From serving in the Security Forces and Air Force to helping his wife Christine homeschool five children to working as a deacon in his church—Wardell Mayfield has lived a busy, full life. But, when chronic back pain forced him to take an early medical retirement from the military in 2020, Wardell knew a massive pivot in his career and future was needed.
Read on to learn how Wardell took hardships and made them into the start of an exciting new chapter with ACU Online’s MBA program.
A Huge Restructure
For Wardell, the last couple of years have been difficult.
On paper, things looked good. In 2019, he marked his 15th anniversary in the military. Wardell had served with distinction as a Security Forces (SF), Defender and Vehicle Management Supervisor for mechanics and had been stationed all over the country and overseas: Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB) in Missouri, Moody AFB in Georgia, Camp Bucca in Iraq, Kandahar AFB in Afghanistan, and Osan AFB in South Korea before ending up at Dyess AFB in Abilene, Texas. Impressively, alongside his military career and travel, Wardell had also earned two Associate degrees in Homeland Security and Vehicle Maintenance from the Community College of the Air Force, and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Liberty University by the end of 2019.
Though everything appeared to be going well on the surface—Wardell’s life actually had hit a gigantic obstacle that he was attempting to surmount. The SF demands of operating a machine gun and the duties of repairing vehicles placed tremendous strain on a soldier’s back, and Wardell was no exception. On deployment in 2014, Wardell had begun experiencing tremendous pain in his back that gradually worsened to the point that, when Mayfield was working on a fire truck engine, his back had seized up and several other men had to pull him out of the top. He’d received his first back surgery in 2018, but the surgery wasn’t done properly, resulting in a second back surgery in 2019 where an implant and two rods were put into Wardell’s spine.
As he struggled through all of this, Wardell’s superiors had tried everything possible: moving him from mechanics to a desk job and other less physically strenuous jobs. But, his back only worsened. So, in March of 2020, Wardell was released from service and into medical retirement.
With his life in the military behind him, “I was looking at a huge restructuring of my skills and abilities,” Wardell said. For 15 years, vehicle maintenance and the highly structured, physically demanding nature of his job/career had been all that he’d known. There was also the financial aspect to consider. With three kids approaching college age, and two more behind them, the family needed more than the pension that military retirement gave him. His wife offered to find a job; but both parents were committed to her continuing to homeschool their five children, so Wardell knew he needed to find new income streams.
But, at this point as a result of his back surgeries, he was, in his words, “100% disabled.” This made it difficult for him to move or stay on his feet for any substantial amount of time. So, what was he going to do?
Wardell quickly figured out that he’d primarily needed to work from home, as he was learning how to deal with his back pain and various surgeries. One innovative way he thought about generating revenue was by e-commerce. He’d always been interested in buying and selling products through companies like eBay and Amazon, and realized that could possibly be a space to make money.
Not wasting a moment, Wardell started his own business—a sole proprietorship enterprise called Keep It Simple Sales. It began small: selling apparel, like shirts and hats, and defense products, like pocket knives and sharpening blocks. At first, the business sold its wares through Amazon and Walmart.com. But, over the first year of his business, as various vendor fees and other unanticipated payments accumulated, he frustratedly realized that he was “putting more money into it than he was getting out of it.”
Wardell wouldn’t give up that easily. Like a good businessman, he pivoted. Rather than selling through third-party vendors, he decided to sell his products directly to buyers. He had dreams of expanding his inventory and attracting a new, wider customer base. Wardell knew he needed help, though, if he wanted to take his business to the next level.
Building a Foundation
That desire to expand his business would lead Wardell to ACU Online. Although he had already obtained several post-secondary degrees, he wanted a degree more focused on business. He researched and found that the school right down the road from him, Abilene Christian University, had an online campus that offered a 100% virtual Master of Business Administration degree. Never one to linger, Wardell applied and enrolled for classes in the summer term of 2021 and hasn’t looked back.
“I love how responsive my instructors are and how all of them teach from a Christian background,” he said. Plus, being able to earn his degree online has made it “so much easier to balance work, life, and school,” especially when dealing with back pains.
And, just like he planned, Keep It Simple Sales is expanding. Wardell is now selling toys, collectible items, books, and more. He’s most excited about his growing “Made in the USA” section that connects local, home-produced products with a wider market. This section started when a member of his church, Redeemer Church of Abilene, mentioned his own small business, which produces smoking pellets sourced 100% from trees in West Texas. Wardell is interested in developing more business partners like this from his faith community. His personal motto for his job is simple: “Do it all for the glory of God, help others out, and make a little money while doing it.”
Ultimately, Wardell wants to build a lasting foundation for his company that he can pass on to his five kids. Wardell would love for them to help run the business with him. For the Mayfields, making this e-commerce business a family affair is a great way for them to offer their kids job experience to help them “develop a good work ethic and learn deeply about their faith while working hard.”
At the end of the day, Wardell is most passionate about his faith. “Keep Christ first,” he says, “Be of one mind, tender-hearted, and humble with one another. And everything else will work out.”
Want to accelerate your career or build your small business at ACU Online like Wardell? Visit our website or call 855-219-7300 to learn how you can do all this and more with a degree from ACU Online.