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By Debbie Gregory.

Although a lot of work goes into winning a government contract, it can be very lucrative, making the hoops worth jumping through. If you’re wondering where to start, here are some tips to get you started.

All businesses can benefit from networking. No matter what stage your business is in, from just getting started up through well established, building relations and strategic alliances with mentors, other business owners and contractors can only help you. Check out networking events at veteran incubators, military bases, colleges, chambers of commerce, outreach centers, etc.

Make sure you have a team in place to handle what needs to be done. Go for quality, not quantity. Make sure that regardless of how many people you have, they know what their responsibilities are and can get them done correctly and in a timely manner.

If you were buying a house, you would want to begin the funding process before you put on offer in. In the same vein, you want to have your financing lined up before you make promises on deliverability. The SBA is a great resource, so make sure you check out how they might be able to assist you.

Build your performance history. Every company started with that first job, first order, first contract. Now is the time to start establishing your track record. Keep it on track by completing what you say you’ll do, and do it to the highest level.

Toot your own horn. Leverage the internet to showcase what you can do and what you have done. Make sure you keep your website up-to-date and post on your social media platforms.

If you don’t have many employees, remember that not every job has to be done by an in-house person. There are a number of ways to outsource the work on an “as-needed” basis.

If you do your homework ahead of time, you will be better positioned to bid on that government contract when the opportunity presents itself.

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.

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.


According to the most recent census data, there are 2.45 million veteran-owned businesses in the U.S. Veteran entrepreneurs contribute to the economy through their businesses and their willingness to hire veterans.
There are a number of funding resources available to veterans in order to get their business off the ground, or expand an existing business.
• The Office of Veterans Business Development, through the Small Business Administration (SBA) supports new and existing veteran entrepreneurs and military spouses. The program offers a variety of training and financial services. The SBA Veterans Advantage Guaranteed Loans program offers loans of $150,000 or less with no guaranty fee. Larger loans carry a low guarantee fee. SBA Express Loans have no upfront borrower fee for eligible veterans and military spouses on loans up to $35,000. Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital matches businesses with SBA-approved non-profit lenders. The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s most common loan program, and includes financial help for businesses with special requirements.
• The Department of Veteran Affairs is a great starting point when looking for financing, and has created the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal (VEP), which can help you quickly identify financing resources for your business.
• The Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loan provide funds to eligible small businesses to meet necessary operating expenses that it could have met, but is unable to meet, because an owner/essential employee was “called-up” to active duty.
• The USDA Veteran and Minority Farmer Grant, run by the Department of Agriculture, aims to bring traditionally underserved people into farming through training and technical and financial assistance.
• The VetFran(R) program is designed to help veterans start their own business. While these aren’t traditional business loans for veterans, the program offers financial incentive for veterans to launch a franchise.
In addition to lending resources, don’t discount the value of networking resources. Who better to share advice than those who have walked the path before you?
• American Corporate Partners links veteran entrepreneurs with successful businesspeople for training and mentorship.
• National Veteran-Owned Business Association presents you with a great networking opportunity and the chance to learn much more about running a business.
• SCORE Foundation Veteran Fast Launch Initiative offers advertising, marketing and business mentoring, all at no cost.

• Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families provides entrepreneurial training. Their Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans program is free for post-9/11 veterans.
• Veterans Business Resource Center provides business consulting and mentoring.
• Veterans Business Services can assist in obtaining capital for your business.

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