Chris Bentley is a former military man who turned a $10,000 personal investment into a multi-million-dollar mineral rights firm. Less than three years after launching Bellatorum Resources, Bentley now oversees nearly $30 million in assets and leads a team of 16 employees. And by the way, he accomplished it all while working toward an MBA at Rice University, launching a charity that benefits veterans and co-founding a nonprofit athletics school for children.
“This business in general is a constant challenge and is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to manage. But we like the challenge and embrace it head on,” Bentley says. “One of my landmen always says, ‘If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.’ We meet the challenge every day with grit, resilience, work ethic and by working as a unit focused on accomplishing the same mission.”
Making the leap: Bentley made his initial foray into the land acquisition space as a land and right-of-way agent in 2014. He enjoyed the work but was laid off during the 2015 downturn. He was briefly employed as director of business development at a small tech company, though he yearned to return to the energy space. Bentley then took on a new position as an independent contractor for a minerals company, but he felt undervalued and underutilized by the firm.
That’s when he made a bold move: He convinced his wife to quit her management consulting job, and together they began buying, selling and brokering minerals on a deal-by-deal basis. In 2017, the Bentleys invested $10,000 of personal savings to make their first mineral purchase. Soon after, they were acquiring deals valued at $50,000 and under, and they brokered larger ones.
The couple successfully launched their first fund in 2018, and Bellatorum was born. It continues to thrive under Bentley’s leadership.
“The organization has grown from just my wife and myself in May of 2016 to a superstar team of 16,” he says. “Leadership is something that is near and dear to my heart. I feel like it’s my job as the leader of Bellatorum to make sure I constantly improve myself in that department.”
“We meet the challenge every day with grit, resilience, work ethic and by working as a unit focused on accomplishing the same mission.”
Giving back: During his 14-plus year service with the Marine Corps, Bentley was deployed six times in support of the global war on terrorism, and he participated in multiple ground combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. The decorated veteran (he earned numerous medals and personal awards) has made it his mission to help other military retirees.
Through his nonprofit, The Bellatorum Foundation, he helps veterans find meaningful careers after leaving the service. And at Bellatorum Resources, about 75% of employees served in the military.
“It’s super difficult for veterans when they get out of the military to find a job in the civilian world,” Bentley says. “But we have transferrable skills and can add a lot of value to any organization. I figured why not create a place where we can at least try to hire veterans first?”
Of all the skills Bentley picked up in the Marines, he says one seems particularly applicable to the private sector.
“I learned that you should always take care of your people and look out for their welfare,” he says. “We had a saying in the Corps: ‘Mission accomplishment. Troop Welfare.’ It meant that we should accomplish the mission no matter what, but once that is done, we take care of the team. Put the mission first but always remember to take care of your people. You’d have to ask my team members, but I feel like we do that well at Bellatorum.”