Mark Masters is a tribal citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and possesses nearly twenty years of industry experience. He is a direct descendant of Principal Chief Richard Fields. He holds a BS in Ecology from Oklahoma State University and a Graduate Certificate in Entrepreneurship from the renowned Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. During his eight-year career as a federal wildland fire and all-hazards incident responder, he held a variety of positions including as an aerially delivered firefighter (heli-rappeller). In 2009, he left his position with BIA-NIFC and founded Chloeta with extremely humble beginnings. Chloeta has grown into an international service provider in the areas of emergency management, environmental consulting, security, aviation, and wildland fire management. Chloeta has been named twice to the Inc. 5000 by Inc. Magazine and was also named to the Entrepreneur 360 list by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2018.
He is a highly sought after public speaker and media commentator. He has served as a joint keynote speaker with Congressman Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma) in addition to being a live interviewee on CNN Newsroom, CNN Money, and The Weather Channel.
Some honors bestowed upon Masters include the National Young Entrepreneur of the Year award by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2012, the “40 Under 40” award by the National American Indian Center for Enterprise Development (NCAIED), and he has also served as a panelist on President Obama’s Subcommittee on Small Business Young Entrepreneurship Series (YES) live-streamed on WhiteHouse.gov.
Tell us about the early days of Chloeta.
To say Chloeta began with humble beginnings is an understatement. After eight years of federal service as a wildland firefighter, I launched the business in 2009. Having no business background, business experience, or assets to speak of, combined with the fact that we were at the peak of an historic economic downturn made launching and surviving difficult. Perseverance was the name of the game for the early days.
With limited access to capital and no past performance, as a business anyway, initially gaining traction was difficult. I first leveraged every available FREE resource I could, which included Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC), the Small Business Administration (SBA), Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), and the Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center (SBAC) since I’m a tribal citizen. The first individual I met with at SCORE was a retired executive who told me that I “didn’t have a workable business model” based on my business plan. I’d say the 200+ individuals we employ nationally today would disagree with him.
Then, we had to develop past performance for our first round of federal contracts to staff firefighters on an on-call basis as large wildfires broke out around the U.S. We literally did this through day labor for private landowners, operating out of a dirt floor barn in my hometown of Jay, Oklahoma. While we were experts in wildland fire and aviation from prior employment, we had no past performance as a firm. It took about two years of scraping by like this to get our first round of on-call firefighter staffing contracts in 2011. Once we got that first round of contracts, we steadily began parlaying past performance into tangential services to the diversified position we’re in today.
It’s hard to believe we just celebrated our ten year anniversary this month. We were named to the Inc. 5000 list again this year and we were ranked 2nd in Oklahoma, 44th in our sector (Government Services), and 606th overall with 734% growth as determined by audited financial statements. Our five divisions – Emergency Management, Environmental Consulting, Security, Aviation, and Wildland Fire – continue to provide Professional Services nationwide, as well as internationally. I only half-jokingly tell people who ask what we do that we are the temp staffing agency of the United States Government. The Government may need a pilot, nurse, firefighter, mechanic, laborer, guard, or any specialized skill set. That need may be emergent or known in advance and it may be for a day, a week, or even a year. When we receive those calls for service, our folks repeatedly answer the call over and over to support the needs of our Government.