In 2006, while leading a specialized Marine Corps platoon into an enemy stronghold notorious for some of Iraq’s fiercest fighting, Nick Lodestro ’02 Bus was seriously wounded in an explosion. He was awarded a Purple Heart and eventually honorably discharged from the Marines; then, in 2007, he went to work in the companion animal industry. That experience, along with Lodestro’s military training, proved key to the success of VetEvolve, the business he co-founded in 2014 with longtime friend and fellow former Marine Paul Habenicht.
VetEvolve buys veterinary practices and hospitals and runs their day-to-day operations. Creating an organization that reflected their military experience was important to Lodestro and Habenicht, and over the years, they’ve found that the skills they acquired while serving—risk mitigation, maximizing resources, and fostering a team environment—have served them as well in VetEvolve as they did while they were together in Iraq. “I was thrust into this industry after transitioning out of the Marine Corps,” Lodestro says. “I found people that were dedicated to a higher calling, focused on a mission that was bigger than themselves and can only be accomplished in a team environment.”
Currently, VetEvolve operates 20 practices in four states. By running veterinarians’ day-to-day workflow, employee recruitment, vendor relations, and back- office financial support, VetEvolve gives veterinarians time to focus on doing what they do best: treating animals. “I could see that, with some exceptions, veterinarians didn’t necessarily want to be business owners—they did so out of necessity. What they really want to do is practice medicine,” says Lodestro, who has a 2-year-old Labrador retriever, Winnie, and is a self-described “requisite dog lover.”