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Many military veterans are successful entrepreneurs because of the leadership qualities honed during their service. There are numerous resources available to help veteran owned businesses as they start up and grow.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA)  https://vamboa.org

VAMBOA, a non-profit trade association, provides for the development, growth and prosperity of Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners of all sizes. VAMBOA’s future expansion includes establishing regional chapters throughout the country.

StreetShares  https://streetshares.com/

StreetShares is a social-lending marketplace that connects small business owners with investors. On the StreetShares marketplace, business owners pitch their stories directly to retail and institutional investors, who then place bids to fund a portion of the business owner’s requested loan.

21 Gun Salute Initiative  http://www.gsa.gov/portal/content/232955

The General Services Administration’s program to support service-disabled veteran owned businesses is known as the 21 Gun Salute Initiative. The 21 Gun Salute was created with gratitude for the injured soldier turned businessperson. The Salute is an action plan to meet and exceed the 3% contracting goal with the nation’s service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

 American Corporate Partners  http://www.acp-usa.org/

This non-profit organization offers veterans tools for long-term career development through mentoring, career counseling, and networking opportunities.

The Bunker http://bunkerlabs.org/

The goal of the Bunker is goal is to launch and accelerate veteran-owned businesses, channel the energy among veterans to become entrepreneurs and business owners, and create a new forum for high-performing veterans to meet and collaborate.

BusinessUSA  http://business.usa.gov/

The BusinessUSA Veterans Resource tool is an interactive guide to help veteran business owners find the most relevant federal, state and local tools to help start and grow their businesses.

Boots to Business  http://boots2business.org/

Boots to Business is an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) as part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The curriculum continuum includes steps for evaluating business concepts, the foundational knowledge required to develop a business plan and information on SBA resources available to help access start-up capital and additional technical assistance.

EBV Foundation  http://www.ebvfoundation.org/

The EBV National Program offers cutting-edge, experiential training in entrepreneurship and small business management to post-9/11 veterans with service-connected disabilities as well as to military family members who serve in a caregiver role to a veteran with a service-connected disability. The program is offered at no cost. The foundation provides grants to graduates of the program and help with business plan development.

FedBizOpps  https://www.fbo.gov/

The Federal Business Opportunities website provides a portal for businesses looking for active federal contracting opportunities. While not restricted to veteran owned businesses, it can still be a useful resource for finding opportunities.

Honor Courage Commitment, Inc.  http://www.honorcouragecommitment.org/

HCC provides resources and empowerment to veteran entrepreneurs including grants, scholarships and a fellowship program designed to build leadership qualities. HCC trains and positions military veterans to become successful entrepreneurs, business and community leaders by maximizing veteran talent.

Institute for Veteran and Military Families  http://vets.syr.edu/

A program of Syracuse University, IVMF is the first interdisciplinary national institute in higher education focused on the social, economic, education and policy issues impacting veterans, and provides a wide variety of resources for military veterans. There are numerous resources for veterans re-entering the workforce or looking to start their own businesses.

National Veteran Business Development Council – NVBDC – www.nvbdc.org

The National Veteran Business Development Council (NVBDC) is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that will act as the certification body for Veteran Owned Businesses (VOB) and Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) to ensure that credible documentation exists of a business’s Veteran status, ownership and control. The NVBDC shall certify the validity of the VOB or SDVOB business seeking opportunity in the Supplier Diversity initiatives made available to veteran owned businesses.

National Veteran Small Business Coalition  http://www.nvsbc.com/

This organization works to ensure that veteran owned small businesses are given first consideration for federal prime and subcontracting procurement opportunities. Members receive access to resources related to federal contracting.

Patriot Boot Camp  http://patriotbootcamp.org/

Patriot Boot Camp is an accelerator program focused on helping military veterans and their spouses become successful technology entrepreneurs. Open to all active duty military members, veterans and their spouses, the main program is a 3-day event that provides participants with free education, training and mentorship.

SBA Contracting Support for Small Businesses  https://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/contracting

The SBA offers resources for service-disabled veteran owned businesses looking to procure federal contracts. The SDVOSBC program allows procuring agencies to set aside contracts specifically for veteran owned businesses.

VetBiz  http://www.vetbiz.gov/

The VA’s VetBiz site provides information about the Center for Verification and Evaluation’s efforts to verify Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (SDVOSBs) and Veteran-Owned Small Businesses (VOSBs).  SDVOSBs and VOSBs who want to participate in the VA’s Veterans First Contracting Program must be verified by CVE in order to be eligible for VA contract set-asides.

VetBizCentral  http://vetbizcentral.org/

VetBizCentral is a veteran run site that assists veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs in the formation and expansion of their businesses through training and counseling, networking opportunities, mentoring and advocacy.

Veteran Business Outreach Centers  https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/ovbd/resources/362341

The SBA provides assistance locally through Veteran Business Outreach Centers. The centers assist veterans in locating resources in their local communities, such as such as business training, counseling and mentoring.

Veteran Entrepreneur Portal  http://www.va.gov/osdbu/entrepreneur/

As part of the VA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal provides access to a number of business tools and services, including starting and expanding a business, acquisition support, strategic support and more.

Veteran Fast Launch Initiative  https://www.score.org/vetsfastlaunch

The Veteran Fast Launch Initiative is a package of free software and services combined with SCORE’s mentoring program in order to help accelerate the ability of veterans and their families to start and succeed as small business owners.

Vetrepreneur Mentoring  http://vetrepreneurmentoring.com/index.html

Vetrepreneur Mentoring provides mentoring, guidance and expertise to help veteran entrepreneurs with everything from contractor registration to website creation.

Victory Spark  http://gan.co/members/view/victory-spark

Victory Spark is a program of the larger Global Entrepreneurship Collective, Inc. umbrella. Specifically, Victory Spark focuses on servicing U.S. Military Veteran-led startups. The program includes a 12-week mentor-driven Lean LaunchPad Program, along with grant funding for entrepreneurs who complete the program.

V-Wise  http://whitman.syr.edu/vwise/

An entrepreneurship project of the Whitman School of Management, Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-Wise) provides resources, courses and mentorship to female veterans who have started businesses or are looking to do so.

road work

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently approved H.R. 1694, the Fairness to Veterans for Infrastructure Investment Act. The legislation would include veterans in the Department of Transportation’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and would provide parity for the nearly 1 million veterans who are small business owners seeking government contracts. This would level the playing field in federal contracting for veteran-owned businesses by providing veterans access to existing preferences authorized for transportation projects.

Sponsored by Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and Don Young (R-Alaska), the legislation calls for states that receive federal money for transportation projects to included veteran-owned businesses in their contracting processes. They added that there are 380,000 construction firms that are owned by veterans in the U.S. that could help build projects across the nation.

Currently, only half of the states meet their DBE goals. Adding veteran small businesses to this program would increase the pool of eligible firms at the states’ disposal. For states that already meet their goals, this bill does not affect them or the small business contractors they employ.

“Our veterans are the most highly skilled workforce in America’s history – the product of rigorous training, an iron-clad commitment to teamwork and the remarkable ability to succeed where others might fail,” said Fitzpatrick. He continued. “We need Fairness to Veterans so we are leveraging the unique strengths of veteran entrepreneurs to address the challenges at home.”

“There’s no question that America’s veterans, who have sacrificed so much for the greater good, are able and ready to put their battle tested skills towards improving our nation’s roads, highways, and critical infrastructure projects,” said Young

The legislation now goes on to the Senate for consideration. The text of the bill is available on the Congress.gov website.

hobby-job

Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious via photopin cc

Looking to start a business?

Or would you rather have a J-O-B… maybe that hobby would be fun, perhaps you can profit with that?

To clarify, hobbies, jobs, and startups are great ideas. Just be sure to approach them in the right way.

Webster’s Definitions:

Hobby – an interest outside one’s general occupation, particularly for unwinding.

JOB – routine work that someone does to earn a paycheck.

Business – a venture of making, purchasing, or offering products/services in return for money.

Can I turn my hobby into a business?

You can. But it won’t be your hobby any more. We all ought to have a diversion in life…something you do on special occasion or to relax.

I love awesome BBQ (like I’m the only one, right?). I love cooking it, hanging around the smoker and seeing it reach perfection.

However, imagine a scenario where I needed to get up each morning at 3am to put meat on the smoker and get everything prepared for my customers. Would I like it as much? Would it transform my enthusiasm into drudgery? Possibly.

Owning a BBQ smokehouse has around 22,418 more “jobs” to it than simply smoking some brisket from a lawn chair. I would need to have a full comprehension of the restaurant business before making my BBQ pastime into a business.

At that point I would need to get another hobby!

What if I make a business out of my current job?

Ok. Suppose you have killer welding abilities at the place you work at presently. Why not open a welding shop in your town and satisfy all their welding needs?

But your welding skills were just one part of your previous employers company. How did they attract customers? Who purchased the supplies? Who did the bookwork…managed the utilities?

You might need to trade in your welder’s helmet for the various business hats you’ll end up wearing. At that point, are you doing more jobs than the just the welding, at which you excelled?

But won’t I be more relaxed if I great my business like a hobby?

Sure…if by “relaxed” you mean “failed”. You just can’t run your business the same way you treat your hobby.

I took up biking and it cost me $300 for a used mountain bike. Fishing is fun and got a fly rod for Christmas last year. I purchase a few flies each time I go to Bass Pro.

However, I can stop fly fishing for a time and not have any effect on my salary, employment or business.

That’s the reason it’s a hobby… you don’t HAVE to do it.

And, in the event that you switch or stop a hobby,

you likely won’t miss a car payment.

You can start and stop hobbies often. Nobody will mind. Well maybe if you have 28 fly rods and only use them once every 4 years, your wife might comment on it! But that topic is for another day.

Run your business with intention. Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound). Define the jobs within the business and the people that should be doing them.

Organizations ought to be run diligently (with the proper time off for those hobbies). Try not to “wish” or “hope” things get completed… dole out every one of the tasks BEFORE you open for business. You’ll have enough surprises without making them yourself.

Brian Richardson runs VetLaunched.com. He helps veterans start their own business through coaching, training, classes and trusted resources. Pick up a copy of his unique resource list at www.VetLaunched.com.

President Signs Vet Entrepreneurship Act

By Debbie Gregory.

When President Obama signed an act to encourage and equip veterans who want to start their own small businesses, the goal was to help veterans navigate financial barriers by waiving the upfront guarantee fee for veterans applying for 7(a) express loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA), thus helping recently discharged service members and other veterans with opportunities to start new businesses.

With 21 million veterans living in the United States, the unemployment rate among this population is substantially higher than the national average. Because of this challenging statistic, more veterans are exploring self-employment opportunities.

The bill, introduced by House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH), has received praise from lenders and veterans alike.

“Our veterans are as entrepreneurial minded as anyone else in the world,” said Chabot. “Think about all that’s required to launch a new business:  strategic planning, tactical expertise, dogged perseverance, and the ability to adjust plans to overcome new challenges at a moment’s notice. This is the American warfighter. Making sure they can access the resources needed to start their own business and build up the communities they’ve protected will do more than just create jobs – it will help them successfully transition into civilian life.”

Rich Bradshaw, President of Specialized Lending at United Community Bank, Blairsville, GA said, “As a lender, a veteran, and an Air Force Academy graduate, helping veterans make a life for themselves and their families once they return home from service is very personal to me. With more veterans returning to American soil, it is essential we do everything we can to bring down barriers to obtaining access to capital as they come back from doing everything they can to protect our country.  Waiving fees for veteran 7(a) borrowers encourages them to open small businesses, create jobs, and boost the economy.”

According to the Small Business Administration, an estimated 10% of all small businesses across the US are veteran-owned.

VAMBOA: startup

By Debbie Gregory.

In what could be groundbreaking legislation, members of Congress are considering a bill that would allow Veterans to use their GI benefits to start businesses, rather than using them for a college education.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs member Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) is drafting the legislation, which could potentially lower the $1.4 billion the Pentagon spent in 2013 on unemployment for former military personnel.

Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, will introduce companion legislation in the Senate.

The idea has the backing of the military service organizations the American Legion, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and others.

The education benefit can be as much as $260,000 for four years at a private college or university. For Veterans who aren’t interested in attending college or transferring their benefits to a dependent, this would be a great option. It certainly is better than leaving the benefit on the table.

Congress has worked in the past to help veterans receive small business loans. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 was a similar law that allowed Veterans to buy a farm, home or business property. It expired in 1956.

Fortenberry’s bill would create a three-year pilot program for 100 eligible veterans each fiscal year. Participants would be able to use up to three years of educational benefits to start or purchase a qualified business.

Participating Veterans would have needed to serve three years of full-time active duty. If they left active duty due to a service related disability, the time period is reduced to 24 months. Veterans would be required to apply for the program no more than 15 years after leaving the service.

In order to move forward with the program, Veterans would have to attend a boots-to-business course at an accredited university. Another caveat is that they would have to have their business plans approved.

The business startup modification to the G.I. Bill would have to be drawn up with safeguards to ensure that veterans have a chance for success. Since most startup businesses fail, the G.I. Bill proposal would need guarantees that Veterans applying for the program would receive mentorship and training.

The Veteran and Military Business Owners Association (VAMBOA) is a non-profit business trade association that promotes and assists Veteran Business Owners, Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses (SDVOB) and Military Business Owners. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and responsible for job generation. That is why VAMBOA provides its members with Business CoachingContracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

VAMBOA: GI Benefits for Business Instead of Education?: By Debbie Gregory

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