Alumni Spotlight | Dan and Ashley Rice, EBV ’17

CCEI’s Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans (EBV) program is excited to kick off our quarterly Alumni Spotlight series, starting off with Dan and Ashley Rice. Dan and Ashley graduated from the EBV program in 2017 and started New England Vascular Access that same year. Dan is now a certified registered nurse anesthetist, while Ashley is a chiropractor. 

Mehgan Williams, Program Coordinator for our EBV program, recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Ashley and Dan, getting the inside scoop on how they really met, as well as how their entrepreneurial journey led to two additional ventures: Collaborative Anesthesia Partners and HealthSource® Chiropractic of Boardman

If you have inquiries about our Alumni Spotlight series, please reach out to to learn more. 



Mehgan Williams (MW): Welcome! I'll just have you start off by telling us a little bit about your military careers, and also how you met!

Ashley Rice (AR): I joined the military in 2003, right after high school, and I became an air traffic controller. I was doing air traffic control for a few years, and kind of decided I wanted to get out of that role and into a more family-oriented position, where I wasn't working all the time at night. 

And then I used my GI bill to get my degree, and during that whole process I met Dan. He was working on the flight line at the time as security forces, and we were stationed down in Alabama together.

When we both got out, we graduated with our degrees and went our separate ways because his job took him up north back home to where he was from, and I went out to St. Louis, or was planning on going to St. Louis, and then he got a job in the VA System, which actually kind of spurred all of our post military adventures.

I don't know how Dan finds these programs. You'll have to ask him that question, but he has a knack for finding things that can really just shoot you forward entrepreneurially when it comes to having a military background. After school, we ended up far up north. That's when we got hooked up with EBV.

We were starting a company. I was working full-time as a chiropractor, and he was working as a CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) at the Veterans Affairs (VA). He came across the EBV program and was really interested in using that knowledge to start a vascular access company that we had just barely dipped our toes in.

But, as you know, the military doesn't really train you to do a lot of business stuff. They give you a lot of really great skills, but they don't teach you how to run a business, because that's not what the military is about.

So, he came across the EBV program and he spoke with Mike Zacchea about getting some training so that I could understand where my chiropractic career was going.

And really, from there, all of a sudden, we were in EBV. And learning about business things I had never even thought about, like a business plan and how to organize your documentation, everything from documenting things on your Google Drive and organizing your files online, to understanding what it means to have a network online. 

I don't really like Facebook and social media, but EBV was giving ideas that were just “into the future” for me that have actually carried me through to my current position, which is running my own chiropractic office in Ohio. We're about to be 3 years in, and I still reference my EBV knowledge!

Mehgan Williams (MW): Dan, did you want to throw your background in there as well?

Dan Rice (DR): Now, I'll tell you the real story about how we met. She was trying to give you the nice version! I'll give you the dirt.

So, we both joined the military at the same time. We didn't know that we actually went to basic training at the same time, we were just obviously on different flights. And we didn't meet until sometime later at Maxwell Air Force Base. 

However, we met because I was working on the flight line as security forces, and she was working in the Tower. Somebody called the cops on me for doing donuts on the back side of the flight line, and I knew that it had to be someone in the Tower, because no one else could see me. 

So naturally, they called it over the radio, and I was like: “Somebody in that Tower just told on me.” So I went to look for whoever they said was out there, and then, of course, tried to hunt down whoever it was in the Tower. And that was actually how we met.  

As far as our careers in the military, I mean, I would agree with Ashley. You learn a lot of lessons. You learn a lot of things about life. You're growing up fast. You're young. You learn how to deal with a lot of challenges. You know, giving up is not an option, obviously. And I think that that goes a long way.

But let’s fast forward. Once we both got out of school and started to go from employees to the business side of things, we used every program you can imagine. We both used multiple different educational programs, both while we were active duty as well as after we got out of active duty.

We used a vocational rehabilitation program. We use the GI Bill Program. I mean, you name it. We found it and used it. But once we got out of that scenario, we graduated and started our very first business. Then we came across EBV.

I had actually learned about it, I think just through some emails, because I was getting a lot of military programs and military benefit-type emails. And I came across EBV and wanted to apply.

Initially, we wanted to learn more about our vascular access company that we were starting. But as we sort of got an idea of what we were going to experience in the program, I think we both immediately sort of said: “We want to use this to prepare ourselves for our career goals.”

Ashley went down the path of chiropractic, and now she has a great chiropractic practice of her own. And I went down the path of starting my own anesthesia group. We still have our vascular access company that we started together, and it does very well.

My anesthesia group I started shortly after EBV. It’s grown to such heights that we have over 50 employees. We've done well over 10 million dollars in government contracts and well over 10 million dollars in civilian contracts. And now, we're looking to get a little bit of synergy from some lessons that Ashley learned, and turn that into a franchise for other people to take that same career path.

Mehgan Williams (MW): How did starting your first company go? Any advice?

Dan Rice (DR): When we first started our companies, we pretty much bootstrapped everything. I don't really think we came up with any unique methods for raising capital.

 We were pretty aware of some savvy investment things related to real estate, and how people could use their retirement accounts, and 401K's to turn them into self-directed 401K's, so we did that to fund things initially.

But for the most part, I would say we bootstrapped everything as far as raising capital, and once we got the initial company up and running and making money, we continued to reinvest that money into our businesses … her chiropractic office, as well as the anesthesia group.

 It hasn't always been easy. I know it sounds like a great success story, but there's always something new to learn. There's always some new hurdle. I think we've learned a lot since EBV, because when you're doing business, you're constantly facing challenges; new things come your way that you never expected, whether it be some sort of legal issue you have to manage, or staffing problems. 

You know, COVID-19 was a crazy thing in the healthcare world that we experienced, and these things don’t stop. There's always something new. But looking back, that same mentality being a young person in the military, and knowing you can't give up is the same mentality you have to have in business.

You're going to have tough times, but you're also going to have good times. I think that's really what it takes, is just the grit and the ability to keep going.

There's never going to be complete smooth sailing. There's always going to be some sort of problem. But just being able to tackle those problems head on, you know, persevere is enough. And it sure is nice to have programs like EBV and other things out there where you can get resources available to help you out with that kind of stuff.

Mehgan Williams (MW): Ashley, do you have anything else to share about the process?

Ashley Rice (AR): I agree. I think that having a network was a big part of that for both of us. When we got out, we were a little bit different than everybody else in our EBV classes, and I learned a lot listening to them. But I think one of the more important things you take away is the skill of connecting with others and having a network you use when you get home and start these companies.

I connected with a lot of chiropractors, and it has given me knowledge to further my career. Dan did the same thing. He connected in his community with other CRNAs and other doctors in other fields that were able to continue his networking.

Our businesses aren't necessarily customer-facing all the time. Some of it is behind the scenes, and he's right. You just have to keep leaning in.

Mehgan Williams (MW): Wonderful to hear that not only did you concentrate on the business that you had, but that you were able to do other things as well. Obviously, a huge congratulations for that.

Ashley Rice (AR):  EBV is pretty awesome in that it's really intimidating to start a company. I was just talking with Dan about this not too long ago. My parents just started their own company after retiring, and it was super intimidating to them. But I'd already done it because we already went through this process. I knew how to tell them things like ‘you need to write a business plan.’

 They’d go: “Well, what's a business plan?” And to me, it's really not that intimidating. You just have to apply for an EIN number. Get online. It's easy. You can do it. Anybody can do this with the right tools, and just a little bit of confidence … and EBV backs you up on it.

Mehgan Williams (MW): Did you go through any other programs similar to the EBV, and did you use SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) or the SBA? We have a lot of folks who ask if those groups are going to be helpful or not.

Ashley Rice (AR): Dan, I think you worked with the SBA for a little bit when it came to NEVA, didn't you?

Dan Rice (DR): I did a little bit with the SBA. I went through the Veterans MBA program, and I went through the Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP) program. That's pretty much focused on federal contracting stuff.

Ashley Rice (AR): I didn't go through any of those programs. So, I didn't gather that information that Dan did from those veterans programs. But I'm also a part of a franchise. And we have a totally separate, very chiropractic-related kind of pathway.

Mehgan Williams (MW): I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today!

Ashley Rice (AR): I think the only thing I would add, Mehgan, is just to remember why you're doing it. Because as Dan said, there's going to be some tough stuff that happens, and it's not always going to be easy. But just remember why, and lean in.

Mehgan Williams (MW): True, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

Dan Rice (DR): Thank you!