Navy and Army veteran Aaron Hale’s journey to becoming an entrepreneur isn’t one you read every day. As a young man, Hale joined the Navy and served eight years of service before he changed uniforms to the Army and became an explosives ordnance disposal technician. He served in Iraq and was eight months into his twelve-month deployment in Afghanistan when in 2011, an IED nearly killed him.
“I was trapped in my body. Completely isolated. Totally lonely. My whole world ended right at my fingertips. This was an awful, awful time… The blast stole my eyes, cracked my skull, blew up both my eardrums and sent me to Walter Reed and effectively ended my military service,” said Hale.
Hale spent the following years finding footing in his new life.
“I found the outdoors again. This was more of a terror, fear of being stuck indoors and being a victim of my injuries. I didn’t want that to happen so I sought out every opportunity to get outside. I began running, mountain climbing, white water kayaking. Everything I could do to get outside,” said Hale. “Life was going really well until late summer 2015, I contracted bacterial meningitis…It nearly killed me.”
This time, Hale lost his hearing.
“It was almost six months of this silence and darkness before I started hearing again with a cochlear implant,” said Hale.
Coming Out of the Darkness
For Hale, it was preparing a Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends that helped turn things around for him.
“And the desserts, oh my gosh. I was making cakes and pies and cookies and truffles and I was making batch after batch of fudge. It was something to do. It was my passion, but it was also something to take my mind off of what was going on at the time; how difficult the situation was,” said Hale.
For Hale’s wife, the sight was amazing.
“McKayla said she saw something on me she hadn’t seen in half a year and it was a smile on my face,” said Hale.
“I was enjoying myself. Making all this fudge. Throwing nuts and spices. Taking booze out of the cabinet…It was great,” Hale continued. “As soon as I’d finish one batch, I’d set it aside and I’d start another batch and eventually McKayla noticed that I was making more than any one family could consume and so she was sneaking it out the front door.”
Once it was out the door, word spread.
“People were coming back to us saying, ‘can we buy more of this, I’ve got a birthday or bar mitzvah or something. Baby shower.’ The capitalist in me said, ‘of course, you can’,” said Hale. “That’s how EOD Confections was born. This time instead of Explosive Ordinance Disposal, Extra Ordinary Delights.”
The Growth of the Business
What was once a coping mechanism to get through a tough time in life made him an entrepreneur. Soon it became a full-time business. Hale and his wife were working 14- to 16-hour days just to keep up with demand. Soon, the business outgrew the couple’s home kitchen.
Extra Ordinary Delights teamed with a commercial manufacturer and started shipping all over the country. McKayla runs the operations side of the business and she and Hale work together on the marketing. Their home kitchen is still an integral part of the business, though now it’s the research & development arm of the company instead of manufacturing.
“It’s been fantastic. We’re extremely grateful for the route our lives have taken and how this has turned out,” said Hale.
“We always have these bucket list things, the list of stuff that we’re going to get to eventually. Of course, having faced the abyss, I realized that someday never comes,” said Hale. “Even though I was blind and deaf, I wasn’t going to wait for opportunity to come. I was going to kick the door right off the hinges and I was going to go get it.”
Hale’s Entrepreneur Advice
Hale is quick to deflect when asked if he has any advice for the aspiring entrepreneur out there.
“I am really the Average Joe that was put into an extraordinary situation and until the fudge thing came along, I never thought about having my own business. It was a learning process the whole way through,” said Hale.
But he still has advice.
“I think you pick a lofty goal, a big audacious goal, and then you break it down into manageable, bite-sized pieces,” Hale continued. “What can I do today to take a step forward? That’s all you got to do. Take one step at a time.”
“You may falter, you may make mistakes. You may have to turn back and make one U-turn at a time, but keep that forward progress,” said Hale. “Keep moving toward your goal, toward your values. Keep a certain set of standards and principles. You have to have faith in the right outcome and continue working every single day.”
Hale also thinks small businesses have a bigger advantage than they think.
“I think nowadays, customers, people, they want to connect,” said Hale. “It’s great for a small business or an entrepreneur because you show the human side. Who’s behind the product or the service and share their story. The big businesses, they keep trying to be your friend, but it’s not the same.”
To hear Intentionally Inspirational’s entire interview with Aaron Hale, click here.
You can find Extra Ordinary Delights by clicking here.
Written by Erika Towne