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By Debbie Gregory.

Just because your company does not contract directly with the government does not mean you lose out on the opportunity. Large companies who are hired as the prime contractors more often than not use smaller companies as subcontractors to provide the services they don’t already have in place.

In order to make sure you are in a position to accept a subcontractor opportunities, here are some thing you should prepare in advance:

Have knowledge of your business’s processes, resources, staff and capital. The government is notorious for requiring a lot of paperwork, so having this information at the ready will give you the opportunity to jump in to the process quickly.

The companies working on government contracts also have diversity requirements to fulfill, so if you are a veteran owned business, a woman owned business, a minority owned business, etc., make sure you have the appropriate certification.

Keep current on what contracting/subcontracting opportunities are available. In addition to online sites that specialize in these searches, sign up for VAMBOA membership and you will receive emails whenever we receive requests for proposals from our corporate sponsors.

Reach out to the person in charge of the project to see if you can pre-qualify your services. There’s no point in filling out the paperwork and going through the application process if they require something you can’t comply with.

Speaking of paperwork, it is imperative to provide all information requested, whether it makes sense to you or not. Try to keep all information concise and to the point, and submit it as early as you can. This will give you some leeway to correct any errors or answer any questions prior to the deadline.

Hopefully, you have already reached out to the project manager before submitting your application, so a quick communication to check on the status of your bid helps to further build that relationship. It will also help you receive a status update.

If you don’t win the bid, your contact can possibly help you understand why. Rather than focusing on the defeat, think of it as an opportunity to better prepare for the next opportunity.

If you won, now’s the time to get busy and ramp up. Make sure everything is in place for you to deliver on your promise of performance.

By Debbie Gregory.

An effective marketing strategy is the most important tool in a small business owner’s toolbox. A marketing strategy looks at all of the areas of your business activities and helps each one support the next. Understanding how to create an integrated marketing strategy will help you make better individual decisions regarding specific marketing tactics.

To start, understand that it’s crucial to have a company name, logo, colors, imagery and other graphic elements that help communicate your strategic positioning to your customers.

Those marketing aspects can be displayed on your excellent website. Keep in mind that your website is the business card of today. And the first thing any potential customer will do is Google you and look for your site. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it count. Make sure your company website is attractive and easy to use. Keep movement, sounds and flashing graphics to a minimum.

Start thinking about content as the voice of strategy, so all the content that you produce, your web pages, social media articles, blog posts, newsletters and press releases, this is all content. You want to think about the intention that you have for every piece of content, because content today is used to create awareness.

Social media can be a good source of traffic and exposure for your business, but don’t just keep it limited to your company’s; also take advantage of your own personal social media.  Even if you only have 50 or 100 friends on a social media platform, each of them will know hundreds or even thousands of people.

Remember that there is a real world out there, separate from the cyberworld. Don’t miss the opportunity to network with real people offline. Join business groups that help promote each other, including county chamber groups, breakfast business groups, etc.

And last, but not least, don’t be afraid to ask. Ask for reviews, feedback, comments, likes, reposts, etc.

By Debbie Gregory.

WWII Army Veteran Bob Evans, whose small truck stop restaurant in Ohio grew into a national chain and a line of pork sausage products that bear his name, created a corporate culture that recognizes and appreciates military service. To that end, one of the largest veteran-only business grants in the country is provided by the Bob Evans Farms “Heroes to CEOs” business grant.

As a way of giving back to the men and women who keep America safe, the grant program was born out of a need to provide funding and assistance to veteran entrepreneurs.

“Our company has a passion for helping those who serve,” said Mike Townsley, CEO and President of Bob Evans Farms. “Serving in the military and beginning a new-business venture can feel worlds apart for many vets.”

Judging criteria for the grant includes categories such as “Success,” “Reason” and “Opportunity.”

Those who have served make excellent entrepreneurs because of the skills and traits garnered through their military service. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration, more than 2.5 million small businesses in the U.S. are veteran owned.

Last year, the grant recipients were:

Army veteran Carson Goodale,  co-founder of Fanfood, an app that gives you the power to order concessions directly to your seat at sporting events.

Air Force veteran Charlynda Scales, who founded Mutt’s Sauce, an all-purpose, tomato-based specialty sauce. The condiment recipe was passed down by and is named for her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell.

Army veteran Jerry Martin, who founded Vet Veggies, which provides fresh, pesticide and chemical free vegetables grown locally by military veterans in a sustainable environment.

The deadline for the 2018 program is June 27th, and three $25,000 business grants will be awarded to veterans or active-duty members who either have their own business or an entrepreneurial business idea. Last year’s awardees will also serve as judges for this year’s grant competition.

In addition to the grant money, the three recipients will also receive a three-day trip for two to New York City, as well as a half-day mentoring session with Daymond John, Co-Star of ABC’s Shark Tank.

Learn more about this year’s “Heroes to CEOs” contest or submit an application at https://www.ourfarmsalutes.com.

By Debbie Gregory.

As post-9/11 veterans re-enter civilian life and begin transitioning to new careers, many find they’re perfectly suited to becoming a veteran entrepreneur. Here’s a list of some free resources to help start or grow a business:

Bunker in a Box was created by The Bunker, and it’s the ultimate source of thought leadership from top entrepreneurs and veterans around the U.S. The short and simple online mini-course in veterans entrepreneurship is divided into 14 “missions” created around the themes of INSPIRE, EDUCATE and CONNECTION The missions include topics such as confidence to be an entrepreneur, thinking like an entrepreneur, testing hypotheses, and working on a venture as a team, plus many more. Each lesson has a short video from the Bunker team, as well as relevant third-party articles, interviews, podcasts and presentations from prominent entrepreneurs and experts.

The Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) is a free training program for post-9/11 veterans with a service-connected disability. Offered by Cornell, Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Purdue, UConn, LSU, Saint Joseph’s, and the University of Missouri, the program is sponsored by Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The novel, one-of-a-kind initiative is designed to leverage the skills, resources and infrastructure of higher education to offer cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management. The 30-day, instructor-led curriculum is taught online, followed by a 9-day in-residence session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring after the program. The program runs from March through November each year. While all of the costs are covered for qualified participants, the opportunity is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Since 2012, Patriot Boot Camp (PBC) has been on a mission to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs leading the new economy. PBC’s core program is an intensive 3-day technology entrepreneurship boot camp modeled after the Techstars accelerator to provide educational training and 1:1 mentoring to inspire and advance startup founders. PBC runs this program twice per year, in Texas and Colorado, for cohorts of 50 tech entrepreneurs.

The StreetShares Foundation mission is to inspire, educate and support veteran small business owners. The non-profit foundation gives away $10,000 in veteran business grants to veteran or military spouse entrepreneurs each month. First, second, and third-place awards of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 are awarded, and applications may be submitted at any time.

VetToCEO offers a free 7-week online program called “Entrepreneurship for Transitioning Warriors” through a series of modules that cover everything you need to start your business. Lessons are recorded for later viewing in case you miss one. A full course outline can be found here. Veterans can join the program at any time through a simple registration process in a rolling enrollment model. Enrollment is free for veterans and transitioning military members.

Your local Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) is a good resource for training, counseling and mentoring, and also provides transition assistance programs via Boots to Business Program.

The Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP) is hosted by the VA and offers resources on starting, financing, and growing a business, in addition to government contracting opportunities. VEP makes it easier for small businesses to access federal services, regardless of its source—and quickly connects Veteran entrepreneurs to relevant ‘best-practices’ and information.

 

The University of West Florida’s Military & Veterans Resource Center, in Partnership

with Veterans Florida, is conducting no-cost Entrepreneurial Workshops for Honorably

Discharged Veterans — Workshops that can lead to participating in a Business Plan

Competition where the three top Winners share $40,000 in Cash and In-Kind Services.

If you are interested in launching a Startup or growing your existing business, the next

Workshop is Saturday, October 28, from 9 a.m. until Noon at the Pensacola UWF Conference

Center.  Breakfast and snacks will be served, and participants have the opportunity to win Door Prizes as well.

The Topic is “Veterans – Don’t Be a Bean Counter — Learn the Secrets of Painless Accounting!”

For MORE INFORMATION please see:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/veterans-dont-bean-counter-learn-secrets-painless-robert-l-foster/

For REGISTRATION AND MORE INFORMATION please see:

http://www.veteransflorida.org/veterans/veterans-florida-entrepreneurship-program/

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