owner/operator of Hughes Healthy Vending. Today, Dana will share her exit game, how she navigated around it, and how she strategically executed her plans into entrepreneurship. 

Episode Highlights:

01:56- The sabbatical moment of Dana Hughes 

07:11- Dana's epiphanies 

09:27- Dana came across Vending, a billion-dollar industry 

14:18- Preparing for your early exit

18:00- How does the Vending industry work? 

11:52-What's next for Dana? 

3 Key Points:

  1. Go out of your comfort zone  and then find what works for you. 
  2. Start early, know your numbers and address them accordingly. 
  3. Be sensible about how you are spending your money.


  • “If you wanted to do it, do it!”- Dana Hughes 
  • “Preparing for your early exit is knowing your numbers, factoring different things in your life, and making adjustments as necessary. “ - Dana Hughes 

Transcript of Veteran Secret Wealth 025 with Dana Hughes from Hughes Healthy Vending

Scott Tucker:  All right. We are alive once again, here on the Veteran Wealth Secrets channel. I'm Scott Tucker. And thank you for joining us, whether you're watching this live. If you pop in or later on down the road I'm excited because anytime we're talking with someone where their story, I'm guessing we're going to get into it here.

I'll get the answers for you. But w when there's a story there that aligns with all the stuff I talk about in the book, Position yourself to be able to go figure it out, what it is you want to do, or how you bring value into the world and then take massive action and do it. That makes me so excited to have on chief master Sergeant Dana Hughes from the air force recently transitioned out of the military.

And got into business, but let me read your bio here. Quick, specifically tired from the air force as a chief master Sergeant after 30 years on active duty in 2019, and after an eight month personal sabbatical dove and entrepreneurship and became the owner operator of the Hughes healthy vending. And we'll definitely get into the healthy vending stuff.

I think that's a great idea, great concept for entrepreneurship. But I'm more excited to hear about 30 years, chief master Sergeant. I know you've, you're used to following the rule rules and stuff, and to see that you, it looks like intentionally took US, nobody uses the word sabbatical, just yeah, I was unemployed.

I was on a sabbatical. No. You go on a sabbatical to, to learn. And I often talk about how, after 11 years overseas I was, in the military and out as an ex-pat traveled to 50 countries, going on these journeys, maybe it's travel. Maybe it's something else. To self-taught, that's what sabbatical means.

Tell us about that. I just want to hear the, what led up to that? How long were you preparing for it? What made you be able to pull it off 

Dana Hughes: again? Scott, thank you for having me. But yeah, so I was started preparing my exit and 20 2006 that's when I was really started planning my exit strategy.

And again, as anyone who knows me, I like planning. Cause I like to make sure I can transition or exit or whatever I'm going to do easily. With that being said, I started making a different type of moves. I E you know, doing investments investing in, making sure I am not accumulating a lot of bills and making sure that as I'm reviewing my plan, I'm making sure I'm able to pivot whichever way I need to go to.

And you just, Push forward until, when I make chief and at the tail end of that, of my time in the military, I am sitting in the tap class and that was like the second one I hadn't been to because it was a lot of information and I just, the lady kept talking about. Your resume.

And I'm like, what? And you like what corporation that you worked for 30 years, that the next thing they're training you for is another job. I couldn't wrap my head around that. And I talked to a mentor of mine that I had for God. When he retired, he took off five years. And I remembered him saying, look at your numbers.

I crunched my numbers. And as I was looking at how everything was getting ready to, the car was going to be paid off, already had a house. So that was not a debt I was going to incur. So everything was lining up that I blindly fell into because I didn't know what I was doing.

I was just. Seeing what was sticking basically. And I just, I said, I'm taking a sabbatical, a mental reset because for 30 years, this is what I know. When I get up, when I'm going to PT, when I'm going to do X, Y, and Z. And I just didn't want to. Stay with that basically institutionalized mindset.

So I said, I need to do a mental reset. So that is how the sabbatical came about. And I'm still in it in a bit, even though I went in and opened up a business, started a business. I'm still finding myself cause there's some other businesses that I see that I want to get into, but it is about ensuring that I have my numbers.

In order, that allowed me to do this and breathe because there's a lot of white noise that you have to kinda let settle and then go, okay this is okay, this is what I want to do versus, Oh, I got to go back to work immediately. You don't have time to decompress. And make sure, you finding yourself your true meaning, and for this other new life that you're going to have, because it's are you training?

Are you doing it for get another job because you need to, or do you want to go and find your purpose? 

Scott Tucker: Yeah, gosh, that's such a, that might, it's a such a personal decision to say, Nope, I know you guys are going to send me through all these systems. Where are we going to check boxes and go to this booth and then learn this skill and have somebody teach it, do a fake mock interview or whatever.

And nobody bothers to ask, is this what I want to do? And, I love the way you said that, like what corporation, trains its people to get another job, let's we're just trying to hook them up. Cause we had a firearm, but I find that I said that often it's like our military job is to win our nation's Wars.

Not to get everybody a job. Not that they shouldn't try, but why would we expect them to be good at it or to lump everybody into the same hole? Tell us a little bit more, how you gave her. So the permission to just shut all that and say, no, I want to spend time on me. And why is it so important? Because often they'll say, Hey, read this book.

What color is your parachute? Take this personality quiz. I'm guessing you did that a little bit. And we're like no. There's more to it than this. Can you tell us your kind of thoughts and epiphany around 

Dana Hughes: that? So my Pitney, like I said, the first part was being in that class and she kept talking about this resume.

And, again, just trying to put me in the box because it's based upon what your duty titles are. And I'm like, I know I'm more than this. And I initially to be honest, Publix was where I was. I had my sights on going to work for Publix. I had did my research. I had did all my college papers on that, on, on Publix.

So that's where I was going to go, but I happened to go in there as I was on terminal leave. And it was. It was crazy, but the cashier kind of triggered something in me. When I know that she is supposed to say, did you find everything, so on and so forth. And I guess she was having a bad day.

And I was just like I think her name was Tina. I said, Tina, I know you supposed to ask me these things and clearly. This is not morning. Cause I was in there early. I said, morning is not your thing. So how about you ask your supervisor to move you to a different shift from what you were more of a, better suited for yourself.

And as I am doing this, I'm like, I am not in the military anymore. And I, because I. If you work for me, it's I have certain expectations, and so I was like, I know what public's core goals are, core values, everything. And after that, I was like, I'm not, I wouldn't be good for any employer at this point because I am still.

Here and I needed to find what it was that w what was for me, and it was not going to work for someone else. 

Scott Tucker: So what happened next? 

Dana Hughes: So after that, so I said that, so I basically started working on projects in the house and when July At what time it was, but one July I was going through just looking at different businesses.

And I came across, vending and it is a billion dollar industry. And it's an industry in which you can, you set your schedule. And it's something that I've never, again, idiots, totally out my comfort zone, but it has processes. 

Scott Tucker: Were you ripping? You're just like, all right, I want to start a business entrepreneurship.

Are you looking at specific models or cause to come into vending? I that's a real cool, unique subset, as you said, billion dollar industry. Not many people know about it. It's people don't know, you can flip real estate. It's like really, but where are you looking at franchise?

How did you test and test the waters? You bought it. Thought even about doing your own consulting firm or something like that, 

Dana Hughes: all those things, right? The consenting. But the one thing was, I didn't, it wasn't about the money for me with the consulting. That was the crazy part. Someone was like, you just want it?

I said, I don't, I just want people to be able to transduce transition nicely and easily. I said you know what? I can do that. That's easy day, but when it came to, getting into business I looked at tropical smoothie cafe and then I was looking at the startup money with that. I said, Oh, new bending.

It's not a, it's not a lot of it's low, startup costs. And as I looked into it and I'll tell anybody I did it backwards. Okay. I did not really flush it out. Like most people will tell you to do, before you go into business. I jumped in, bought three machines and kicked it. You know what I mean?

It's almost like you just I'm like, if you're going to do it. And granted, I'm in a position where it didn't kill me. Cause you know, I wouldn't tell anyone to do that, but you know what, you just. Put my feet to the fire and so I'm in it and, and then COVID hit and that's a whole nother story, but, 

Scott Tucker: Yeah, congratulations on it, but that's the thing is, we say I wouldn't recommend somebody else, do take the risks I took, but as you said, you positioned yourself for it.

So is it a risk when now you're in control of your time, your control of. Your current investment. You've, you figure out pretty easily is the more you have the better it works out. That's the idea with any sort of scalable business. And so you position yourself to be able to do it.

So w how long ago was that when you bought your first three machines and where is that led you now? How's that kind of industry work? 

Dana Hughes: Like I said, that was in July 20, 19

and a half ago. And right now, it has Lynne, I had a different vision. I was like, okay, I'm going to go into schools in gyms. It's. It didn't happen that way. It didn't go that way because COVID and some other things. So right now I, I had to pivot, so now I'm, we're building where I live.

They're building a lot of luxury apartment homes complexes that they have the fitness centers and the different things they want to offer these different amenities. So that is where I'm pivoting my focus at right now. To get into that and then we'll go from there because again, I want to it is a scalable business, but I want to make sure I have my footprint where I want it to, I want to have it before I go, Oh man, let's go here.

So yeah, 

Scott Tucker: yeah, no that's, that's so important because Hey, we can plan for what's ahead. And then something changes out of the blue. This happens for a lot of people who were planning to get out of the military. They get medically retired. It's like they got four months.

And yet, you said you started planning your, for your transition in 2006. So that was gosh, over 10 years before you actually got out. Correct. And I'm sure you never thought about becoming a vendor or or getting into even business at all. But I know that's where you wanted to dive in a little bit deeper today is, planning the exit and early, and you know what that means and how do you position your skillsets, increase them, finances, whatever my relationships and networking.

Tell us more about what you think is so important about the early exit or preparing early for the exit. 

Dana Hughes: Yeah, preparing you for your early exit is knowing your numbers. If you say, okay, I'm getting out mine was at 22 years. I knew I was going to get out at 22 years. Looking at my numbers, looking at everything that I had going on, because my daughter who was in high school, I believe, or most Google, what have you.

So I'm factoring all these different things. In and making those adjustments as deemed necessary. Because when I hit 22 my plan didn't come about God's plan came about because I was in a different job that I loved and so calm and I was still enjoying myself. So that allowed me to extend my exit strategy and start getting even deeper into.

My plan. So that is, I got so many years left. Let me, buy a car, that will be paid off by the time I get ready to do X, Y, and Z. So I, the only bill I will have is, my house. Basically. So it's, I'm a firm believer that if you start early, they'll last two years.

Cause that last year of whatever year, whatever you're going to leave, it's a blur. It's a lot. And I don't think two years is enough. Because it's just so many things that those two years kinda, that, that gives you time to go back and make sure you've, if you miss some things, you can go ahead and.

Adjust to whatever, fill in those gaps, but you have to know your numbers, and make sure you address them accordingly. Cause I know some people, not everyone will retire. Some people will be non voluntarily told to get out, do due to their actions or due to whatever, and so if you know your numbers, okay. And be sensible about how you are spending your money and stop, not waiting until you're in retirement before you start investing in seeking out different avenues, because I think, entrepreneurship, being in military most based upon whatever.

Your business, you're going to go into, you want to go into, you can hone that while you in the military, and that even helps you with your exit strategy, so I'm just a advocated, I advocate for people to, get financially straight, get your numbers, and as you see, your time is coming close, then everything's sh would come out where you're not as stressed as most people come out stressed.

When is that time to 

Scott Tucker: exit? Yeah. And that's a great point because if you think about it from an entrepreneur's perspective, we always want more than one customer, because if you only have one customer, then. Yeah, that's risky. If something goes wrong, it could be nobody's fault. Yet when we get out of the military, we're looking for one customer, one employer.

And in, and so I love your idea of, getting started early, whether that's saving money, building a skill set, because in this day and age, you can create multiple sources of income in, in, in small ways, build some skill sets on the side. Can you go into a little more detail?

What does the vendor, am I even saying that right in business? Sorry. It's going to be a long day already. No, the vending business work. I think a lot of people listen to us understand kind of real estate investment. And flipping houses and that kind of stuff is this something where you're individually trying to get as many properties as you want vending machines?

Or are you on now offering specific machines or products or stuff to other people or is it all of the above? 

Dana Hughes: It's all the above, because that's, again, you have some people that, they also sell machines and then they also have their own machines that they put out. But I chose the, where I provide free vending services that are stocked with, gluten free vegan, just.

Things that are a little bit healthier than what we're normally accustomed to in, in, in vending machines. And but it's just real estate in a sense though, was about location, so you have to go out and look at different areas and put, you would think of your vending machine would get a lot of traffic, and you can have your.

You can have a very automated machine cause like my machines, they are casually, contactless, I can monitor the inventory from my home. So it was like, so it was like, if it's empty, then I said, okay, I need to go and do this run and so on and so forth. So that helps me manage my time.

But it just depends on the person and how deep they want to. Get into the business, but it is some, it's somewhat like real estate because you have to scope out, go inside, do site visits, and then you have to talk to people and, somewhat sell them because a lot of people, say you know how much you're going to charge.

I'm not charging anything. Just allow me to provide the service and, to your resonance or whomever. And I maintain it. Anything that needs to be done. I do it, and in so far, it is it's working out like it needs to thank God, I have no complaints, but yeah.

Vending is. It's, I'm not telling you it's easy. I won't tell anybody that because yeah, 

Scott Tucker: it should be easy, but geez. Look at, I look what that sabbatical gave you is the opportunity to say, I'm going to try this thing and maybe you're still figuring it out as it happens. But to me it sounds like.

And you're learning how real estate works. I don't learn that in my business, but you're having to understand how commercial real estate works. That's a pretty skillset not to mention networking with all these types of folks. Also understanding the ins and outs of a business, supply and demand the economics of it.

And I'm sure you or a family or employees are running around and doing the works. I got to, get out. And so for people who want to build a business, but. You also don't want to be stuck behind a computer all day. It's it sounds great for veterans who like, like a mix of both worlds, I would say in some regards, right?

Dana Hughes: Yes. Cause again, it allows flexibility, and you just, you get to meet a whole lot of different people in businesses because again Like I said, my focus, is on a parking complex it's luxury ones now. I get to talk to a whole lot of people and understand how, what their vision is.

And I can customize my snacks to what they're I'm like, Oh, you, Oh, you want vegan stuff, and it's you want gluten-free gotcha. You want the, so that is, I think it is a, a business that suits. Veterans very well. But again it's not gonna be easy it's work.

And if you up with some, so mind boggling things sometimes, Hey, it's 

Scott Tucker: good. Hey, we're usually used to it. I'm assuming this is your friend. We have a comment from Fe Messick. And so she said, she's so proud of you. Clearly you're doing the right things and most importantly inspiring.

I think a lot of veterans have you been in not sure what they want to do. You always have to know exactly what you want to do, but you can start to create the self-employment where you get to choose the time and so on and so forth. So thank you, Dana, for sharing all that was wisdom and showed up on the show.

What's. What's next for? You said you might have some other ideas you're getting into, is that something down the road we should chat about? Yeah. 

Dana Hughes: My thing is, again, like we talked about consulting I want to get my vending business a little bit more solidified. So that way I can go out with a group of my squad women.

And we talked to women about financial readiness that are, right now I would like to focus on the ones in the military simple, because, that's where my that's my heart right now. You know what I mean? And so that, but he said free of charge. So they don't think that we have anything to gain.

You know what I mean? Just want to do it say, Hey, this is what worked for us. And we just want to help you guys get there. Without, with less stress as much as possible, I should say so, but that's later on down the road. I just need to get this first. 

Scott Tucker: Honestly, you're doing it right now.

If that turns into, you're putting your message out. Hey, this is what worked for us. If you're interested in something different. Just that right there, being able to share this video and podcasts, I think will be helpful for others. And then hopefully it ends up in a speaking career or something one day.

But now obviously we'd like to talk to you more offline about, sharing that education and stuff and tell you a little bit more about what we're doing to, Open up the minds of our service members about how the financial world works. So how opportunity works after the military, but so how do people find you get ahold with you, connect with you, who should be reaching out to, to connect.

Dana Hughes: Hughes, healthy Vinny. I am on LinkedIn. I am on Facebook. And if you don't want to delve into the, you don't need a vending machine or services like that, but you just want to talk to me personally, I'm Danny Hughes and I'm on LinkedIn. But it's Hughes healthy Is where you can reach 

Scott Tucker: as well.

Awesome. Thanks again, Dana. And thanks everybody. And listen, we're bringing on folks that are going to tell us about all the different ways to, to participate in the world in post military life. Really it's up to you, but you gotta be in a position to make a choice. So then thanks for coming and sharing your story because you are definitely example of someone.

Who prepared with plenty of time to go figure it out and took all the right steps to do it. So appreciate it. Thank you, Scott. Yep. Bye-bye we'll take care of everybody. We'll see you next time.

About the author 

Scott R. Tucker

Scott R. Tucker is an author, speaker and the founder of US VetWealth, a lifestyle and financial consulting brand that helps service members go from paychecks and government benefits to wealth and liberty. He likes to say, "I Help The 1% Who Serve Our Country Become The 1% Who Influence It." A West Point graduate, serial world traveler, military financial expert, and entrepreneur, Scott brings valuable experience and insight to those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country.

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