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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.

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

business ownerBy Debbie Gregory.

Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities. But for many Veterans, transitioning from service member to CEO may be a more natural path than they might have imagined.

Most experts agree that the two biggest components for Veterans preparing to start their own businesses are choosing the right kind of business for them, and securing capital. They also recommended that aspiring business owners take time to think about where their passion lies.

VetFran Manager George Eldridge encourages Veterans interested in business ownership to do their research and examine all possibilities.

“In the military you think, ‘I can’t fail,’ but sometimes you have to think about the risks you’re getting into and have a balanced expectation when getting into something like this,” he said.

Veterans who are considering franchise ownership may want to start by surfing VetFran’s website. With more than 100 different franchise industries to peruse, there is something for every interest. The most popular franchises are in the food industry, followed by hospitality, home-based businesses, child care and pet care.

Although VetFran does not offer funding, it connects Veterans with funding assistance by working closely with the SBA and lenders within its supplier group.

The SBA offers a checklist for Veterans interested in starting a business. It suggests starting with a business plan, which is like a roadmap to determine your starting point, where you are going, and how to arrive at success through proper planning, preparation and management. The checklist also covers things like licenses, tax ID numbers, taxes, finance, location, etc.

Financing opportunities are plentiful for Veterans. The SBA, through its 68 field offices around the U.S. and 1,000 resource partners, has Veterans Business Outreach Centers around the country offering information on how to gain access to capital.

For Veteran-specific programs, the SBA helps businesses obtain reduced loan fees for any loan under $350,000.

Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital (LINC) is an online tool that connects loan seekers and lenders. By answering just a few questions, applicants can reach out to lenders all over the country.

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 Coaching, Contracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

VAMBOA: Ready to Start Your Own Business?: By Debbie Gregory

WebBanners336x280By Debbie Gregory.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  the unemployment rate in America has dropped to 5.5%, the lowest that it has been since 2008. The unemployment rate among the Post-9/11 era generation of Veterans is at 6.5%, among the highest in the nation. Many government and private initiatives have started to hire more Veterans. But the answer to eliminating Veteran unemployment may not be solved by finding jobs for Vets, but rather by allowing them to create jobs themselves.

Veterans are 44% more likely than their non-veteran peers to start their own business, according to the BLS. Many have speculated that years spent following orders drives Veterans to want to call their own shots in their second careers. Others have guessed that after years of deployments and frequent PCS moves, Veterans want to create their own businesses in order to lay down roots for themselves and their families in a particular region. While there may be some substance to these hypotheses, the truth of the matter is that Veterans become entrepreneurs because it utilizes their knowledge and skills that were enhanced through their military experience.

Service members, especially those in leadership positions, wear many hats, much like business owners do. And much like successful military leadership, successful business ownership requires the ability to delegate, the discipline to stick to a strategy, and the fortitude to inspire yourself and others to continue in the face of death or failure.The willingness to work hard doesn’t hurt.

But in battle and in business, guts and glory aren’t always enough to accomplish your mission. Successful campaigns and successful business require proper training and knowledge of the tactics that will be used. That is why programs such as the Entrepreneurial Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) are a necessary first step for Veterans wishing to start their own companies.

The EBV program is a partnership between several of the country’s top business schools and the U.S. Small Business Administration. The schools offer free courses in entrepreneurship and business management to selected Veterans and military spouses. The aim of the EBV program is to open the door to economic opportunity for Veterans and their families by developing their competencies in creating and sustaining an entrepreneurial venture.

No one should go into battle unprepared, and they shouldn’t enter into an entrepreneurial venture unprepared either. Make sure that you have the training that you need to start your business and then utilize VAMBOA to continue learning and growing as a Veteran business owner.

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 Coaching, Contracting Opportunities, a Blog that provides information, Networking contacts and other resources. Membership is FREE to Veterans. Join Now!

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