Veteran Entrepreneur Spotlight:
It’s an exciting time to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Things are getting better, in terms of being able to live as yourself and love who you want in your public life. Public sentiment has turned a corner in recent years, and the LGBTQ+ community is enjoying some long-awaited legally recognized rights and protections after decades of fighting for them.
It’s also a scary time to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Violence against members, particularly trans Americans, is accelerating. Studies have shown trans people are more than four times more likely to be victims of violence than anyone else, especially trans women of color. Particularly loud anti-trans state laws have made many members of that community afraid to leave their homes in some states.
The past five years have also seen whiplash-inducing changes to the ability for transgender Americans to serve in the military. There had been a long-standing ban on trans military service, but around summer of 2016, President Obama directed the DoD to protect trans service members and provide accommodations in the event of transition during service. President Trump then wrote his own memorandums looking to ban trans service in 2017 and 2018, memorandums now-President Biden revoked in 2021 by executive order.
sebastian’s Military Experience
Sebastian enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard at 17 years old, just after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He served ten years total, from 2011 until 2022 as a public affairs specialist, including a 2014-2015 deployment with the 34th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade to Camp Buehring, Kuwait supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit supported the 34th Infantry Division with UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook Helicopters, and C-12 Huron aircraft.
Sebastian took hundreds of photos and wrote several stories to document and support the deployment, keeping the public informed of the unit’s activities as part of its Public Affairs Office. When he returned to Minnesota, he began his gender transition as a trans man.
While transitioning, Sebastian also transferred into a new role as a uniformed federal technician under Title 32. Federal technicians are special dual-status federal civilian employees required to wear their uniform and maintain membership in the National Guard.
Part of his role there was managing the LGBTQ Special Emphasis Council through the Minnesota National Guard office of Diversity and Inclusion, which entailed speaking on panels and organizing servicemembers to appear at LGBTQ+-centered events. After a back injury, Sebastian separated in 2022 with an Honorable Discharge, and faced the question of what to do next.
In the face of this contradictory experience, some members of the LGBTQ+ community are unsure how to take advantage of the positive changes and thrive, or might be concerned for their safety if they do so. It can be an isolating, lonely feeling, and not everyone has a strong support network that understands. Sebastian Dziuk launched Coach Bastian LLC to help. As a trans man that transitioned during his military service, Sebastian understands, and he wants to help you create your own queer and thriving life.
Sebastian has always known entrepreneurship would be part of his path. And he’s had a number of small businesses, including a freelance photography business. But one thing he noticed way back in 2015, was how few trans men role models there were in the entrepreneur space. That experience made Sebastian realize how important it is to be public in representing that aspect of his identity, so the next trans entrepreneur looking for role models has an easier time finding one.
During his time in the service, Sebastian was studying business, and earned his B.A. in Cultural Entrepreneurship with a business of administration certificate from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, in 2017. He was in an MBA program afterward when he discovered life coaching, and immediately knew he had found his calling. He left his MBA program and joined a six-month certification program with Lumia Life Coaching around 2021.
Connecting With Bunker Labs
Sebastian was aware of Bunker Labs for a long time, but never felt he had a business ready for our programs. In 2021, as he was finishing his life coaching certificate, he began to get active on LinkedIn. It wasn’t long before the local Bunker Labs Ambassador for Minnesota Neils Gott found him, since they had deployed together with the Minnesota National Guard in 2014. Neils convinced Sebastian to apply for the Bunker Labs Veterans in Residence (ViR) 22A cohort, and Sebastian was accepted into the program.
Sebastian loved the community and that inspirational feeling that charges you up when you’re in a room of people all trying to build something exciting. He also loved the accountability, which kept him motivated and putting in the work on his business. Knowing that check-in call is only a few days helps motivate you to pick up the phone or send the email or whatever other task you need to do so you can show up to that call with some movement you can report. He credits the program with keeping him disciplined early on, and found he loved it so much, he stayed on for the ViR 22B cohort as well.
“With Bunker Labs, and the people I was surrounded by, I felt I could bring and be my full, authentic self, and bring all parts of me together. I don’t feel like my military and trans identities are compartmentalized anymore, and that was a huge weight off my chest. I know many people still feel like they have to lead these separate lives. But, Bunker Labs, I’m grateful that I was able to bring all of me.”
Taking The Next Step
Sebastian has been thriving in his own brand and business. He’s contributed to two books. The first, published October 2021 by the Pride and Joy Foundation, is Thriving in Business: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Entrepreneur, where he is one of 14 contributing LGBTQ+ entrepreneur writers. The second is With Honor and Integrity: Transgender Troops in Their Own Words, where he contributes one of 26 essays from trans veterans and current servicemembers. He’s booked speaking appearances at Xcel Energy, Best Buy, and more, and his coaching client list is growing.
Sebastian is looking ahead to the future with an eye toward exploring the possibilities. He’s working on a new book, continuing to seek speaking engagements, coaching clients, and more. He’s close to launching his podcast, which will serve as a platform for positive stories about the queer and trans community, spread joy, and feature role models for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
It’s Your Time
Veterans in Residence is a peer-facilitated, six-month business incubator that provides veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs a networking community, business skills, and opportunities to help grow their business.
Breaking Barriers in Entrepreneurship is a virtual workshop series that facilitates business growth and support within AAPI, Black, Latinx, and female veteran and military spouse communities. The eight-week workshop is designed to create an immediate impact for early to growth-stage businesses by providing access to business tools, resources, capital opportunities, mentorship, and a stronger peer network!