Honoring Sacrifice: Reflecting On Memorial Day With Veteran and Mountain Leverage CEO and Founder Alex Reneman
With Memorial Day just around the corner, we sat down with veteran and Mountain Leverage Founder and CEO Alex Reneman to hear his reflections on the holiday, how his upbringing shaped the direction of our company, and the impact of his service on our core values. To Alex, Memorial Day is all about honoring sacrifice; something he strives for in every aspect of life.
Mountain Leverage was founded in Grafton, WV, home of the longest running Memorial Day celebration in the US. What’s the significance of being a veteran and choosing to found Mountain Leverage in Grafton?
When you’re from Grafton, that’s just how it is – all your relatives have been in a war or in the military in some shape or form, and you grew up marching in the parade every Memorial Day, carrying flowers, putting it on a grave of somebody that died in a war. And I thought that was just life. You honor those who sacrifice for you. People who are sacrificing maybe as much as their life – as soldiers have – but really even down to the minor sacrifices of small gestures of holding a door and everything in between, you honor that.
West Virginia usually isn’t the first place people think of when they think of the forefront of industry. What’s the significance of choosing Grafton over somewhere else?
I remember growing up thinking Grafton can be a great place. It’s a great place to live and a great place to grow up. After I moved away, I was 25 and I just took stock of, “what am I doing here? I’m working for a great company, traveling around doing some cool stuff, but I’m not helping my community, there’s no community connection here.” I wanted to move back home, start a business, and grow in Grafton. And not just pass money around, but bring money from outside in. That and obviously to improve the quality of life.
Mountain Leverage’s values seem to have been heavily influenced by your service experience. Can you say a little more?
You can see it in Warrior Spirit, one of Mountain Leverage’s core concepts. We are a heavily patriotic, heavily committed state to the mission of our country, our state, and our family. You go into Grafton and there are people from every walk of life there, and they’re there for one reason that brings them together: honoring sacrifice. It’s a cool thing, it gives me goosebumps when I talk about it. On Memorial Day, it’s about honoring the sacrifices of those who fought in wars, but it creates a character ethic that goes beyond that.
I can tell you having had that kind of upbringing and being in this environment has positioned me and has positioned our company in a way that I think is unique in the market and provides a heck of a value to our customers and other stakeholders.
I used to be somewhat apologetic for being from Grafton and being from West Virginia. So, when I would be out selling and the competitors that I’m up against are all in huge metro areas, they’re all in the areas you would think a company like ours would be located. And here I am from West Virginia. And when I would tell a customer or a prospect when they would ask, “Where do you live, you’re located in West Virginia?” I would go through and explain it’s a great place to raise a family and it’s beautiful and it’s a slower pace of life and it keeps me from stressing because when I’m at home, everybody’s so nice to each other and all these things.
That is all true. But it came from an apologetic place. When I began trying to find a way to codify our core values of who Mountain Leverage was, it was Grafton. It was the core values that we saw on Memorial Day, when you’re honoring those who sacrificed for you. The grit, the hard work, the work ethic, and the neighborly attitude. That’s what I found in my company. What I built my company on were the foundations of what Grafton is, what West Virginia and Appalachia are. That is our culture and we recognize that.
Now, we’re not apologetic that we’re from West Virginia. It’s actually a strength that we have that core founding based in West Virginia. When you look at Memorial Day, it's about honor and we honor our customers, we honor our suppliers, we honor our employees and all the stakeholders that are involved in what we’re doing, we honor whatever they’ve given in service to the mission. And that goes right down to the very core of West Virginia.