vet owned

Effective September 30, 2013, The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will utilize the rights given to the VA under the “Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information Technology Act of 2006” (Public Law 109-461); which authorizes the VA as the final say on all acquisition protests as to whether a company is a service-disabled veteran small business, a veteran-owned small business or not.

On Sep. 30, the VA issued an  Interim Final Rule into the Federal Register which states that the VA would no longer cede the authority to decide status protests, which determined whether a business is a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) or Veteran-Owned Small Business (VOSB), to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Instead, the VA stated the decision to remain in charge of deciding status protests would be under the VA’s control.

Also under the interim final rule, the decision authority will now fall under the authority of the director of the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE). Formerly, that authority was granted to the director of the Office of Small and Disadvantage Business Utilization (OSDBU). Now, the OSDBU only will have authority over status appeals after the CVE gives applicants their initial decision.

According to the previous interim rule, put in place back in 2009, the VA and SBA were supposed to come to an interagency agreement as to the process for status protests and appeals. But the two agencies couldn’t reach an acceptable agreement and VA decided to retain the task.

The oversight of the status of service-disabled and veteran-owned small businesses has been the subject to debate and controversy since the pervious interim final rule was established in 2009. There are many critics of the VA’s handling of the status certification program, saying that there are vulnerabilities in the program that could lead to the misuse and abuse of the system, fraud and even righteous would-be recipients being excluded from the program. Veterans have called the application and appeals process burdensome and frustrating.

Under the new rule, the VA believes that it is improving the process by adopting procedures that are similar to what the SBA uses to solve status protests for the Historically Underutilized Business Zone (HUBZone) program.

The VA will be accepting comments through the month of November. Written comments may be submitted through; by mail or hand-delivery to: Department of Veterans Affairs, c/o Director, Regulation Policy and Management (02REG),  810 Vermont Avenue NW. Room 1068,  Washington, DC 20420 , or by fax to (202) 273-9026.

Comments should indicate that they are submitted in response to “RIN 2900-AM92-VA Acquisition Regulation: Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned and Veteran-Owned Small Business Status Protests.” Copies of comments received will be available for public inspection in the Office of Regulation Policy and Management, Room 1068, between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays).

Please call (202) 461-4902 for an appointment. (This is not a toll-free number.)

US Army Major

U.S. Army Maj. William J. (Bill) Puopolo was named the recipient of a $30, 000 Veterans’ Pathway to Business Success grant. Puopolo was deployed to Iraq in 2006 and to Afghanistan in 2010. He was injured during both campaigns, and was awarded the Bronze Star and a Combat Action Badge.

Originally from Boston, Puopolo relocated to the Tampa Bay area to be near his sister and mother. It was there that he decided to follow his dream of starting his own small business. So Puopolo utilized the knowledge he had gained in the military to launch Verissimo Global, a communications and networking company.

Puopolo started Verissimo Global before his 2010 deployment. When his unit was activated, he had to put his business on hold. Now his sacrifice is being rewarded. Puopolo was named the recipient of a $30,000 Veterans’ Pathway to Business Success grant this summer. The nonprofit organization awards grants, which have no fees, no interest and no payback requirements, to combat veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, who wish to start or grow their own businesses in Florida.

Puopolo said the funding will allow him and his staff, all disabled veterans, to attain certifications and education that are critical to the company’s success.

Puopolo has a Masters degree in Business Administration from the University of Massachusetts, and he completed Florida State University’s (FSU) Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV).

“Bill distinguished himself at the EBV program,” EBV Program Director & FSU Professor Randy Blass said. “He engaged fellow students and instructors on a wide range of topics, and was more than willing to share his knowledge with other student veterans. Many EBV participants sought Bill’s consideration and still refer to him today for advice and motivation. He is a wonderful example of what we are trying to accomplish with our entrepreneurial training.”

Puopolo still serves as a reserve officer in the Vermont National Guard, and teaches an online course once a week in Information Operations.

Wounded Marine

Kevin Blanchard was a combat engineer in the Marine Corps from 2001-2006. In 2005, while serving in Iraq, Blanchard lost one of his legs below the knee, due to a roadside bomb explosion.

When his service officially ended in 2006, Blanchard was faced with the challenge of transitioning into civilian life as a Wounded Veteran. Blanchard had no idea what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. And with his injuries, he was not sure what options were available to him.

Blanchard said that he tried a lot of things out and gained as much experience as he could in a number of different fields. The Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment’s transition cell provided him with information about education, vocational training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“The regiment prepares wounded, ill and injured Marines for opening their own business by setting them up with such resources as financial planning guidance, Entrepreneur Boot Camps, connecting them with a mentor, arranging shadow opportunities and more,” said Marine Corps Maj. Brian Bilski, the Officer in Charge of the transition cell,. “The goal is to ensure that Marines are confident about transitioning out of the service and into [their] own successful franchise or independent start up.”

Initially, Blanchard wanted to become a co-owner of an eco-friendly roofing company. But he discovered that his passion was in helping other former service members understand what resources are available to them so that they can start their own successful businesses.

Blanchard’s passion lead to a job as a project coordinator at the International Franchise Association, working on a program called VetFran. The VetFran program provides information, education, links to potential partners, discounts and access to the VetFran mentor network.

The purpose of the program is to build confidence and financial stability, he explained. “You have to trust in yourself,” Blanchard said. “It is not always easy to start a business venture yourself. Have confidence in your abilities and be fearless, because you are taking a shot in the dark.”

His advice to other wounded, ill or injured Marines looking to start their own business or franchise is to, “stay focused, identify a long-term vision as clearly as possible, and communicate that vision frequently to your team.”

In addition to his work with the VetFran program, Blanchard also helps coordinate trade missions for member companies around the globe.

Small Business Beginnings

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Small Business Beginnings

Dan Spangler is a retired Marine and Iraq War Veteran. In 2003, Spangler adopted his dog, Spanky from a local shelter near his home in North Carolina. The Marine and his companion spent a lot of time together and a bond grew between the two. Spangler began taking Spanky to obedience classes and became fascinated with animal training. Spangler began teaching obedience classes himself, after his discharge from the Marine Corps in 2004. Spangler knew that he wanted to go into business for himself, pursuing his passion for animals.

Spangler utilized his GI benefits to earn his Associates degree from Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, NC. While attending the school, Spangler visited the Small Business Center on campus and realized that there was still a lot about owning and operating a small business that he didn’t know.

Not surprising of a Veteran, Spangler strives to be the best in all that he does. So he put a lot of hard work and determination into educating and preparing himself for being a small business owner. For seven years, Spangler worked jobs unrelated to his desired field, saved money, and gathered knowledge and resources. And in 2010, Spangler opened his business, A Dog’s Dream, a training, boarding, daycare, grooming and retail center in New Bern, NC. In July, 2013, an article in The Raleigh News & Observer featured Spangler, his success, and his Veteran Owned Business.

Spangler’s success story is just one of many by Veteran Entrepreneurs. Rhett Jeppson, Associate Administrator for the US Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development claims that Vets are 45 percent more likely to be small business owners than their civilian counterparts.

Nearly 10 percent of all small businesses nationwide are veteran-owned. Jeppson says that there are 2.4 million veteran-owned businesses that employ almost 6 million Americans and generate more than $1 trillion. It is for this reason that Jeppson believes that Veteran-owned business deserve our support.

Service Members who are transitioning from active service into civilian life attend mandatory Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) classes that provide them with a broad generalization of education benefits & programs, references and guides to occupational resources, including entrepreneurship information.

Vets Making the Leap to Entrepreneurship

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Vets Making the Leap

Veteran entrepreneurship across the United States is growing. The U.S. Census reports that 2.4 million small businesses are owned by former service members. That’s roughly one out of every ten small business. Veteran-owned businesses employ almost six million people and create more than a trillion dollars in revenue.

Business leaders have taken notice and now there are a full host of programs that are specifically designed to help Vets get their businesses off the ground. The U.S. Small Business Administration has created 10 Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers (VBOC) around the nation to train new and potential business owners. These centers provide workshops and counseling to Veterans, reservists and active duty military members interested in starting their own business or expanding an existing one.

Since the program’s creation in 1999, officials have seen a boom in Veteran owned businesses. A 2012 report released by the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy also found that Veterans are 45% more likely to start a business when compared to those without military experience. Last year just one of the centers helped launch 51 new Veteran owned businesses.

The VBOC also helps Veterans who are already entrepreneurs. Michael Nevils, a disabled Army Veteran, sells a portable emergency water storage system that he designed. Nevlis turned to the VBOC in order to utilize their programs and expertise to help his growing business.

“The VBOC has been wonderful,” Nevils said. “We’ve had guidance that helped us win government contracts and develop a solid game plan to grow our company and be successful.”

The VBOC does not provide loans, legal advice or accounting services. However, it does assign a business consultant, usually a retired executive, to work with each client to offer advice as they write business plans, develop a marketing strategy and tackle other basics of business.

There are also many other resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs to utilize. The Small Business Association operates more than 900 Small Business Development Centers (SDBC) across the U.S. where entrepreneurs, including Veterans, are given free technical assistance and access to institutions that offer loans and support for growing their business.

At the University of Central Florida, Gordon Hogan helps unemployed Veterans decide if they’ve got what it takes to actually be an entrepreneur through the school’s Veterans Initiative Program. Hogan is the director of the UCF Business Incubation Program. Launched last year, the program is gaining a reputation in the Veteran community.

“When you’ve served your country and you come back as an unemployed Veteran, things can be tough,” Hogan said. “But our servicemen and women are resilient and most are up for the challenge of starting a business.”

The Veterans Initiative offers Veterans who wish to start their own business the opportunity to attend FastTrac® NewVenture™ for the Veteran Entrepreneur, a $700 course for just $100.The course offers technical assistance in how to develop a winning business plan, find the right markets and startup funds.

Veterans who would prefer to own a franchise rather than market new and untested ideas have access to VetFran.  The program is run by the International Franchise Association, which connects Vets with franchising opportunities around the country. The VetFran program offers training, financial and technical assistance and support from the franchising industry to match veterans with the right opportunities.