In the summer of 2014, Shane Johnson found himself in a unique position.
The former U.S. Marine had spent more than a decade working in the “big box” mortgage industry, helping veterans and active-duty military with Veterans Administration loans.
Feeling like he could do more to help those who have served, Johnson made the decision to leave the security of his corporate job behind.
On July 3, 2014, in a small closet-turned-office with his infant daughter by his side, Johnson set out to fulfill his dream.
In that closet on that summer day, Booyah Mortgage began.
“I was so tired of everyone talking about the problems and never doing anything to fix them,” said Johnson. “I am on a mission to fix them.”
It was in that small closet Johnson made it his lifework to help veterans and active-duty military find homes.
Johnson focused on helping veterans get the best loan possible while reducing their out-of-pocket expenses.
While many companies charge 1 percent on a VA loan, Booyah Mortgage does not charge lender fees. It’s a way for Johnson to give back to fellow veterans, including in Jacksonville, one of the many areas his company serves.
An even greater effort is placed on reducing closing costs.
Johnson attempts to structure each loan so there are no closing costs and borrowers get their earnest money deposit back.
“I’m not doing anything special. I’m not trying to win hearts and minds,” Johnson said, referring to cutting fees. “I’m doing it because that is what has been earned and deserved.”
Johnson is no longer operating out of that small closet.
In two years, Booyah Mortgage has grown from a one-man operation to a five-person team, conducting business throughout the nation.
Staying true to his motto “veterans covering your six,” Johnson’s team consists entirely of veterans or military spouses.
Creating a philanthropic mind-set within the company, Johnson believes giving back to veterans and doing community outreach are part of his success.
It was in reaching out to the community that Johnson began to learn about the needs in some Florida communities to create transportation systems for ailing veterans and to support other initiatives to help homeless veterans.
“We are here to work for a purpose, not just a paycheck,” Johnson said. “I always ask my team, ‘How many veterans’ lives are we going to change today?’”
Johnson wanted to help after learning some veterans have to walk up to 15 miles one way just to reach a “local” shuttle bus, then have a two-hour ride to the closest VA facility.
His solution: the Booyah Veteran Bus Project Foundation, with two distinct initiatives.
His goal is to operate at least one bus that will transport veterans to and from their VA hospital appointments at no cost.
The second part of the project is to create at least one shower bus that can be used to help homeless people and, in particular, veterans clean up, receive food and clothing and gain employment.
On Oct. 22, Johnson is taking that mission to the streets, walking from the VA facility in Lake Nona to Panama City Beach. He will be joined on the 370-mile trek by a handful of fellow Marine veterans.
He is hopeful the hike will draw attention to what he believes is a widely unknown and overlooked problem and raise awareness for the bus project.
Walking 15-20 miles per day, Johnson and his team should arrive in Panama City Beach during the Veterans Day parade Nov. 11.
“I want to participate, roll up my sleeves and lead from the front to fix this problem for our veterans,” said Johnson. “We truly need to come together and take a stand and learn to cover each other’s six.”