Haslam Alum Puts Volunteer Spirit into New Venture Benefiting Military Personnel and Veterans

November 9, 2023

Growing up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Michael “Bo” Delacruz (HCB, ’13) cheered on Peyton Manning and the Volunteers and dreamt of two things: attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and serving in the military. He made both dreams come true. After earning his bachelor’s degree from UT’s Haslam College of Business, he volunteered for military service.

Michael “Bo” Delacruz

“I was a Tennessee Volunteer, a volunteer to be in the infantry, a volunteer to be in airborne school, a volunteer to be in the ranger regiment — really, four times a volunteer — so always a volunteer,” Delacruz says.

In the Army, Delacruz received multiple honors and awards while rising to team leader in the 3rd Ranger Battalion, part of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the Department of Defense’s premier direct-action raid force. After leaving the Army in 2019, Delacruz earned an MBA from the University of Miami, Florida, and went on to join Amazon, where he now serves as an operations manager in Miami.

Meeting a Need for Military Gear

Delacruz has channeled his Volunteer Spirit into starting GearSwap.Shop, a place for service members and veterans to buy and sell military gear. The idea for GearSwap sprang from Delacruz’s own experience in the military, living on a modest income but spending money on necessary uniforms and equipment. By the time he left the Army, he had accumulated a considerable amount of expensive material.

“Every person I’ve ever spoken to leaves the military with at least three large contractor’s bags of gear,” he says. “You have two options right now: keep it or sell it to a surplus store. The current market is dominated by brick-and-mortar surplus stores that sell items at a premium and buy it for pennies on the dollar. Sometimes, they won’t even buy it, but they’ll take it for free.”

Randy Lenard

Drawing on skills he gained at Haslam, Delacruz performed a market analysis and found that every year, the U.S. government disburses almost a billion dollars in uniform allowances alone. He recognized there was an opportunity to gain market share from the surplus stores while helping service members in need of gear connect with veterans who want to sell theirs at reasonable prices. In 2022, he and GearSwap co-founder Randy Lenard, a Marine veteran, worked with a Michigan-based, veteran-owned company to begin developing a peer-to-peer online interface. GearSwap.Shop launched in July 2023.

How GearSwap Works

“GearSwap integrates shipping, payment and taxes to provide a peer-to-peer marketplace for current military personnel and veterans to buy and sell military gear,” Delacruz says.

GearSwap is meant to be user-friendly on mobile devices, but it can be used on computers, as well. To begin selling gear, users simply visit GearSwap.Shop and create a profile.

“It takes your name, your area code, shipping address, stuff that we use on the back end,” He says. “You add your item, fill out categories, description, all of that. Take pictures of it, upload them and the item is listed.”

Once gear is listed, a user can either purchase an item outright or make the seller an offer at a lesser price, which the seller can accept or reject, and buyers enter payment information when a purchase is made. Sellers are notified when a purchase is complete, and a downloadable and printable shipping label is generated from their profiles and used to ship the purchase.

“The payment does not process until the item is delivered at the [buyer’s] place of residence,” Delacruz says. “That way we’ve avoided some fraud risks, and the users definitely get the item that they pay for.”

About 200 items are currently listed on the site, and a dozen or so sales have been made. Delacruz says they also are getting feedback on ways to improve the site. He and Lenard believe GearSwap can be a money-making business model in time, but that isn’t their main concern.

The Company Mission

“Our vision for the company at its core is to create that facilitated process of buying and selling gear for military members and veterans,” Lenard says. “That’s the message we send out to our community.”

Early in the startup process, GearSwap’s cash flow is limited. Even so, the duo behind the online company has volunteered support for some military and veteran community causes, including the Three Rangers Foundation’s Mogadishu Mile and a Marine Corps golf tournament in San Francisco supporting the Marines Memorial Association and the USS Hornet Museum.

“We’ve been active in the community and trying to figure out what their needs are,” Delacruz says. “That’s our real mission as far as the business and its possibilities of generating revenues and creating value.”


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu