From active duty to entrepreneur: Veteran uses Facebook to bolster computer business

Victor Lezama, owner of PC Landing Zone

Victor Lezama has seen his business skyrocket since he first opened it in 2013.

The key to his success? Facebook.

The 20-year military veteran spent 10 years in the Marines and 10 years as an Army helicopter pilot before transitioning to life as an entrepreneur. He opened The PC Landing Zone — an electronics repair shop — in two cities in Oklahoma, hoping to utilize the electrical skills he’d learned while serving to start a small business.

Lezama is one of 3 million veterans who have opened a business after transitioning to civilian life.

“When the concept for The PC Landing Zone came along I was looking at what kind of marketing platforms were out there and I’m a big tech guy, so I know about the internet and webpages and I knew that the newspapers had declined in customer base and that social media was climbing up,” he told CNBC.

Facebook ads, a service offered to businesses on the social media site, allow entrepreneurs to target potential customers based on location, demographic, interests and behaviors, and connects to other Facebook users.

Lezama’s first attempt at creating a Facebook ad campaign was a flop. He invested $550 into the service, using generic advertising settings and saw very little return for his efforts. On his second attempt, he invested only $20 and tailored his advertisement to a more specific demographic and region and saw business explode.

“We saw clientele come in at such a rapid rate that we had to start hiring people,” he said.

Within two years of opening his flagship store in Muskogee, Lezama opened a second store 30 miles down the road in Tahlequah.

“Facebook allowed us to reach out to an audience faster than anything I could have ever imagined,” he said. “If we would have used traditional platforms we wouldn’t have grown as rapidly as we did.”

He places about one ad per week on the social media site so as to not inundate his audience with too much content. Lezama said the marketing platform is inexpensive compared to other traditional advertising methods like television, radio or newspaper ads — and reaches a much larger audience.

Earlier this year, a local station offered to create a television commercial for him for $5,000, but Lezama declined, saying that the TV ad would have reached only about 2,500 potential customers, whereas $200 spent on tailored Facebook ads would reach around 20,000.

He still places ads in the local paper and radio station, however, because he wants to support his community.

While the veteran credits Facebook for the success of his business, he also says that his time serving in the United States military overseas taught him a great deal about how to be an entrepreneur.

“When you are in the desert you don’t have many tools to fix some of these things, so you have to be creative,” he told CNBC. While his company primarily repairs computers and cellphones, Lezama said he can fix anything, including pinball machines.

His time in the military also taught him organizational skills, leadership, discipline and gave him the confidence to not fear failure.

“I think [veterans] are just a little bit more confident than your average person,” he said. “If you fail you just back up and try something different.”

Lezama advises fellow veterans and aspiring entrepreneurs to start small and make sure that their business is something that serves a genuine need.

As for opening another store, Lezama is confident that he could succeed in another market, but is going to hold off from expanding his business. He said that he’d missed a lot of time with his family while he was serving his country and wants to focus on being with them now.

“You have to balance whether it’s about making money or making your life,” he said.