If you think Joshua Ellis is going to let something in the business world rattle him, you haven’t met the 30-year-old owner of ATHIO Technologies in Fredericksburg. After all, chasing new work and finding good employees is nothing compared to representing the U.S. Army in Iraq for more than three years from 2003 to 2006.
Since launching ATHIO (an acronym for All To Him I Owe), Ellis has seen his original partner—and much of the financing for the company for the business—walk away. But he remains true to his original mission of putting veterans whose service time is over to work.
It’s an initiative both InfoComm International and CompTIA have focused on in the past several years, but Ellis feels it’s his personal mission to hire veterans, regardless of how many letters they have after their names.
“A lot of companies require you have these various certifications before they’ll even talk to you,” says Ellis, who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division as radio communication specialist, focused on telecommunications and roaming cell towers, during the initial invasion in 2003 before a medical discharge as a sergeant in 2006. “I want to take that out of the equation.
“I want to hire people based on their character and then train them in the field and put them back to work. You can train someone to do the work, but you can’t teach someone to have integrity,” he says. Ellis understands some veterans carry with them issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s something he lives with himself, but he sees himself as a model of perseverance.
Hear how (and why) Joshua Ellis started ATHIO Technologies:
The path Ellis envisions isn’t far off from what he experienced during his Army stint. Essentially overnight, Ellis went from being a radio operator to building a videoconferencing system for Gen. David Petraeus. He had no formal training on how to build the system and pretty much taught himself everything he knows.
“My dad always told me to always be the first one to volunteer and that’s sort of what happened with that,” says Ellis. “Within a week, I had a good solid understanding but it took about six months to really understand the system.”
That spark was enough to give Ellis an idea of how he’d spend his post-military life, and once he got the chance to start the business, he realized he wanted to make it a place where those who weren’t getting a chance elsewhere could come to start their careers too.
“There’s no problem in business—or in the world—that you can’t adapt to and overcome,” says Ellis. “There’s a lot that goes into building a business—developing the brand, signing contracts, so much more. It’s a learning process but it’s really coming along now.”
Ellis has been involved in AV systems integration since 2004 and spent about seven years as a defense contractor after his medical discharge before deciding ATHIO should become his full-time professional focus.
“For the first 15 months, it was technically a side business, but it’s definitely full-time now,” he says. Ellis is trying to get back into government work but has started with houses of worship and small medical and dental offices. He has four part-time employees on contracts and they do AV, digital signage and videoconferencing jobs, including conference rooms and briefing rooms, he says.
Ellis has no delusions of grandeur but he’s excited to share his model and believes it has potential.
“Obviously, I need to feed my family,” he says, “but the dream isn’t to make millions of dollars. It’s to hire hundreds of people.”