When Tom McMahon made the decision to retire from the U.S. Air Force, he chose to deviate from the typical course of action of retiring military officers: Taking a job with a government contractor. Instead, McMahon wanted to take a completely new career path after spending 22 years in the armed forces, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel as an intelligence officer where his final tour of duty included providing support to U.S. Special Forces in their most secret missions around the world.

“Despite numerous job offerings within government channels, I settled on a different path that was inspired by family members with successful retail backgrounds. I explored the idea of opening an independent, boutique-style gift store in the District.”

His concept was to carefully curate hip and trendy merchandise and present it in a warm, inviting shopping environment that was based on his personal experience traveling the world combined with his family-member experience in retail.

The challenge

After deciding to go ahead with his plan to open the shop Urban Dwell in Washington, McMahon quickly realized that he knew little about how to navigate the process of landing a location.

“I didn’t even know what information I lacked.”